Archive for the ‘Gnosis:’ Category

Identity and Progressive Agenda 2016 Notes

Monday, December 26th, 2016

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Testing the limits of tolerance in the post Coup Turkey.
Hundreds of Turks made a rare protest for LGBT rights in Istanbul Sunday after the murder of Turkish transgender icon Hande Kader, whose body was found burned in a forest earlier this month. Photo by Hande Kader/Facebook
From UPI article August 22, 2016 http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2016/08/22/Turks-join-rare-demonstration-for-LGBT-rights-after-transgender-womans-murder/3441471845290/

I have been fortunate this year. I managed to have surrounded myself with a family that is relatively loyal if somewhat dysfunctional, and my constant search for novelty in an ongoing campaign to give meaning to an otherwise seemingly meaningless existence, has got me in and out of a couple of problematic situations this year. One was my attempt at a truly transsexual alliance which turned out to be something of a pipe dream. Ultimately in my view relationships cannot be based on transitory sexual appetites. Commercial careers, perhaps, but not strongly based family ties. Poly fidelity, has its moments but I am probably more of a poor mans patriarch in the polygamous biblical sense of the word, than a trail blazer on the frontiers of human relationships, although I certainly do try to do my part in the romantic belief in the eventual progress of humanity into a truly trans-sexual-racial heterogeneity. The fact that in the US the discourse over the nature of human sexuality has been diverted to a conversation on toiletry is a bit discouraging though. Struggle in the world continues as post modernist struggles over liberation in identity politics continue in the face of repression such as is evident in Turkey. Whether identity issues have distracted from bread and butter issues of class struggle, is something that is being hashed out in the light of the on going right wing reaction around the world. Trumpism can be seen in the light of Nazi attempts to overcome decadence identified with sexual transgression of rigid sexual norms as was brilliantly portrayed in the 1972 film Cabaret.

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From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unisex_public_toilet, distraction or battle for control of personal space?

The continued demise of my own personal sexual prowess has been paralleled by the increased ability to encounter and intercept the lives of younger souls aspiring to some kind of continuity in an unstable and chaotic post modern world in which institutions have become both increasingly omnipresent and yet unable to fulfill the somewhat futile goal of social stability. Capitalism doesn’t allow for social and interpersonal stability. It’s pressure to excel and exploit resources, of any and all kinds pinned to a monetary value, has eroded social solidarity to the extent that humans of the modern period have become a hodgepodge of flotsam in a sea of potential resources to be adapted and rejected as required by the mindlessly grinding efforts of the mega machine.

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From: http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/2016/7/27/political-cartoons-july-27 Political Cartoon from Summer 2016 when US presidential elections were still in progress. The Russian factor was already in play as was the betrayal of the independent left push represented by the Sanders campaign.

The need for resistance and the creation of an alternative agenda to corporate capitalism as crystallized in the Bernie Sanders campaign showed that like in the McGovern campaign of an earlier generation, that there is in the USA an ongoing desire on the part of the young and the progressive thinking people for change at a fundamental level. It also shows how much better the system has gotten at eliminating such a challenge with old fashioned dirty politics and fear mongering. The left, liberal, minority alliance was unable to beat the right largely due to the decampment of labor and the white working class generally as those hurt by the modern economy abandon their intellectual allies who have shown them little gain. for the demagoguery on the right.

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Life’s little Ironies. From: https://warosu.org/lit/image/93GRPOG-N9CFTQSvI7XpVg

There needs to be a clear headed assessment of what we desire and how we wish to get where we want to go. Post Modernism although it has liberated many from the fetters of normative identity has muddied the waters in the struggle to unite humanity in a broad based movement to progressive evolution of the human condition. This has been enhanced by the severe disruption caused by modernism and its industrial megamachine over the last couple of centuries. People’s desire for community in the face of the disruptive and depersonalizing power of technological progress gives evidence of the lag between social evolution and our ability to manipulate the physical world around us. We are now just realizing that humanity has to come to terms with the balance between technology and the social mechanisms that allow this tail to wag the collective dog of humanity. Faced with the potential disruption of all life on the planet, humans need to create truly world wide networks of community that put technology firmly at heel and leash capitalism to the service of humanity or train the dog with some new socially progressive tricks.

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From: http://iacenter.org/racism/blm-pride100715/ BLM queer and trans people of color contingent, Sept. 26. Durham, NC, 2015.
The issue of identity will continue to be important but it must be in the context of ongoing progress or the right wing backlash will cause delays in progress for humanity and the planet as a whole.

Last Days of the Western Enlightenment

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

march-of-tyranny.jpg
Taken from a conspiracy site on reddit, the post was wrong, predicting 8 years of Clinton, the sentiment in the cartoon, greatly influenced by Crumb’s visual style, is a widely held fear on the part of civil libertarians

From: https://www.reddit.com/r/conspiracy/comments/4w2mde/prediction_of_whats_coming_in_the_next_8_years/

I have been reading The Age of Wonder By Richard Holmes, a scholar of the Romantic Movement in late 18th and early 19th Century England. I am struck by the optimism and hopefulness for the future of humanity expressed in the views of the scientific tinkerers and poets of the age. It was a time when a gentleman, or talented craftsman, and some women, could participate the exploration of the physical, intellectual, and poetic realms in a relatively democratic and free spirited manner. The old authority of the King, Church, and Gentry was being pulled down in so many realms, with the American and French Revolutions presenting political dramatic change. Even though in England the old regime was not destroyed, this was largely due, in my view, to the fact that England had undergone its own revolution and liberalization in the previous century. But there was a strong movement in England to expand the franchise and there were those who avidly supported the actions of the French and the Americans. A strong abolitionist movement to took hold in Great Britain which led to the forward thinking abolition of the slave trade, the development of industrial capitalism and the liberation of the middle classes from dependency on the gentry and patronage of royalty as independent centers of wealth emerged.

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Political cartoon by James Gillray (1757-1815)
From: http://web.utk.edu/~gerard/romanticpolitics/revolution.html Romantic Politics.

These ideals of liberty, and the Rights of Man come out of the period known as the Enlightenment. This period in which a more optimistic view of humanity arose, in which man became the measure of meaning and the ability of the intellect became predominant in finding a more just and affluent life for humanity came to the fore. Life, Liberty and Fraternity or the Pursuit of Happiness, became watchwords and represented the very real expectations of the mass of European humanity, as they spread and colonized across the planet. Not always seen as the bringers of light, often the bringers of oppression to the indigenous peoples to whom the Europeans purported to spread their enlightenment, but propelled by the newly released powers of the mechanical ingeniousness of the likes of James Watt, and the mechanisms of trade and capital concentration developed by adventurous capitalists, the imperial European age was impressed upon the world.

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Painting by Benjamin West
William Penn’s Treaty with the Indians when he founded the Province of Pennsylvania in North America, 1771
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.
From: http://statemuseumpa.org/penn-treaty/creating/ and http://pluralism.org/encounter/historical-perspectives/first-encounters-native-americans-and-christians/

The industrial revolution and the enlightenment philosophy putting the desires of the individual in the forefront, combined with the Romantic ideals of the solitary genius extracting the secrets of life from a sometimes recalcitrant nature, provided a powerful force propelling the western Europeans into a predominance world wide that had been only preambled by the earlier European conquest of the Americas. Old civilizations in Asia, China, the Ottomans, and the Moguls in India, fabulously wealthy nations, run as empires in an older autocratic tradition were assailed and swept away under the force of the newly empowered Europeans of the relatively small nations of the Netherlands, United Kingdom, France, Spain and Portugal.

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The East offering its riches to Britannia, painted by Roma Spiridone for the boardroom of the British East Asia Company 1778.

What we are seeing now is in the post modern period, a designation that will probably be replaced by some other historical reference as we get further away from the Twentieth Century by something more appropriate, after all what will Modernism mean to someone a century from now? But I digress, in a era in which the benefits of the Western Expansion has become assimilated and digested by the traditional centers of wealth and power, China, India and the Middle East, we are now beginning to see the emergence of the Oriental repossession of their traditional dominance. The Obama pivot to Asia and Trump’s fear mongering denigration of American infrastructure when compared to the marvels being constructed in Asia, are reflections of an awareness of this reality. Thus we come to the end of the era of the western Enlightenment, and are entering into uncharted waters. Are we entering a period in which the individualism of the last two to three centuries will be subordinated under a technocratic autocracy with a new imperial examination system to sift out the deserving elite aids to the autocrats? Certainly trends in economic imbalance seem to be headed that way. What with the massive focus on education as if that were the solution, indicates an end to the quality and fraternity inherent in the Enlightenment approach. Now we have the dictatorship of meritocracy as the gateway to enter the garden of earthly delights. Woe unto you who don’t achieve the holy grail of high grade point averages or are not inheritors of great wealth. For you there will be the universal basic income, and meaningless lives at the bottom of the new pyramid of wealth and power. But again I diverge, the oriental nations are not by nature autocratic, but because of the necessity to create hierarchies of meaning that can sift through the mass of humanity, and the algorithms created by the power of computer technology, there will be a rather extreme and undemocratic process of winnowing unless there is a wise emperor like Vespasian who rejected the labor saving machines of the clever Greek engineers, saying, to paraphrase What will my people do to earn their bread if I take away their ability to earn a living?

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Textile Laborers in Lowell, Mass. early Nineteenth Century.
From: http://www.saltofamerica.com/contents/displayArticle.aspx?13_525 Opinions: American Technology and Human Welfare Part 2, Technology is Democracy 1800-1850
by Hugo Meier

Whether there is an alternative that is egalitarian, in which some pastoral or urban ideal can be implemented, whether in a form of cooperative industrial democracy as postulated by the IWW, the COOP movement or idealists in the sense of Owens, is to be seen. Certainly the pro-fascist protectionism and corporate nationalism proposed by the Trump group is predicated on a trade and probable war with China which is not going to be beneficial in the long run. Think of it this way, China is the international sleepy giant that the USA was before World War II. If they directed their industrial might to war industries, it might be impossible for the US to create an adequate embargo to prevent the oil and iron from reaching China unless the US can convince Russia to refuse access to its vast natural resources. I don’t think Putin is that stupid.

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Missiles are displayed in a parade to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing in this October 1, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Lee/Files

From: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-defence-idUSBRE88F0GM20120916

Sanders Campaign, Apathetic Youth, and Grumpy Old Me.

Sunday, February 28th, 2016


From Brecorder.com- Bernie Sanders Presidential Candidate.

I almost never post here anymore. School, work and my granddaughter are eating up my time. But I thought I would take some of my homework time to make a couple of comments. Perhaps it was watching The Big Short that got me fired up, or the work doing get out the vote calling for the Bernie Sanders campaign today. Whatever the reason, I am writing some of my observations on the current scene around me.

Once I got the hang of the automated dial system, I did pretty good calling to get out the vote for Sanders. Mostly I skipped the script and got to the point. I hate it when people read from scripts and so I didn’t feel like subjecting anyone to my version of the same. More Sanders supporters answered than Hillary supporters, fewer Republicans than I expected and lots of no answers since it was Saturday evening. I found myself encouraging people to go to the caucuses or primaries, no matter who they supported. Interestingly there was only one outspoken Trump supporter in the batch and only one lady lectured me on the evils of socialism. America truly does seem more liberal, or at least more frustrated with the system than four years ago. I think the failure of the Obama administration to gain significant headway has broiled over into the public at large. The copays on Obama care are too high, the wages are still stagnant, and youth unemployment is way too high.

Having my stepdaughter living with me has made me very aware of the levels of youth unemployment, that being around the relatively privileged student population at the university hasn’t. She is out of work, all of her friends are out of work or have marginal Mc Jobs. The worst part is the total lack of interest in participation in the political process. They have bought into the radical critique of the Occupy movement but they are totally apathetic in terms of doing anything about it. The same goes for the students, although not to the same degree. I spent a long five minutes in my Political Geography class lecturing kids on how things haven’t changed as much as they would like, because of the same generalized sense of malaise and despair over their personal ability to make a difference. It was a bit shocking actually.

Well I beat my head against the wall with my step daughter and her friends, but they just seem to want to hang out, smoke pot and joke around. I guess on a superficial level my generation was the same from an outside perspective, but we were fired up with ideals of revolution. Much of the changes we fought for have become part of their daily life and they just accept, liberal pot laws, racial tolerance and sexual diversity as normal. On the other hand I do find anti-homeless attitudes that I find inexplicable. My step daughter even approves of the gentrification of downtown LA, even though it meant that her former boyfriend could no longer afford to live there. She didn’t get connection between Whole Foods entering the neighborhood and the increased rents. Explanations of the dynamics of the situation on my part simply go over her head. I have actually had comments from her friends that I am spreading negative vibes. That sort of no-nothingism, has led me to the unhappy conclusion that all this easy access to pot is supporting an apathetic view that I find alarming. These kids are not getting high and dreaming of revolution. I am not sure what they dream of. Based on what I overhear of their conversations it is not of a particularly high intellectually stimulating order.

OK, I can hear it now, gramps is getting grumpy. I hear my irrelevance reflected in the incomprehension to my attempts at giving them political analysis. When I turn on CSPAN or a documentary about current events, on the TV in the living room they put on the ear plugs and turn up the volume of the latest Britney Spears tune on their iPods. Funny all these jobless broke kids have iPhones and recently I discovered that there is a thriving black market in stolen and second hand Apple products that these kids participate in. In fact it seems that they live in a third world like cash and barter economy. Most of them have little or no ID, don’t have driving licenses, take services like Uber or the disdained public transit, and seem to all have food stamps, but they don’t cook! My step daughter loves to buy overpriced organic junk food from Whole Foods. I tell her at least go to Trader Joes or Ralphs where the stuff is less expensive and the owner’s political views are not quite so fascistic. She likes the atmosphere, when she shops at Whole Foods she says she feels like she is part of the young healthy and successful. Explaining that that is simply a marketing ploy on the part of Whole Foods does not work, rational decision making is not her strong suit or seemingly something that any of her friends indulge in. They hang out, some at the Hare Krishna temple, and wait, for what I am not sure, but they seem pretty fatalistic about their prospects.

I don’t exactly live the life of a middle class success story. In fact I try to use my life as a warning as to what not to do with your life as I am spending my late working life trying to catch up and stash a little savings while I still can. The Revolution didn’t happen and as things stand it looks like our Socialist Vanguard in Bernie Sanders is about to get crushed in the Democratic machine’s super delegate insurance policy that a truly populist candidate can be crushed before it can capture the nomination. I am less optimistic than I wish I could be about the prospects for change. But people are pissed and even if these kids are not part of the solution, I do hope that eventually they become uncomfortable enough to desire more. My step daughter made the comment that she would support a candidate that gave her free child care for her daughter. I told her that both Clinton and Sanders had polices to expand just that, but she had to participate in the struggle to make the changes happen, not wait for it to be handed too her as a given. I don’t know if she got it. But perhaps the discomfort of being a single parent will eventually prod her into activism. The lack of jobs, or the hassle getting her GED, or the fact that she and most of her friends are in their mid-twenties with few prospects may prod them reluctantly into action.

Perhaps, like during Occupy, enough of them will become inspired. They don’t pay enough attention to the political process to catch the Burn, even though I have Bernie Sanders signs, bumper stickers, tee shirt and buttons all over the apartment. One can hope something will get them going. Sometimes I wish we had another Vietnam War, now that was a great motivator, the Draft and an ugly war in a faraway jungle. Right now the military is something to aspire too for these kids. But then that is the general idea. No prospects, the military can pick and choose its cannon fodder. But that is another conversation.

April Easter Meditations: Myth of Progress

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

Moai Statues on Easter Island.
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I am feeling inspired this morning. Well perhaps inspiration is too strong a term, let me just say I am awake. It started at 4:38 AM and at that ungodly hour I awoke, thinking I was late for work, checked the time, and then remembered it was Sunday. Instead of falling back in to slumber land, I pondered, rather than feel existential anxiety over my piddling fate, I was struck by the big WHY question. Why now, why me, what is the purpose of all this. Perhaps it was because of a lingering sense of duty to adhere to some normative relationship to the great Christian holiday ensuing in the world around me, or perhaps it was because the last comment I made to a fellow human being before drifting off into the land of Nod, was how I thought the whole Easter business was nonsense but entertaining for humans in need of reassurance that their lives had meaning, whatever the reason, I found myself facing the eternity abyss without panic or defensive humor, simple wonderment was sufficient.

Ruminating over the Ancient Greeks whom I have been studying of late, especially thinking about how complex and modern seeming their society was, although watching a National Theatre Production of Aeschylus’ The Libation Bearers, emphasized the alien nature of Greek drama, what with the masks and chorus, but overall the Greeks seemed to be a pretty sophisticated bunch. Trying to follow the ins and outs of an ancient law suit Haginas Versus Haginas, to borrow the name from modern legal terminology, I was amazed at how tenaciously a group of fairly distant relatives battled over the estate of an ancestor who died without progeny to inherit the property, which was mostly agricultural land as described in Alison Burford’s book Land and Labor in the Greek World (Burford, 43-45).

I don’t know if the persistence of wrangling over property is a sign of advanced civilization, but it certainly is a sign of consistency in human endeavor. Artistically there seems to be evidence of a progression from geometric oriental influenced art to idealized human forms degenerating into naturalistic kitsch, or so the classical art historians would have us believe with their fetish for 5th Century Greek formalism, mostly surviving in Roman copies, which to my mind speaks more to nineteenth century European elite than ancient Greek taste. Which brings me to my question of the day, why did technology take off so grandly in the modern epoch? If humanity is not measurably more intelligent than before, except perhaps in the sense that more of us have the luxury of not having to work as physical drudges than before, it is not clear to me that all this excess brain power is feeding into the greater wisdom of the species, unless Youtube cat videos count as adding to the enlightenment of which we are the alleged beneficiaries. In truth, as ever was, the spark of genius that lies within, is only allowed so much physical candle power before it burns out all the moths that gather round its heated light.

Am I condemning us all to perpetual ignorance? No only to perpetual indulgence in phantasies of progress. The Hegelian in me rebels against such pessimism, but when I look at the past, I am amazed at the sophistication and complexity I see and my sense of the present day as having advanced is replaced with the concept that we have merely changed focus. By indulging in spending so much of the planetary resources in a brief incandescent moment of technological fixes, are we creating an enduring base for a vastly superior golden age to come, or merely depleting our resources in some recreation o Easter Island systemic collapse on a grand scale as Jared Diamond describes in his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed(Diamond, 79-119). I am just as suspicious of fads in doom and gloom as I am of eternal optimism. We may be on the Titanic, but oh, how glamorous our departure into the depths. Perhaps some future civilization will write a Homeric epic on the fall of oil based technological civilization as the ancient bard wrote of Troy falling to the barbaric Greeks. It is hard to imagine aircraft carriers launching jet fighters and rockets red glare with solar and wind power. On the other hand in a collapse, these would probably be the last hold outs of the technology of the children of the Enlightenment as we moderns are.

Okay there I go again with my pessimism. But it is Easter Sunday, at least according to the revised Gregorian calendar, and we are here to celebrate a renewal of life, a second chance as it were. We, the people of the world, choking in our oil petrochemical waste, plasticizing our oceans as we are, eating organic produce wrapped in petrochemical products, etc, are we hell bent on removing the possibility of redemption simply because we have so clogged the arteries of divine cleansing that we are insensible to its effects? Divine cleansing, as if the divine could be reduced to a detergent, Mr. Clean genii popping out of another bag of tricks to provide us with an escape, just in the nick of time from our own childish refusal to see that over our shoulders there are dues to pay. Jubilee, indulgences for all, please divine daddy…

I should not be so dramatic, after all, there is progress in specific areas. It is just the unintended consequences that become problems. I am thinking about the extended life spans of people. Resources are spent on caring for the elderly that could be spent on early childhood education and poverty elimination. But we could also do that by simply eliminating the huge military budget. If the US spent as much as European countries we might even be able to afford socialized medical care, and take care of the young and elderly. One can dream. Maybe even throw in free university education, Obama has the right idea for free community college.

Perhaps we as a world civilization will move on to the socialist paradigm, and away from the Capitalist one but then there will be issues of the individual against the bureaucratic machine, Ayn Rand followers might then actually have a case. The State in the US is merely intrusive rather than overwhelming. Interestingly enough it wasn’t until I had a catastrophic illness that I really benefited from the state. Going back to school, medical care and tax relief were some of the most evident benefits, it made kidney failure almost enjoyable. Being back at work has been somewhat traumatic, especially because it has forced me to cut back on school. The experience has shown up the class distinctions in the US with education becoming again a luxury for the affluent, unless massive debt is something in your aspirational vision. Hmm not doing too good with this optimism thing, not really my forte.

This was what we used to do for Easter when I was a kid. Only our eggs were not so fancy.
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Works Cited

Burford, Alison. Land and Labor in the Greek World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1993.

Diamond, Jared. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. New York: Viking. 2005.

Betwixt and Between

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

Betwixt and Between talk with Mihika
From: betwixtandbetween.libsyn.com-

I am hovering over a decision whether to drop the pretense of understanding the English language well enough to write it properly. Questions about my willingness to persevere in, the process of dissecting the English language, and attempting to become a better writer via the English Rhetoric program at CSULB have arisen. Dread at another sleepless semester has me halting before the gateway to eternal wisdom.

Dante purportedly originated the phrase: “Abandon all hope ye who enter here,” the warning at the gates of hell
From: wordwhoops.wordpress.com

Invested as I have become in attaining a degree in English Rhetoric, I find myself falling into continual despair at my inability to articulate correctly the brick and mortar terminology of the language. I have been reduced to watching ESL videos on YouTube in attempts to prop up my poor understanding of grammatical structure.

From: http://tracifishbowl.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-one-where-i-get-little-crazy-about.html

I am at another Rubicon, and sit here on my writing bed Hamletizing over whether to wrestle with my travails and misfortunes or to throw in the literary towel. And yes, I did consciously use Hamletize, that literary no-no. As my old girlfriend Nadine would famously say “fuck em’ if they can’t take a joke.” I am becoming much too aware of my phrasing for my native heart to take. Hesitating and bemoaning my lack of clarity, denigrating the artless expression of raw content, and thus forfeiting immediacy, for fear of clunky exhortations.

From: The Vault at Pfaff’s - Biographies - Search digital.lib.lehigh.edu-

Arguments over passive voice and active voice, transitive and intransitive verbs, proper pronouns and the lot have me quivering in fear over the next word, whether or not this sentence will falter and die a thousand deaths, or land in some version of literary limbo.

Aldous Huxley with “Limbo” From: aleaftothebean.wordpress.com

I can envision Dante, led by his faithful Roman guide Vergil, observing myself same words, enduring the slings and arrows of abuse from Chiron’s centaur horde. I can reference with the best of them, but only with the help of a well-worn Google search. Only the fragments of memory from the days when I could roam over the literary fields with some felicity have aided in my hunt and pecking in these more dour times.

Chiron Descending From: ebooks.adelaide.edu.au

So should I continue to abuse myself, lacking sleep, deferring literary projects, following the dubious path of academic acknowledgement, into my doddering last days, or eschew the trappings of academia and strike forth upon my own, hacking a path in the primordial-chthonic stew? I suppose, imagine, conjure, that to be the question dear reader.

I singe the body eclectic!

From: Scientists Are Cracking the Primordial Soup Mystery | Motherboard motherboard.vice.com-

New Year

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

A Tale of Two Hoodies
From: globalgrind.com

It is a new year a dawning. I hear fireworks, shouting and pan clanging around me as I write. Out with the old, and in with the new.

We have begun to see the resistant remnants of ugly racism fall before the angry critique of the aroused brown and black peoples. It is my firm belief that the US will be able to face at last the lingering distasteful odor of race based discrimination and cleanse itself, from this bloody relic of slavery and colonial imperialism. Good luck and well wishes to us all.

From: socialistorganizer.org

May 2015 be the year we finally make it to a world where there is only one race, the human race.

From: http://blog.loukavar.com/2014/08/28/moving-beyond-racism/

See you around the block folks, and may we all grow in tolerance, empathy and understanding.

The Whiteness Disease: Symptoms and Remedies

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

The Privilege that Keeps on Giving
blackeducator.blogspot.com

You know it is true. We try, we of the pale persuasion, to be Hip Hop. When I was a kid it was the Blues we emulated, and the whiter and richer, like the Rolling Stones, the more we wanted to be bad and black. Or as Lou Reed that famous English Major from suburban New York, may he rest in Jewish heavenly peace, says “I Wanna Be Black” because blacks have natural rhythm and they don’t have to be college nerdy college students, or some such thing as Lou’s parody of the white blackophile, states. Any smart white person with a modicum of awareness knows that being white is not where it is at. It is a moral and cultural dead end. Not that white people haven’t done some decent stuff, but white identity… forget it. It is about as hip as Wonder Bread and just as good for you.

A contingent of Seattle Black Panther Party (led by Lt. Elmer Dixon) on the Capitol steps in Olympia, WA, on 29 February, 1969.

From: antechambercollective.wordpress.com

In my own teenage years I rode on the coat tails of the Black Panthers, distributing their newspaper in my local suburban Connecticut high schools, getting my taste of martyrdom being jumped and beat up by local greaser thugs and having beer bottle thrown at me by passing truck drivers…. It was considered to be a badge of honor to be the hippie-commie-nigger lover. But those days are long gone, and the dreams of social justice, ‘da revolution man’ and all that faded into the realities of Reaganomics that even my attempts to cling to respectable alienation as a punk-rocker anarchist and eventually problematic druggie, could not maintain.

After several false starts in politics (losing two mayoral races and an attempt to become Lt. Governor), Maddox became infamous when he was photographed on 3 July 1964 wielding an axe handle at negroes attempting to enter his whites-only Pickrick cafeteria.

From: withintheblackcommunity.blogspot.com

I was and still am white and yet whiteness is nothing but a concept in peoples minds. I passed though the court system with barley a scratch. Judges looked at me amidst the dark brown and black masses in the line up and would say, we must have made a mistake, that white man must go free. And don’t believe I didn’t accept the pass. Jail is no place for a human being. And yet millions of our brothers and sisters on this planet are imprisoned and worse, simply because of the color of their skin forced to endure humiliations and early death.

So true

From: exhibitions.nypl.org

White people simply will never be able to be black, not unless they become black, or golden, or whatever and become what they are not, the oppressed, the obviously identifiable objects of scorn, discrimination and physical violence. It is no joke that black male teenagers are 21 times more likely to be shot and killed by police than whites. The Propublica report (http://www.propublica.org/article/deadly-force-in-black-and-white) has identified this shocking fact. In my Biogeography class the teacher pointed out that those who stand out distinguished by color or other easy identification are subject to predation. This is to my mind more a refection of the white state of mind, that imposes an order that places whiteness as the norm and all shades deviating from that as aberrant and deserving of culling.

As an ethnic group, Americans of African descent have had to endure extreme mental attacks in the forms of racism, oppression, systemic discrimination and it still continues.
From: www.theafricanamericanlectionary.org

Obviously this has to stop. Perhaps it will take a localized reduction of whiteness to its true status, as a minority position, before the idea will get across that humanity is truly a rainbow, and that there is no such thing as race within humanity when it comes to biology. We are all of the species Homo Sapiens with a little Neanderthal thrown in. Perhaps it is because White people have more Neanderthal in us than other races, that makes us a little slow on the uptake. With a memory of being less viable than the other true humans out of Africa, not a bastard race like the Neanderthal-Sapiens mix that the Euro-humans became in their isolated Ice Age Europe, living in caves and wearing dead animal skins, lacking sunlight and healthy vegetables and fruits, forced to live on the dead bodies of animals. No wonder whites became a depraved variation on the sunny golden humanity, The white maggoty substance found living on decaying matter.

Neanderthal 2-5% of European genetic makeup.

From: www.dailytech.com

Ok, I made my point. It is easy to turn racism on its head. The so-called achievements of western civilization, capitalist rape of the planet and enslavement of masses of fellow humans for the sake of greed, well I could go on but I don’t want too. My point is that the protests against police shootings of persons of color are necessary and must bring attention to the need for immediate change in the legal system. A legal system that is biased not in favor of defendants, as the Media seems to want to say as a way of rationalizing the continuous failure of grand juries to indite police for murder, but one that systematically is biased in favor of the representatives of state power against those who are the objects of its repressive apparatus, is both logical and obvious. What is needed is a recognition of the bias, of the racism and hierarchy of power inherent in the system set up by white slave owners and the merchant classes of the fledgling American Republic. Inheriting the system developed by English aristocrats in the middle ages to insure that their clique retained power over the unwashed rabble of England. In that time, the Magna Carta forced upon King John of England, from one perspective, to retain the right to maintain dominance over the masses, and insuring that the King did not go to far in disrupting their power by bad policy decisions. What ever the roots of the English system of jurisprudence that the USA has inherited from Roman and medieval English law, it is not designed with the interests of the people, but for the interests of the status quo elites who have been and still are for the most part white or whitish.

Prison Industrial complex part of Business As Usual

From: www.teachersunite.net

“No Justice, No Peace: is an entirely appropriate response to such an oppressive system and anyone on the receiving end of the American justice system understands its inherent unfairness, all the justice for the elite and their friends that money and position can buy/appropriate is the law of the land. It is the justice of the conqueror, ask any native American, of the master, ask any slave or former slave, of the capitalist, ask any worker struggling for simple livable wages and I could go on. But I think you get the point. Rioting and disrupting traffic, all business as usual is appropriate and necessary to bring about change.

Half white, half black. Source: CBS

From: https://wtpotus.wordpress.com/tag/half-white-half-black/

Embarrassing the nominally black president into standing for the people is a tough business, he has to face his masters every day behind closed doors, giving the world his best black face for public consumption. Perhaps there is a soul in that man somewhere, he is not truly white, I can see his awkwardness at being forced to face his black side. and it is good. We all need to bring out our inner blackness, code in reality for inner humanity. We are not machines and it is not our fate if we do not allow it to be eaten by Moloch in a descent into soulless whiteness. White bread… says it all, it has to have vitamins artificially added.

I liked that you could roll it into little balls; you could smash it flat and toast it against a light bulb.

From: pratie.blogspot.com

And the answer is direct action….

Protesters march outside Ferguson police station Sept. 25, 2014.

From: voiceofdetroit.net

While I am not going to say Obama is totally ineffectual in this area, I will say that the efforts of Attorney General Holder, are perhaps as far as Obama is willing to stick his neck out to confront the security establishment. The withholding of funds to Homeland Security by Congress may be more beneficial than not if it cripples some of its efforts in militarizing local police forces. Let us hope libertarians and left leaning liberals in Congress manage to do something about shipping military hardware to local police departments because the president has said he will not end the policy.

From: https://storify.com/suhler69916/the-militarization-of-today-s-police

Although there has been a lot of media noise on the issue, it will take grass roots activism to keep pressure on. Unfortunately, knowing how media news cycles work, the window of opportunity on this issue is about to end. Only more police violence and an appropriate response by communities will keep the attention on the issues in the media. The President, being a lame duck, at least can use the bully pulpit, and procedural changes, just like he did with immigration to bring attention to the issue. Federal funding to local police agencies should be contingent upon a real display of a reduction of police violence against communities of color an very strong policies that constrain unnecessary use of force, deadly force in particular. I personally believe the Andy Griffith policy of giving the cops only one bullet, that must be kept separate from the weapon might be the way to go. Police with loaded guns, a bad idea.

Photo of Don Knotts as Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show. Barney is seen here loading his pistol with the only bullet he was allowed to have. It was kept in his uniform short pocket in case it was needed. Whenever Barney loaded his gun, it would either go off while holstered, fire into the ceiling, etc

From: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Don_Knotts_Barney_and_the_bullet_Andy_Griffith_Show.jpg

War Rhetoric, Bush, Obama, Hannibal, Rome, Hercules Myth & Abrahamic Cult

Sunday, September 14th, 2014


patriotaction.net

Here we go again. The US seems to have become implacably wedded to war, policing the world and using foreign policy distractions to bolster sagging domestic political fortunes. After 9/11 there was some reasonable justification for going into Afghanistan, to get a little payback although it probably would have been best treated as a police action. below are a couple of speeches by Bush and Obama respectively. They are thirteen years apart. Like empires before and would be imperial powers, the rhetoric needs to be designed to reflect the public willingness to be pulled into a conflict that may or may not be justified. In thinking about this I am reminded of some past efforts to convince others to join in the cause of a more or less just war. Hannibal and his use of the Hercules Myth in his struggle against Rome, is critical to an analysis of the fate of Carthage and its struggle with Rome.

“Seigel and Shuster created Superman from existing material already to hand: the myths of Samson, Hercules…”
From A Shared, Faithless, Modern Mythology: Superheroes as Modern Legends…By Darren April 22, 2012 Comicbuzz.com

My thesis more than the simple statement that nearness to the point of contention, sharpens one’s real politick, there is this interesting issue of manipulation of underlying myths for the sake of propaganda both current and ancient. Hercules was a heroic figure, an intermediary between man and the gods. He often represented the position of people facing the impossible demands of fate, despite his flawed nature, coming through victoriously and in the process thwarting the interests of the bad gods and their minions. Where is this Herculean character in the modern political discourse, certainly in the theatrical production of Marvel and DC super heroes this is the case. Where in the discourse on the level of believed mythologies, on the level of religions of the states involved. This goes to the meta-belief systems which in this case are embedded in the monotheism of the modern world. The patina of the heroic Babylonian-Greco-Roman world is faint and growing fainter as the past is blown up before our eyes in Iraq and Syria. But the monotheistic world, of the Crusader vs the infidel narrative and the relatively insecure position of the Jews plays out now. I shall concentrate on the Herculean myth; refer to modern rhetoric with a brief analysis of the use of the myth of Hercules in the Punic wars and the later Roman absorption of the myth in their own victorious narrative. Thus the issue becomes one of what significance do these meta-stories have in the development of the narrative and the real political issues the narrative deals with.

Bush declaration of attack on Afghanistan and Al Qaeda.

Obama declaration of attack on ISIL in Syria and Iraq.

To go into Syria because of the beheading of a couple of journalists seems to be playing right into the hands of IS. They seem to be getting some strategic benefit from drawing the US into these costly limited wars. Wars that ultimately cannot be won without a serious deployment of boots on the ground to occupy space as well as the enforcement of a political agenda that may mean ramming terms down the throats of unwilling Middle Eastern states, through political, military and economic pressure. I am not sure the USA has the means or the will to pursue such a course and the IS planners like their counterparts in Al Qaeda know that.

“This cartoon, by David Axe and Matt Bors highlights some of the key developments in U.S. drone warfare”
(understandingempire.wordpress.com).
.
The war of attrition by taking out the heads of the leadership via assassination and drone strikes, has been of limited success, as one head is chopped off, Hydra like two more arise to take its place. The implication, if one takes the example of Hercules is that you need assistance on the ground, an ally who is there to cauterize the wound to prevent a new set of heads from emerging.

Hercules battles the multi-headed beast of terror in ancient world.
“The Hydra fighting Heracles | Paestan black figure hydra C6th B.C. | J. Paul Getty”
www.theoi.com

From Hesiod, Theogony:

And third again she [Ekhidna] bore
the grisly-minded Hydra of Lerna, whom the goddess
white-armed Hera nourished
because of her quenchless grudge
against the strong Herakles.
Yet he, Herakles, son of Zeus,
of the line of Amphitryon,
by design of Athene the spoiler,
and with help form warlike
Iolaos, killed this beast
with the pitiless bronze sword.

(Hesiod 316-321)

A lot can be learned from that ancient Greek myth. Hercules was the hero of the ancient world. He is given a more human and tragic by the Greeks with his rage and murder of his family, being thus forced to perform his penance in the 12 labors, one of which was killing the Hydra. This Hydra could not be tamed alone. An ally had to be sought. Herakles, as strong as he was could not fight the beast himself.

High tech warfare in the 3rd century BCE
mikikyqy.pev.pl

The struggle for control of the public image of the heroic is an ancient one. In the context of the Punic Wars Carthage Must Be Destroyed by Richard Miles who has an interesting interpretation of Hannibal’s propaganda wars against the Romans, pitting Hercules/Melqart as the ally of Carthage and her friends as opposed to Rome who had its own myth of Heracles. For the Romans, as described by Dionysius of Halicarnassus a Greek rhetorician in the 1st century BC, Heracles becomes a great liberator of man. During his tenth labor, the restoration of the cattle of Geryon, he descends into Italy freeing the people from the despotism of tyrants such as Cacus (Miles 248-249).

Hercules killing Cacus By Beham, Hans Sebald 1545 in Iconotheca Valvasoriana” Wikimedia.

From Virgil we have the tale of Cacus’s defeat by Hercules in the Aeneid:

Then Hercules
burst wide the doorway of the sooty den,
and unto Heaven and all the people showed
the stolen cattle and the robber’s crimes,
and dragged forth by the feet the shapeless corpse
of the foul monster slain.

(Vergil. 8.262)
Hercules slaying the monster oppressing the local people thus becomes in Virgil, who is citing a tale that had been part of Roman lore. notes the worship of Hercules as preceding the founding of Rome:

our Pinarian house is vowed to guard
the rites of Hercules. An altar fair
within this wood they raised; ‘t is called ‘the Great,’
and Ara Maxima its name shall be.

(Vergil, 8. 262)

This has been noted in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome in the article on “Hercules in Roman Religion” by William Dominik, that Ara Maxima was a very ancient site of worship of Hercules in the forum Boarium and that Hercules who as founder of Gades in Spain under the Phoenician name Melquart had become part of the pantheon of Roman protector gods. Hercules was sent on his labor to retrieve, i.e. raid and steal, the cattle of Geryon, the ancient oil from the other end of the world. On his trip back from the cattle raid, Hercules managed to participate in Roman prehistory becoming the model for Romulus and many other heroic figures in Roman lore and history (Dominik 405).

“Geryon - goodnight argent - In Roman versions of the narrative, on the Aventine hill in Italy, Cacus stole some of the cattle as Heracles slept”
goodnight-argent.weebly.com

Returning to our narrative of the ancient and the modern, as Miles claims, Hannibal aware of the need to win the propaganda war, and understanding the universal appeal of Hercules in Greek, Roman and Phoenician culture and in that of many peoples across the Mediterranean world, decided to appropriate the symbol of Heracles for his own and had a Greek historian in his train write to this purpose:

“Silenus’s portrayal of Heracles-Melqart as Hannibal’s divine companion was thus designed to send out a message to the western Greeks that it was the Carthaginian commander who represented their last opportunity to restore their diminished freedoms [vs a vie the Romans]” (Miles 247-248).

“Limoges enamel depicting Hercules carrying the two columns, by Couly Nouailher, mid-16th century (Walters Art Museum). The columns of the Melqart temple at Tyre were also of religious significance” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pillars_of_Hercules)

Coins were struck of the young Hannibal in Nova Carthago, the headquarters of the Barcid dominated colony in Spain as he aspired to the role of a new Hercules Melquart. This coin with the image of the war elephant on the back is, as Miles indicates, associated the Barcid family, as well as being a symbol of continuity with the rule of his predecessors in Spain (Miles 226-227).

“Hannibal AR Tridrachm. 221-218 BC, Carthago Nova, Spain, Laureate bust of young Melqarth-Hercules left, heavy knotted club behind neck / Elephant walking” below (Wildwinds.com).

Just as Vergil was attempting to create a mythos to justify the new imperial project of his dominating friend Octavian, in the modern world the USA must do the same. The need to promote the heroic value of the invader as the legitimate force for liberation can be seen again in the modern Middle East as the Obama administration struggles to come up with a narrative that will be convincing to the young fighters in Syria and Iraq whom the US hopes to use as proxies in the war against ISIS. There have been videos made from ISIS originals highlighting the horror of the ISIS practices intended to deter potential recruits and to persuade fighters to join or at least not leave the so called moderate Islamic groups in Syria in particular.


Youtube.
State Department video battling ISIS propaganda.

The need to battle ISIS propaganda and to win over the allegiance of the people will be predicated, as with Hannibal, upon the victory of the American backed forces. There is nothing like success to gain recruits. ISIS with its string of successes rapidly gained backing. Hannibal gained early support from the Gauls of Cis-Alpine Gaul with early victories over the initial Roman forces at Trebia. A result of which wavering Gauls became more pliant supporters. Later victories including the massacre at Cannae led to Capua giving support to Hannibal, although limited, not to include a troop levy which may seem somewhat familiar to Kerry as he attempts to hammer together an alliance against ISIS. Southern Greek cities that did go over to Hannibal soon regretted the choice as Rome recaptured them one by one. As the Arab countries now must weigh the long term consequences of supporting the US. Turkey, with a border directly adjacent to ISIS controlled territory and 49 diplomats in ISIS custody, did not even sign onto the statement Kerry hammered together.

John Kerry, wearing suit, speaks with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, right, at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on Thursday. Reuters

As the Wall Street Journal article “Allies Pledge to Help U.S. Fight Islamic State Extent of Cooperation in Military Operations Still Unclear” by Maria Abi-Habib and Jay Solomon from 9/11/14 indicates, the alliance has very limited and conditional support. Germany has said it would not join air strikes. Russia concerned about the legality of US air strikes over Syria without Syrian government approval would create an barrier to UN support unless the US is willing to ally itself with the Assad regime, something the US claims to be loathe to do. Yet the US has no problem allowing Iranian troops on the ground in Iraq and PPK fighters, on the US terrorist list to work with the US in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. Strange times indeed, Hannibal would be a worthy adviser as Obama wades back into these perilous waters.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/kerry-holds-talks-in-saudi-arabia-on-anti-islamic-state-campaign-1410445577


“The painting Hercules Firing Arrows at His Children, by Italian artist Antonio Canova was painted in 1799 using oil on paper and glued to canvas. It is 42 X 66 cm. The painting features the infamous madness of Hercules. After being driven mad by the goddess Hera and by drink, he murders his whole family in blind furry. When finally sober, Hercules is surprised and heartbroken by his actions. He agrees to twelve labors in order to partially atone for his sins” Phin Upham http://phinupham.net/hercules-firing-arrows-at-his-children/

Where is the modern Hercules? Is there a universal figure like Hercules? It can’t be Jesus, Jews don’t recognize him and Muslims give little significance the the figure. It can’t be Mohammed for the same reasons. Who is it, we have to go back to Abraham and Issac. Who is the good servant of god? This is a myth that is concurrent with that of Melquart-Hercules. But this is not a self evident narrative in the modern rhetoric. What is, is the question asked of Abraham. What are you willing to do to impose the will of your god? Hercules, was asking a different question, what do I have to do to get these gods off my back? What unifies them is the fact that they both are engaged as intermediaries between the helpless humanity and the gods/fates/demonic forces. Thus the rhetoric reflects a justification of the position vs a vie these powerful cosmic forces and much effort goes into the justification of these efforts. How strange, how typically human and how sad that the dilemma of both Hercules and Abraham still exist today.

“Fresco with image of Abraham to sacrifice his son, Ishmael (Islamic version) on a Haft Tanan museum wall in Shiraz”
Evgenia Kononova (Wikicommons)

The gods make Hercules crazy, a very modern figure, could be a warrior suffering from PTSD. Abraham is tempted to craziness by the Abrahamic god and then is stopped by his better angels. The Romans and Carthaginians fought until one was destroyed utterly. In the modern ethos there is the opportunity to arrest the path to war. Are our better angels going to stop us from war madness?

Selected Works Cited.

Dominik, William J. “Hercules in Roman Religion.” Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2009. Google Scholar. 404-406. Web. 9/14/14.

Hesiod, Theogony. The Works of Hesiod.trans. Richard Latimore. Ann Arbor: U of Mich. P. 1959. Print.

Miles, Richard. Carthage Must Be Destroyed. New York: Viking Penguin. 2011. Print.

Vergil, Aeneid. Perseus Digital Library. U. of Chicago. Web. 9/14/14.

Gaza, US Middle East Bungling, Anti-Semitism, Plautus, & Ancient Usury

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

The yellow badge Jews were forced to wear can be seen in this marginal illustration from an English manuscript.

BritLibCottonNeroDiiFol183vPersecutedJews

Summer is almost over as we enter the Labor Day holiday weekend here in the USA. May Day, the world wide labor struggle holiday, which started in honor of American Anarchists in Chicago, is alienated from its radical history here. But the people have struggled to have their voices heard despite the constant media barrage to discourage action and to induce a sense of fear and helplessness.

We can see how people the world over took to the streets when Israel attacked Gaza, especially in Europe, not so strangely the dictatorships in the Arab world remained largely silent, not wanting to encourage more signs of resistance like the Arab Spring. The USA, as leader of the cabal of elite rulers around the world, has rocked the boat when Obama made his seemingly foolish speech in Cairo when he was first elected. It must be attributed to his relative political naïveté in international affairs. He perhaps wanted to distinguish himself from Bush’s administration with its heavy handed interventionist policies. The elites in Saudi Arabia never forgave him for letting Mubarak go. They insisted on returning the military to power and now are busily working with proxies such as the U.A.E. to destroy the independent resistance in Libya and did their best to turn Syria into a quagmire.

The Obama administration, with their desire to turn focus to deal with a rising China, and create an East Asian NATO, has now found itself being out-foxed by the combined efforts of Iran, Russia and China. But I digress into speculation on politics based on my own reading and experience in various domestic anti-imperialist political campaigns.

Little Gaza is a lynchpin irritant; it is the sore that keeps the Islamic world rallying against the presence of Israel. It is such a blatant injustice, that when Islamic regimes give silent aid to Israel, they fuel the forces of Islamic radicalism. It was the Palestinian question and the placement of US bases in Saudi Arabia allowed Osama Bin Laden to inspire so many young Saudi’s and others to such an implacable resistance to the US machinations leading to 9/11.

What to do about Israel? I can admire the Jewish people and their resilience in the face of prejudice, especially on the part of Christians that goes back to at least medieval times. The Greek-Jewish hostility dating back to the Greek Selucid occupation of the Jewish homeland in the Hellenistic period, extended into the Roman times. Witness the riots in Roman occupied Alexandria between Greeks and Jews and the records of delegations to Rome during the time of Caligula, to resolve these conflicts in Philo. The degeneration of relations between Rome and the Jews from the days when Herod was a welcome celebrity in Rome, to the time of the destruction of the second temple by Vespasian and Titus, a subject that I would like to dig into sometime because it would be interesting to see how Jews became Shylocks in the western tradition and a persecuted minority.
http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2010/2010-12-63.html
I am providing a link to a fairly good article from Wikipedia on the subject of the early split between Judaism and Christianity, which resulted in official oppression of Jews once the Christians became part of the government after Constantine. The earlier Roman oppression of the Jews had more to do with Roman practice against rebels than any specific anti-Semitism. Later the attitude of Hadrian, whose Hellenophile enthusiasm, may have influenced his repression of the Jews and renaming Jerusalem as pagan Aelia Capitolina. What has the Greek and Jewish conflict played in the emergence of anti-Semitism is a subject I intend to write about more. As it is I am diverging again.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Split_of_early_Christianity_and_Judaism

The Jewish people deserve to feel safe in their place in the world. Yet they must not do so by developing their own version of South African Apartheid on a much smaller and more intensive scale.

This entire discourse was inspired by my reading of Plautus’s play The Mostellaria, reading his rants against moneylenders. His language seems right out of the Biblical Jesus’s excoriation of the money changers. It got me thinking about when were Jews first associated with the reviled loan sharks. Plautus has his hero, the mischievous slave Tranio, say in an aside to the audience “By Pollux, you won’t find a fouler class of/men/Or men less lawful than the moneylending breed!” (Plautus 657-659). He spends a goodly section of the play railing against loans at interest and one gets the impression that this may have been a relatively recent development in Roman culture. Banking with the concept of interest had been criticized by Aristotle and Roman law limited interest to 8 1/3%. Yet in the play the money lender is asking for 10%.
http://americansforfairnessinlending.wordpress.com/the-history-of-usury/

Also in the war with the Carthaginians, the second Punic war, which would have been going on during much of Plautus’s adulthood, the Roman Republic took out many loans and taxed women for their jewel and gold inherited from dead spouses called the Oppian Laws. After the war in 195 BC when the war was long over, the Oppian law was still in effect and the women protested when the Senate was voting on repeal and the tribunes were about to veto repeal. This occurred a decade or so before Plautus died and presumably when he was a well-known playwright.
http://www.womeninworldhistory.com/lesson10.html
So I was thinking about how usury was unpopular among the aristocracy of the day. There had been a crisis in Athens earlier when many farmers had become enslaved for non-payment of debt. Solon famously did much to eliminate that debt and legislated against it. The Greeks famously used their temples as banks. Pawnbrokers and money changing are considered to be Greek innovations. Perhaps the outrage of Jesus was outrage at the Hellenistic practice in the Jewish temple. This would give a nationalist twist to his opposition, or who ever made up the story. The transformation of the payment in interest in grain, where agricultural products naturally created more abundance, as opposed to the innovation of charging interest on money and metals which had no natural increase which caused serious problems in ancient society. But how the Jews, became associated with moneylending had much to do with medieval taxation and land ownership restrictions on Jews and their lack of a natural land base after the diaspora. I am again getting beyond my area of even limited expertise, so I am going to leave it at that.
http://www.myjewishlearning.com/history/Ancient_and_Medieval_History/632-1650/Christendom/Commerce/Moneylending.shtml
I am leaving this off with more questions than answers. I am going to have to read more on the original Greek and Jewish interaction. Perhaps in my Pagan Culture class I will write a paper on this and post it. Meanwhile it is now August 31st and I have not even touched on the issues of migration and police shootings of minorities. I will write more at a later time. Meantime I would love some commentary and addition of some factual information.
Some good sources that I happen to have in my personal library and have read over the years:

Andreau, Jean. Banking and Business in the Roman World. Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press. 1999. Print.
Finnley, M. I. The Ancient Economy. Berkeley: U. of CA. Press. 1999. Print.
Lee, A. D. Pagans & Christians in Late Antiquity. London: Routledge. 2000. Print.
Plautus, Titus Maccius. Four Comedies. Trans. Erich Segal. Oxford: Oxford U. Press. 1996. Print.
Tcherikover, Victor. Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews. New York: Atheneum. 1979. Print.

“Injun Time” - Stereotypes Meet Reality

Sunday, May 18th, 2014


Wikimedia.org

Geronimo and Warriors 1886. My conception of Native Americans in my youth, Hell Geronimo is still a hero of mine.

Approaching Indian Time: A memory laden semi-review of the absolutely true diary of a part-time indian

Prologue

Growing up watching Injuns, as a little kid, Noble Savages, as a preteen and Native Americans as I entered my mid-teen radical period, I encountered the gamut of stereotypes of Native Americans. I also have had some friends over the years who are Native Americans, but no real long term relationships, so even though I am familiar, I am not totally free from some stereotypical attitudes that would be disabused with an on going relationship. With that said, this is my experience over the years as described in a short paper based on personal experience as related to the Alexie story.

cdn0.dailydot.com

the new native stereotype, the “magical nature native” that replaced the more dated stereotype of the “unintelligent savage.” Photo via feministdisney

Driving across South Dakota, while returning to Los Angeles after briefly attending the protests at the Republican Convention in 2008, I tuned into the Native American Radio broadcasting from the Lakota reservation. Here was being broadcast an early season football game between the Pine Ridge Reservation high school and one of the local white high schools. This was brought to mind while reading Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. A book for teens, that I read for a class, American Ethnic Writers. The broadcast, the only thing on the FM dial of the airwaves in that vast expanse of seemingly empty prairie, captured my attention, having attended the 1979 Black Hills Alliance Survival Fair with a Lakota professor from Denver University and his two young female protégés from the Dine reservation in Arizona, I had a context in which this broadcast was of interest, since I don’t generally like listening to sports on the radio. As I read the book, I flashed back to the different trips. I could relate to the depreciating, death bed humor of Arnold the protagonist in Alexie’s book about life on a modern day reservation and one youth’s attempt to escape the despair of life on a reservation with no jobs and few resources.


tectonicablog.com

My Understanding of Navajo’s as I went to visit the Reservation in 1973.

In my more adventurous youth I had hitchhiked to the Dine reservation in search of an authentic Navajo Blanket for my high school sweetheart’s sister’s wedding present. I had just dropped out of community college in Colorado, enamored with my Humanities teacher who had instilled in me a desire to take the grand tour in Europe, but meantime I had hitched up to Maine to see my old high school girlfriend, she told me about her sister’s wedding and I wanted to do something special, something impressively different. So in the late spring of 1973 I caught a ride with an AWOL sailor, who took me from Winter Harbor, Maine and the blueberry bog I had been fitfully roto-tilling. Once back in Connecticut, where I grew up and my mom still lived, my AWOL friend and I parted ways. I stuck my thumb out on the Merritt Parkway outside of Bridgeport and trekked to Colorado Springs where I had a bank account and a little money saved from my job at the Air Force Academy, where I had been one of three Anglos among the forty or so Chicano waiters, at the Cadet Dining Hall.


usafaparentsclubcfl.files.wordpress.com

Site of my first real job.

From Colorado I hitched down the I-25 to Albuquerque to the I-40 where I was deposited in Gallup, New Mexico there I thought I would find the perfect blanket. I was my own personal version of the white man seeking his piece of Native American authenticity, satirized by Alexie, as a poor man’s “Ted” (Alexie 161-163), decked out not in Native American regalia, as Ted was a rich collector of Native American memorabilia, but my hippie American jeans, work shirt and sneakers. Like Ted I was seeking some authentic experience of the Native American world. Unlike Ted I was not coming from a position of extreme privilege. I was just a young idealistic kid following out my own fantasy of version of meeting the Indians. I had seen the movie Little Big Man. My Mom loved Indians, and I could relate, I thought.


filme-carti.ro

Scene from Little Big Man, Dustin Hoffman’s Encounter with US Calvary on the big screen.

Gallup had little to offer, other than overpriced freeway side tourist attractions. I had perhaps $100.00 to spend and nothing was that cheap, nothing but machine made imitations from Belgium or Mexico. I had been reading up on rugs, playing with the idea of going off to Istanbul and becoming a rug merchant. I decided to seek the authentic Indian blanket weaver. I envisioned some old Navajo woman sitting in her Hogan surrounded by sheep busy at her loom, a semi-tragic Penelope, who would be grateful for my willingness to take the burden of dreams she was weaving for a few pennies. This was my first foray into foreign country, off America into the Rez’. But I needed a guide. I stuck my thumb out and found Charlie Deer Hunter who was driving his pickup along the main drag.


newmexico.org

Gallup street scene.

Now at this point I need to discuss something of my hippie version of Anglo American times and destinations. Even as a hippie youth, without a job, I was driven by time tables. I had places to go, things to do. I had left Maine just as the weather had turned probably first week of June and had to be back later that month for the wedding in Connecticut. I planned to hitch hike out to Colorado, three days, spend a day there taking care of business, spend another day getting to Indian Country, spend a day locating and buying the blanket and then head to California, another day’s trip, to visit my dad, spend a couple days and then spend a five days hitching back, a total of fourteen days, with four days leeway for getting stuck in places or side trips. By the time I got to Gallup it had been a week. I had spent an extra day in Colorado due to my arriving on the weekend and having to wait a day for the bank to open. So when I went off American time, I was entering into an entirely different conceptual framework of time that of Indian time.


backwoodssurvivalblog.com

Anonymous saying attributed to wise old Native American

I was sanding on the main drag in Gallup and an Indian guy told me to hop in back of his pickup. Charlie had black hair showing from under a plaid hunting cap, gun rack in the back, a rather old western shirt, jeans and cowboy boots. He was going up to Shiprock, the headquarters of the Navajo Reservation, a straight three hour drive. After six stops at different bars, corner stores and long conversations with his buddies, pointing to the hippie in the back of his pickup, he, now drunk, with a couple buddies decided it was time to head to the reservation. We drove a weaving path in the gathering darkness. About an hour or so out of town on some desolate spot in State Highway 666, they decided to go rabbit hunting. There I was in the middle of nowhere alone, standing by an empty pickup truck while the three took a rifle and a couple six packs off into the desert hills. After an hour, I realized they were not coming back. I stuck my thumb out, got a lift in the middle of the night to town as the guy said. Town was a an all night store and gas station, a couple of shacks and not much else, enclosed in red sandstone buttes that occasionally could be seen by headlights of pickups. There was no liquor, it was dry. Young Indian guys drove around and around the store for hours. They saw me, but I was an anomalous character, just another stranded hippie in the middle of nowhere. I thought it was strange, nobody was curious, or would talk to me. There were no friendly or unfriendly overtures. I was reminded of that desert outpost while reading the description of Wellpinit, Washington, the reservation town Arnold describes in Absolutely True Diary….


media.spokesman.com

Scene from Wellpinit, WA. Spokane Indian Reservation.

Finally, the next morning, I managed to get a lift to a trading post from an old white guy draped in Ted like splendor, who says that he had been trading with the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni for years, and told me to forget finding an ignorant Indian woman, wasn’t going to happen. Only building a relationship, he married a Dine woman, and that took time, “Indian time” as he put it. White people don’t have the patience, they want to do business. So they figure out other ways to get Indian wealth. “Why do you think there are so many bars and pawn shops in that tiny place” he said speaking of Gallup. Catching someone on a drunk was cheating, pointing at the huge turquoise and silver bracelets and rings on his deep tanned wrinkled skin, “I had to earn these.”


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“Navajo jewelry - Nizhoni!! They say the older you get the bigger your jewelry gets”

He took me to a trading post where I found my rug for $60.00, not a big beautiful piece, just a small runner, but it was real, and all I could afford. The old guy had driven off and stuck my thumb out again. I was picked up by a twenty something native guy. He said he was going to Barstow, California, and I had decided to visit my dad in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Barstow was on the way. This guy, Roger, had long hair like a hippie, but it was braided and he had turquoise and silver jewelry, wore a clean white western shirt and pressed jeans, even his Tony Lamas were polished. We listened to the pop radio in his Chevi van. He seemed pretty regular, until he began to tell me his plight. He was in love with a college educated Indian woman, a knock out but he was a reservation guy, a Rowdy type, he didn’t know how to talk to her. Rowdy is a character in Alexi’s book, the best friend of Arnold, with minimal social skills. He wanted to pick her up from work and give her a ride while I talked with her. We stopped at the Reservation school where she taught, a rather newish single story concrete building where this stunning black haired beautiful woman came out. She became the model on my mind of Zitkala-Ša. Who in her story “An Indian Teacher Among Indians,” describes her experiences at the Indian school (Ša 104-105). This woman was decidedly different from the sad teacher Mr. P, in Alexie’s book (28-29). This Pocahontas, Indian princess and I were introduced and I was happy to play my part talking to her in the back of Roger’s van.


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Teacher from Absolutely True Diary… by Ellen Forney

Thing were going great, back then I was a gregarious sort and her fantastic flowing black hair, inspired my interest. She spoke of the events up in Pine Ridge, where there had been an occupation by AIM the American Indian Movement. Pine Ridge which had been the scene of the deaths of two of the occupiers, including one an ex-marine Buddy Lamont, shot in the heart during a heavy firefight with US Marshals and the FBI on April 27th, They had declared the themselves to be an independent nation and the Feds had shot them (Crow Dog 142-143). I told her about my days with another AIM in Connecticut and the trials of the Black Panthers in New Haven that I had organized caravans of protesters to support the Panthers. She talked of her efforts as part of a group organizing to get Native American teachers and directors at the Reservation school. The BIA take over in Washington the previous year had been part of the process leading to the Indian Education Act of 1972 that gave funding for her now being able to become part of the policy making group for the reorganized schools. This was a part of the general Indigenous effort to increase autonomy and part of the Red Power movement.


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Occupation of BIA in 1972.

Before long Roger began to get agitated. We were driving along and suddenly Roger pulls over to the side of the road, and tells me to get out. It was mid-day, I hadn’t had anything to drink or eat and it was boiling hot in the mid-day sun. He zoomed off with his educated love. She seemed a bit disturbed, but not surprised at my departure. I was stuck on the side of the road, I-17 it turned out. But it was hot and I was dehydrated. I decided to crawl under an abandoned roadside booth where I had seen Indians selling trinkets before. Making lots of noise to chaise away any rattle snakes, I then ventured to sleep the afternoon away, since the night before I had little sleep standing around in the cold at that lonely gas station. These Indian guys had a strange way of treating outsiders I thought using my Navajo blanket as a pillow while waiting for things to cool down.

Models for the “Women of the Navajo” 2013 calender pose for pictures at the 66th Annual Navajo Nation Fair. Source: Flickr / dshortey

A few years later in 1979, while involved in my Rock Against Racism organizing in Boulder, Colorado, I went to hear Wallace Black Elk talk about the Black Hills Alliance. Two Buffaloes, a Lakota, sometimes college student with a pockmarked face, and two long braids told me about it when bugging me one day to get some LSD for him to use at some kind of ceremony since he couldn’t get any peyote. Two Buffaloes had a white dad and Lakota mom, and had pretty pale skin, but he dressed in a variation of the indigenous pride outfits, those bone neck collars worn by warriors in the old days and feathers in his hair. Stuff most regular Indians didn’t wear, except for Pow Wows and tourist events.

The drum contest highlights groups of 10 to 12 members each, and they sing traditional family songs that are passed down orally from one generation to the next. National Museum of the American Indian Photo #46 by Walter Larrimore

When I was five my mom worked at a fake cowboy town in the Catskill Mountains called Cimarron City. There was a group of Native Americans, Injuns we called them, down the hill in a fake Indian village where they would perform ‘genuine Indian rituals’ and participate in the fake battles between the cowboys and Indians put on every afternoon for the tourists. I used to hang out with the Indian boy my age, we would go hide behind the archery range stealing stray arrows. One time during an evening gathering where the adults sat around drinking beer and eating corn on the cob out of a big pot, my friend’s dad challenged us to a traditional ritual, picking up a tooth pick out of a peace pipe placed on the ground with our mouths, from a standing position without touching the ground with our hands. I remember how hard it was, he did it. It was his part of the routine done for tourists, but it must have meant something in their reality as well. I fell on my face.


wikimedia.org

Dramatic portrayal of Native American man stabbing “Custer,” with dead Native Americans lying on ground, in scene by Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show performers. MEDIUM: 1 photographic print. CREATED/PUBLISHED: c1905

So I went to this meeting, Wallace Black Elk was speaking to a group of highly educated University of Colorado students and professors, he was speaker after an AIM representative who talked about the politics of indigenous land rights, the tradition of land theft from the tribes going back to the 1868 treaty with Red Cloud, how the Black Hills were sacred territory and should remain inviolate. There had been gold mining in the past, the immediate cause for the conflict that had led to Custer’s famous last stand at the battle of Greasy Grass as it is known among the Natives. Now the Bureau of Indian affairs with the Bureau of Land Management wanted to mine uranium and contaminate the region calling this area a National Sacrifice Zone as part of the cold war efforts to stockpile fissionable uranium. After a sober and politicized presentation, Wallace Black Elk, medicine man, descendent of the Black Elk who had participated as a thirteen year old in the battle Lakota’s who could trace their family relationship to Crazy Horse (Argonito 211-213), got up, we were all excited to hear his words of wisdom, Boulder was famous for its New Age spiritualism and NAROPA Institute, the Buddhist school.

Assistant U.S. attorney general Kent Frizzell, right, listens to AIM Indian as other AIM leaders sit by in tepee prior to signing of peace settlement, April 5, 1973 in Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Kneeling is Wallace Black Elk and to his left are AIM leaders Russell Means, Dennis Banks and Carter Camp, in that order. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Wallace spoke of going up on a flying saucer and speaking with the spirit people and how radiation could not harm his people because it was part of nature and they were natural people protected by the Great Spirit. This struck me, as being hardly reason to rally concerned white people to the cause of Native land rights. Wallace was speaking of spirits and space people. It seemed reminiscent of the tales of the Messiah Wovoka, originator of Ghost Dances, who told his followers that they were protected from the white man’s bullets (Brown 434). In many ways Wallace Black Elk seemed to be living in that other world, of the rabbit hunters, living on a time and in a place that did not translate well to western concerns in my mind. Wallace was one of the spiritual advisers to the Pine Ridge occupation in 1973 and along with Leonard Crow Dog was responsible for bringing the Ghost Dance back to Pine Ridge according to Mary Crow Dog in her memoir of that period Lakota Woman (Crow Dog 144-145). So here was this leader spiritual leader of the Lakota, speaking what seemed to me to be crazy talk about space people. Yet this was a man commanding respect and a standing room only crowd in that early spring day. I decided to make the trek to the Black Hills and find out what these crazy Indians were all about.


academic.evergreen.edu

Later that summer, 1979 I went with my ride the professor to the Black Hills Survival gathering. Again I was in the back of a pickup, rotating to the front of the prof’s Toyota, with the girls as we drove from our meeting place in Denver to the Black Hills. On the way to this serious political gathering they wanted to stop along the way. We went to Mount Rushmore and spent hours there. I was somewhat aghast that they would want to stop at this symbol of American Anglo dominance in their sacred territory. But the professor said the college girls had never been to the Black Hills and wanted to tourist as well as attend a political gathering. Eventually we arrived, a day late. The professor mingled with his Lakota buddies, I went to find a ‘serious’ political group of anglo-leftists and anarchists. The young women went off elsewhere… to visit other Native American students. The young women didn’t need to be educated about the realities of reservation life, they lived it. The fact that white ranchers had joined in an alliance with the Native Americans to defend their land against the needs of the military industrial complex was heartening. “BHA [Black Hills Alliance] co-founder Mark Tilsen remembers that before the group was founded, the Lakota and white ranchers had only two points of social contact: rodeo and basketball” (Grossman).

“Members of the Dakota Rural Action Black Hills Chapter and the Clean Water Alliance rallied against proposed uranium mining and milling on May 27, 2013 outside Custer City Hall, while inside Powertech (USA), Inc. used the government offices to promote the private project 50 miles west of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Photo: Dakota Rural Action” - Ongoing struggle.

As I read the scenes of the basketball game in Alexie’s book I thought of that drive past the Pine Ridge Reservation, years later, listening to the high drama of local football on the endless sea of the greasy grass prairie. I thought of Wallace Black Elk and realized that he was not crazy, he was not saying radiation is not dangerous, but in nature, left where it would naturally be, it is no more dangerous than any other part of the natural world. Only man’s intervention, without taking into account the long term consequences could make such a foolish choice as to want to create bombs out of the naturally occurrence of radioactive material. I thought that we too need to learn to think at least seven generations ahead when planning changes as the old Native American saying about time indicates. Indian time is not something foolish, it is seeing the big picture, the broad lay of time and space and taking into account more than just the immediate desires of a few. Indian time, at least in this highly allegorical sense is a warning to us moderns, as we face the consequences of our actions upon the Earth.


linkcenterfoundation.org
“You should pay attention. That way, you honor them.” - Wallace Black Elk

Works Cited
Alexie, Sherman, and Ellen Forney, illustrations. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. New York: Little, Brown and Co. 2009. Print.
Agonito, Joseph. Lakota Portraits Lives of the Legendary Plains People. Guilford, CT. Globe Pequot Press. 2011.
Brown, Dee. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. New York: Henry Holt and Co. 2000. Print.
Crow Dog, Mary and Erodoes, Richard. Lakota Woman. New York: Grove Press. 1990. Print.
Grossman, Zoltan. “The Black Hills Alliance.” Unlikely Alliances: Treaty conflicts and environmental cooperation between Native American and rural White communities. Madison: U. of Wisconsin. 2002. Evergreen.edu. Web. 20 April. 2004.
Zitkala-Ša (Gertrude Bonnin), American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings. New York: Penguin Books, 2003. Print.

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