I was in the USAF…. a branch of the second greatest organization of human effort ever to be established–the first being the Catholic Church. Anyway, it occurred to me that the US military was the fulfillment of the struggle for the rights of the working poor personified in the IWW and cultivated in the post (Civil) war working class struggles through to the 1920’s and 30’s–perhaps perfected, in it’s imperfect way, by the reconstruction of Japan under MaCarthur. Eisenhower says in his autobiography that if it hadn’t been for the real danger Nazi-Germany posed… he probably would’ve gone through the war a low-level officer and gone out into the civilian sector after the war to become a salesman. Instead, the twits with a name, and their new found silly walk, were passed over for the sake of those with ability.
In the military, I found real community, advocacy, opportunity and the training and instruction to take on the responsibility with which I was entrusted. I didn’t know how good i had it until I returned to the civilian sector to a world resembling a zombie-apocalypse–there are chunks of me ambling about in the bellies of more than a few former intimates. In the military, we had several different roles to play, jobs to perform with a constant curriculum of training and retraining. In the military, my primary job was radar tech (in which I maintained and repaired radar tasked with controlling civilian air traffic), I worked as a base operator, bus driver, air freight cargo loader, in disaster response, job control, drafting written daily status reports, maintaining stock supplies and TO (technical order) libraries.
This last was of particular interest to me. While in the military I learned the necessary basic skills to participate in and maintain the smooth workings of a large organization, I also learned the potential and value of those skills. Since being out, I have continued in a lifelong habit of reading with a renewed sense of interest and ownership in and for my society. Among the authors and actors whom have influenced my thinking are Lewis Mumford, The City in History; and political activist, Ralph Nader. Both of whom seem to suggest that there are a missing set of institutions in our society.
When I was in the Air Force, we had gone through a recent re-evaluation of the roles and responsibilities of troops, particularly in response to their rank in the hierarchy. It had been acknowledged that rank did not necessarily indicate intelligence or ability or degree of potential contribution to “The Mission.” It had been emphasized at every step of training and integration into the workplace, the importance of “The Mission.” “The Mission” trumped rank, position or time in service. If you had an innovation or identified a fault in the meeting of the goals to accomplish “The Mission”–if you saw a problem–it was your responsibility to either address that problem, report that problem or both.
Upon returning to the civilian sector, I recognized a more strident acknowledgement and constant jockeying for position within the hierarchy… to a much greater degree than in the military–where hierarchies were clearly defined and little contested–to the degree that hindered whatever the given “Mission” at the time. Also, I saw little compunction against sabotage, even self sabotage, as an idiotic component of an over-arching culture of participation, or lack of. In the civilian sector, it was much more important to discredit the guy next to you for your own dim light to shine that much more brightly than to meet the basic objectives of the given task. Not only that, but others would participate in ones noncompliance out of a value for cultivating workplace cliques rather than ones own ability to contribute.
But it was the TO (Technical Order) library which still burned brightly in my imagination when thinking of my time in the Air Force. With this system of encapsulating and keeping knowledge… an organization could dedicate as few as two troops to the task of retaining any skill or technique the service required or acquired. And it occurred to me, what if this organizational pattern could be applied to the cultivation of hobbies and interests in the civilian sector to the end of not only knitting together human effort not based upon personal ambition, but personal interest and a cultivated questing for knowledge and accomplishment? What if such organized endeavor could be codified in a manor to bring together corporate activity which would grow with the depth of applied interest and activity from two members with an idea to 1000 members with facilities, self-maintained libraries and frequent visits from instructing scholars and professionals? Something I would call a PIL–yes a nod to the second band of a certain rotten John Lydon–a Peoples Independent Library. There could be thousands of them flourishing in every town… based around everything from cooking to political activism… concerned with anything from resurrecting ancient glass making techniques to evolving balanced curriculum for pre-teen children.
Out of such work might emerge a culture conscious of those traits and values necessary for large scale corporate action. A re-emergence of a monastic movement brought to the masses in the ruins of an empire wilderness. Anyway… just a thought.
detail from Tienanmen Square
One Minute to Midnight, My Recent Travels and the Importance of Heroes
Within the past week, I was hacking in the square of St Steven’s Basilica in Budapest, Hungary.
Just a week before that, there had been a Gay Pride March on the streets very near which had been cordoned off, blocks away, preventing attendance from marchers and non-marchers alike, with the planned route diverted at the last moment to decrease participation that much more. Professionals… especially those in the employ of the state, risked their jobs and social position to stand up for their right to express their affections for those they love.
The day before that, I ran in to Kate Mckinnon, of SNL, on the street… she is apparently shooting a movie there. Budapest is a popular place for movie shoots as well as tourism, possibly for the same reasons, it is less expensive than other places and it is simply a beautiful city.
Another issue of note was a huge anti-Soros campaign with hints of anti-semitism, translated as, “Don’t let him get the last laugh,” with a large picture of him laughing. The campaign with the sense and semiotics of an anti-immigrant position is ostensibly against the Central European University founded by Soros–w/ an endowment of $880 million, accredited in the US and students from a hundred different countries. Such slogans as, “dirty Jew” have appeared in graffiti on the posters and other outlets aside from the blue street posters featured faces of people with, obviously, other than Hungarian ethnicity.
But the point of my thread-post is about a set of cousins I met while I was hacking in the square of St Steven’s Basilica. They were travelling on vacation from Istanbul. One came up to me and asked to join my game, which, as any hacker knows, is always open to participants. The two were friendly and intelligent, and well informed, especially for their age. The one was wearing a t-shirt which said simply, “Hero,” on it. When I asked them about the current political atmosphere in Turkey… I was told that wearing a t-shirt such as the one this young man was wearing was enough to get one detained by the police in the current crack-down happening there.
In the Czech Republic, I met a young military officer who told me that one of the figures of influence and concern in his own country was an oligarch with ties to the old Soviet secret police named Babish… It seems that ultra wealthy oligarchs and autocrats are springing up everywhere these days.
Life on Mars, by cfjurgus… ~2005
Your read, the fashionable read, is that’ “the war on drugs doesn’t work…”
However, you divorce yourself from the equation. You form this–or accept this–opinion without any self-awareness. Further, you don’t think through the ramifications of your deduction–the fashionable deduction that the war on drugs doesn’t work.
What you don’t see–and why you don’t see it–is a common bi-product of the age of television. The television granted a wide audience the common God-like power of observing , and understanding, at least the content’s creators intent/message, without any effort or expectation of participation. This has created in the society a habit of forming judgments or interpretations quickly without any sense of obligation to act.
You say that Sicario is about how the drug war doesn’t work… people said and still say the same about prohibition, but many others disagree… and the facts tend to reinforce that disagreement. Before prohibition, drinking was much more widespread and acceptable; workers would routinely drink throughout the work day. After prohibition there was an acknowledgement that such drinking was detrimental and unacceptable. Drinking habits did change; perception of drinking did change.
I would argue that the point of the movie isn’t simply that the drug war “doesn’t” work, but that it isn’t enough. The point is, that our individual idiocies given free-reign culminate in miseries far from home… and surprise, not very far from home as well.
Just because certain opinions are fashionable… doesn’t mean they are well thought out or right. By saying merely that the war on drugs “doesn’t work” you seem to be advocating for a cessation of the anti-drug policies… the legalization of drugs. What you ignore is that there are power-capabilities that would be legitimized. What you don’t see is the inherent relationship setup by such a trade. You don’t see that gratification through drugs is tantamount to slavery.
I know you are unfamiliar with existentialism and metaphysics so I’ll try to explain… When one operates in the world with his or her sense of good feeling or euphoria or elation tied to what he or she does or the feelings of those around him or her… such people become more engaged with the way they live their lives. Their sense of good feeling IS tied to the good feelings of those around them; they have an interest in the people around them being happy–even at the expense of their own happiness. When they only feel a certain profound gratification from what they accomplish; they develop the ability to suspend the need for instant gratification and cultivate a capacity for long periods of hard work for the sake of that accomplishment.
The pattern among habitual drug users is different, they become resigned to much more intolerable conditions not out of the the hope for future reward, but because they have become too disengaged from their own lives to care to change things. And rather than experiencing the natural progression of status which should be a part of a life full of accomplishment, they feel useless and trapped in the same rut–relying on an artificial high to cope. So they engage in shallow social jockeying for status in a static hierarchy. They do this not in a way guided by a sense of dignity, but a yearning to justify ones own arrogance–most often at the expense of the dignity of those around them. By bearing joyous witness to others failures, or worse, helping to orchestrate the humiliation of those around them… by this route, one’s arrogance seems to be justified–one can convince himself of his own superiority. And when one’s sense of good feeling is tied to smoking a joint or doing a line rather than the feelings of those around them… it becomes that much easier to engage in orchestrated humiliations for the sake of momentarily boosting one’s own ego.
These patterns culminate in the destruction of the strength of the fabric of interpersonal relationships… people don’t so much care for the others in their life, they are bound to them out of raw need for material support. Theirs becomes an association of criminals, bound by a criminal activity to one another. They work, and cheat, to funnel money to the one who facilitates their access to “good feeling”. They are shackled and sequestered from their own lives by that habit or addiction. Their lives become emptier and emptier until they merely hate anything which points out the depravity to which their lives have fallen. They find in this another thread to bind together by and seek to indoctrinate others into their pattern of living so as to focus on something other than themselves. This is the part of the war on drugs which isn’t being fought effectively… the fight against the loss of meaning in one’s own life… the fight to acknowledge that culture and civilization take constant effort… the realization that the indolence that drugs inspire brings meaninglessness, the loss of consciousness and any sense or regard for what should be held sacred. But who cares when such things can’t be conveyed in a tattoo or on a t-shirt… right?!
I would say that this movie SHOULD illustrate the cost of such a sensational pursuit… that the war on drugs has to be fought by those who would use drugs or those who would dismiss those who do as having no responsibility for cumulative and ultimate effect of their choices. I do understand your misunderstanding, though, since the movie itself has chosen the most sensational way to convey that cost. Rather than focusing on the absurdity of the millions of club-goers snorting coke (very often chasing a fleeing panacea of erogenie) or the millions of video-gamers smoking pot (rather than facing their own insecurities engaging with others and the world at-large) as an argument against our lack of engagement and participation in solving the problem. That is, without handing the entire society over to a bunch of narco-kingpins.
People lose so much apprehension of the world through the habit of compartmentalizing–in their understanding of and conduct within relationships, community, profession, etc,. For instance, in regards to religion, the people with the most mystical view of the world are those who make pretensions at being guided by reason, such as atheists.
Atheists view the stories in the bible as though they were written for them and their limited understanding of statement and purpose completely disregarding the fact that these stories were told for entirely different communities to address issues from an entirely different time and place–and retold for different communities and circumstances, etc,. They assume such stories should fit into formats such as scientific dissertation or journalistic rigor. Meanwhile, they ignore the crisis with which the church has had to contend in pursuit of a common good for an extended community–subject to all the jaded agendas of personal ambition as any other organization of human effort. They so easily haul up absurdist banners of symbolic depiction, such as an old man in a gilded gated community suspended in the clouds and then pat themselves on the back for dispelling such absurdities with their own disbelief–as thought they were the first in the world to do so. This is a Marxist kind of hubris… the extension of which is the notion that, [one person can make sense of the world and all others should discard their own understanding and fall into line with the new thinking]. Others think that Science dispels the mythology of religion as though accountancy and arithmetic could replace the study of law.
More to the point, the therapist patient relationship is tainted by the fact that the patient is expected to open up to a complete stranger their most intimate experiences with the only reason for that trust being a professional expectation and the exchange of money for service. The relationship sets up a bizarre power-dynamic in which the one person, bound by nothing more than a bit of professional dogma and remuneration knows all about the patient and the patient knows almost nothing about the therapist. What happens in the lives of the patient when they have found such a cheap and artificial intimacy and exit from their own isolation, loneliness and suffering?!
Well, they aren’t searching for that kind of intimacy in those other relationships… or if they are, those pursuits have been tainted by that defining relationship with the hired servant… the therapist. Only, with the power-dynamic reversed… that intimate outside the doctor/patient relationship now takes on the role of subordinate. The Patient has rendered themselves vulnerable to the doctor in the first instance and in the second…. has fully contrived the terms of self evaluation with the true, would-be, intimate–that is the one who listens without being paid to–is merely set up as a listener and not the more organic and real role of active participant in the taking down of those barriers of loneliness and isolation; to personal suffering and self understanding.
This absurd marketplace manifestation of professional psychology is brilliantly lampooned in the animated series, Dr. Katz. Dr. Katz’s patients are comic acts performing their own “slouching toward” life. Their deliberate misunderstanding and lack of self-awareness merely a show for a captured audience. Meanwhile, Dr. Katz derives his sense of self and place through his own well tended relationships with his son and pals at the bar–even his anomicly disengaged receptionist helps keep his ship on course if by glaring beacon of where the rocks lay, where not to steer, alone.
Not to say that the profession of therapy doesn’t have a legitimate role… there are instances were certain experiences are simply beyond the understanding of an intimate… such as with abuse, trauma from war or the like, etc,. But, there is another venue where there is a greater structure for trust between a semi-professional confidant and confider–a relationship which will always be vulnerable to the foibles of human failing, such as lack of understanding or simple exploitation.
But this brings me to a grand instance of the failure of the psychological professions and the epidemic of anomie in contemporary culture. When one’s melancholy, or depression is linked to what is termed as [world-wide] problems… such as say, an employment market which reduces one to a smiling through gnashing teeth, servile and expendable service associate… a mere ghost in the machine… the goal of therapy and the psychological professions is to find strategies for coping–up to and including the use of powerful pharmaceuticals.
Compare this with the experience of the subjugation of the young Russian Christian communities by a ruthless and much more primitive Mongol Empire. At the beckon call of the Khan the Rus King would ride thousands of miles to kowtow at the Khan’s convenience in a city of tents with little assurance of safe return. And at the slightest perceived insult, and as buttress to the Khan’s renown and power, would ride with his horde thousands of miles razing everything in it’s path to exact revenge. And yet, it was the church and church bell ringing in it’s steeple which would summon the community back together from death and ash. Over and over again, until the strength the church inspired outlasted the self-destruction of the animist primitive.
And this is what this session and the psychological professions overlook, our common struggle for human dignity. The thing which SHOULD bring us together in common effort… where our personal suffering becomes a beacon for understanding the best path to pursue to avoid just that kind of suffering. Instead, the solution to ones personal suffering is the erection of an ego which justifies ones own pursuit of sensational escapism into the depths of idiocy and separation from the broader community–unless as common participants in a particular brand of escapism.
Finally, this issue of the church being there just to judge and not to support is a common misunderstanding. Perhaps the Protestant churches could take a page from the Catholic on this account–as long as you don’t mistake the judging of the self righteous parishioner for the true mission of the church–where the Catholic Church is not a church of saints, but rather a relater of the tradition which illuminates the struggles of people with power for the sake of dignity and in contest against human suffering–seeking God’s vision. Rather than, paying someone to tell you that whatever you say is fine and whatever you do is fine and you are the end of all means for the sake of that bill paid for each session… for the sake of your employers satisfaction to the point you are empowered to pay that bill for each session.
It is important to remember that it wasn’t a priest employed by the Bush administration to help refine methods of torture; that was left to paid psychologists. Where religion is a science of human dignity, the profession of psychology seems to be more and more concerned with observing, identifying, cultivating and exploiting human idiocy.
I grew up in Oak Park, Illinois, just blocks from where Sam Giancanna was killed in his own basement by his own “friends”. These mafiosi would spread themselves out amongst different neighborhoods. Tony Accardo was a neighborhood over in River Forest… Nitti lived in Riverside. No doubt, where these gangsters lived, they attracted lackeys from the local community–people who were seduced by the apparent power these men wielded. However, their entry into the circle of these “men” should stand as reflection of the experience of these gangsters.
They would have to kowtow, any misinterpreted gesture or perceived slight had to be addressed by these men who had to be paranoid at all times. So hierarchy required constant observance and sacrifice of self in order to allay such fears. Ones own life was rendered openly secondary to the position of power the gangster held. And as compensation for sublimation of ones own ego and the attendant humiliation of this… the lackey expected the same kind of obeisance from his own circle of subordinate intimates.
By this route, the entire community was infected with a very specific kind of power worship/lackey dynamic. Navigating this dynamic requires such pretense and sublimation of ones own experience with such high stakes involved that the result is a breeding ground for psychopathy. Indeed, John Wayne Gacy came from these neighborhoods–a friend of mine used to serve him breakfast at a local restaurant, the Paddle Wheel.
There is a telling story in the travels of Marco Polo… about the “Old Man in the Mountain”. He perverted Islamic belief by creating a garden into which he would welcome kidnapped boys. Here they would be drugged and catered to sexually; all the delights of paradise were bestowed upon them. This was proof that the Old Man was the fulfillment of Islamic prophecy; and the basis for his right to command absolute loyalty from these young men–who were then groomed as assassins, the basis of the Old Man’s political power.
Rather than obtaining a sense of belonging and gratification organically through the good feelings of those around them through their own good efforts, these boys were granted a debased sort of gratification, of which they were too young to judge, dependent upon the Old Man’s satisfaction with them. All reality and engagement were ultimately perverted to the point that these boys no longer required the mental capacity for such engagement. They were groomed to be psychopaths.
It is also telling that in our culture, especially in the fifties–a time of wealth and opportunity coming on the immediate experience of the Great Depression and WWII–popular culture became concerned with the quality of “being cool”. A watered down “slouching towards” psychopathy.
The doors to wealth and opportunity had been forced open, but not only were those who were granted entry not sure of what they should feel rightfully entitled to, but that there were butchers at the choke points in the cattle-guides always selecting their cuts with ever accumulating discerning and greed.
The entropy of mixing is equal to the entropy of expansion; and like a gas filling the room, our whole society has been affected, or infected, by these cultural patterns.
Black-eyed angels swam with me
A moon full of stars and astral cars
And all the figures I used to see
All my past and futures
And we all went to heaven in a little row boat
There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt
Black-eyed angels swam with me
A moon full of stars and astral cars
And all the figures I used to see
These “men” exemplify a trend towards the juvenile among male culture in our society. How much time, energy and resource have they poured into this foolishness which begs what they pretend to fear… the erection of oppressive power which threatens democracy and freedom itself.
It seems to me there is a common gauntlet we must all run, which fills us with anxiety and little promise of fulfillment or security… a gauntlet we all soon learn can only successfully be addressed with an aire of enthusiasm, feigned or no. That is entrance into the marketplace. No one escapes it, we need money to live… no matter what vain pursuits you enlist to deny it’s necessity–such as, survivalist preoccupations.
Further, we all understand from the schoolyard that to show weakness is death. It is one of the many animal traits we are capable of descending to when will, consciousness and a sense of dignity finally fail us. And as with rats, when we perceive vulnerability, we are every bit as capable of bullying, beating, stealing, betraying… in a word, cannibalizing one another.
Yet rather than facing their own insecurities, identifying and addressing them directly… these men are too vain, instead they would thwart their own experience and ability to perceive, to redefine their fears. They would rather live in contrived fear of an armed threat in which their answer accommodates some action movie fantasy in which the are pitted shoulder to shoulder gun in hand against an oppressive government.
A government, meanwhile, due to their lack of engagement… is left in the hands of lobbyists serving moneyed interests not concerned with the plight of the countries citizenry, but the preservation of cornered markets and large holdings of wealth.
And these fools… in their camouflage and all male retreat… only step out of their secluded homoerotic fantasies long enough to engage in the democratic system in the most base and basic manner possible… merely to vote. And who do they vote for?! A billionaire casino owner who games the system to the detriment of working men and women… who doesn’t pay his bills, who inherited his money and has ties to Putin’s Russia! It’s so absurd a joke that to laugh requires a degree of self-negating insanity.
I believe it was engraved on the largest cannon barrel to be forged at the time of it’s creation… 18th century France, I believe… ‘The last reasoning of Kings.’ But it was better rephrased by Isaac Asimov, [Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.] But in this case… the devolution has taken it one step further (or backward) … A gunfight is the first dream of boys who would have you call them men.
And to the asshole who says he worries about a [tyrant] and just wants to be “prepared”… how about fostering a little self-awareness, reading a book and becoming engaged? I know it isn’t as sexy as a camp full of automatic weapons and men dressed up in camo, but I guarantee it’d be a whole hell of a lot more effective.