Literacy, Bureaucracy, and the Closing of the Savage Mind

The written word does not replace speech, any more than speech replaces gesture. But it adds an important dimension to much social action. This is especially true of the politico-legal domain, for the growth of bureaucracy clearly depends to a considerable degree upon the ability to control [non-kin] relationships by means of written communication. (Jack Goody

One thing that Russia lacks not is bureaucracy; lots and lots of bureaucracy, documented with documentation, itself filled with tables, calculations, stamps, and signatures, made official with notary seals and stitched bindings.  This is the world of the document, and the land of the written word.  And people here stand in line for hours, waiting for their official documents, from the bank, the police, the registration office.  This is home of the bureaucrat.  The one positive thing you can say about America is that statement you see occasionally at the bottom of your federal tax forms… something about “the paperwork reduction act.”  Boy, they had some good productivity consultant working on that deal for a few years, don’t you think?  Yet, we recognize that bureaucrats still fill the town halls, city halls, and State offices, just as they do the halls of Congress, the smoke-free corridors and the once-and-future smoke-filled back rooms at the White House.

Following the lead of our eyes and the ever increasing primacy of sight, writing tends to draw us way from the aural surround – including the speaking and hearing of language – into the more strictly linear formality of the written, and finally, the alphabetic text. Words, subordinate clauses, sentences, and paragraphs all line-up rather neatly, just as citizens patiently line-up to receive their approved documents from the bureaucrat in charge. The logic of communication is standardized; there is no pure melody, pulse, or polysemy as in the organic immediacy of speech, no rise and fall in tone or timbre.  The terrain is leveled, sterile, and flat, like those citizens waiting in queue to receive official notification. What’s more, the hierarchy inherent in such bureaucracies follows the logistical hierarchy of written communication  – the same hypotactic subordination found in virtually all Indo-European grammatical schemes. There is hierarchical ordering and subordination within the linguistic field of textuality, just as there is subordination on the battlefield, and in the theatre of political debate – a theater of the absurd as we recently witnessed.  Everything about our Western Curriculum reeks of hierarchy, and its foundation is easily discovered in the common structures (semantic, syntactic, grammatical, and logistical) of our written tongues.

Here is where I suggest we isolate the turning point in the closing or domestication of the savage mind, as Jack Goody points out in his book of the same title.  Is it not interesting how the nicely aligned rows of plowed fields, those “amber waves of grain,” led to urban surpluses, which then were stored and accounted for through the production of linear tables and rows of numbers in the written records of our earliest civilizations — the very first signs of written language, along with documneted codes of social control?  The haphazard plots of pre-urban horticulturalists (cross-over H/Gs) were simply not comparable with the tilled and plow-tended rows of the argriculturalist, just as meandering herds of sheep among the earliest practitioners of animal husbandry cannot compare to the meticulously aligned stalls of the modern abattoir. And the language of control, the written document, was key to building the assorted hierarchies that would henceforth manage the herds, the fields, the supplies, and the citizens, as well as the outsiders. Legal institutions, advocates and judges, guilt and innocence, along with police forces and the military were born in that self-same moment of our earliest history.  It is here that the West was lost.

When we hear so much chatter today about losing our moral compass, for example, in the world of gluttonous casino-capitalism, or the covert decisions issuing from the back rooms of Washington D.C. office buildings, we think we are hearing a meaningful statement about something that can be addressed and rectified.  But the very idea of rectification is itself a symptom of the disease with which we have all been infected from our very first lessons in the Curriculum by our moms, dads, politicians, priests, or rabbis. Solutions must go deeper — much deeper.  We need to go behind the logic of justification, of competition, of winners and losers, of right and wrong, of good and evil, of us against them.  But this will require such a strenuous transformation of our self-understanding, that it should be impossible without a prior collapse of the entire system that currently supports this self-concept. Yet, even then, those who emerge from the rubble of infrastructural and societal collapse, will still — as on autopilot — seek to justify or rationalize their own actions; for rationality a.k.a., enlightened self-interest, is almost all we have been taught for at least the past six thousand years.  Several of the popular post-apocalyptic books and movies have made this point painfully clear, time and again.

Where does that leave us?  It is not quite the story of the Tower of Babel, where we find communication impossible because we all speak in different tongues.  Quite the opposite.  In fact, the majority of us now populating the globe speak with one voice – the strictly linear voice of power and control, of nationalism, of domination, subjugation and sublimation. And religion is no less a key ingredient in this stew than is politics or law.  They are all three brothers born of the same father, having forsaken mother earth long ago. But wait, I hear the spiritualists telling me that religion as we practice it in the churches, the temples, and other institutions is indeed a problem; but spirituality, they say, will be our saving grace.  Well, excuse me, but I would suggest that perhaps the Druids are in better shape to assist in the recovery of embodied-selfhood than are the transcendentalists or those seeking spiritual enlightenment.  Of course, the technologists will tell us about how advances in science will lead us to the promised land.  But, over how many dead bodies, including our own… because we will not need bodies anymore, anyway, so they say.  Is that what we want; is that where we are heading. And all the while our politicians are just dime-a-dance snake oil salesmen, prancing around at their masters behest, while the police are left to round up all the terrorists and the other degenerates.  Wow, what a party.

But now we have turned a new page, and gone well beyond the Tower of Babel; we are now living within a new linguistic paradigm, the world of cyber language, the virtual language of the computer and its capacity to satisfy our visual gluttony.  It is still linear mind you, a binary code of 1’s and 0’s all lined up in neat little rows. Less and less a matter of direct speech, it is increasingly a matter of solipsistic behavior patterns issued from a disembodied set of keystrokes on a lifeless keyboard. Indeed, we no longer speak directly face to face with one another, we “chat” online; commanders no longer issue orders to the field, they launch stealth drones from an underground bunker with a keystroke; bureaucrats no longer request your written data on forms, they acquire it without even your permission from servers stationed around the world, just as our President no longer needs to declare or sign a declaration of war. Even our highly vaunted freedom of speech seems superfluous today, because so many of us no longer actually speak; and everything that we say online (which is the only saying that seems to matter anymore) is carefully monitored by security personnel, bureaucrats, and other political appointees without our knowledge or our consent.  It is no wonder that freedom of speech has become a comical issue (just ask the US Supreme Court); for speech is no longer something we think we engage in anymore… only paid advertising and propaganda that goes to the highest bidder counts as speech.  So when the American public hears that our freedom of speech is being curtailed or dismantled they simply screw-up their eyes, scrunch their noses and say: “Well, at least we still have our computers.”’

The Tower of Babel is not really about the multiplicity of tongues, anyway.  Even in Genesis, it is a representation of the overarching structural integrity of a universal language, and its ability to subordinate and unify disparate members of the citizenry within a shared foundational grammar and project.  I would say it is a mythic recognition of the univocal trajectory of writing — its capacity for disambiguation, thus enabling greater displays of command and control. The story was possibly an expressed regret over the loss of freedom, polysemy, and intimacy that preceded the birth of cities, kings, and written codes.  Why else would the story speak so directly about divine intervention to confuse yet again the tongues of man.

No doubt, much was gained with the move to literacy, with the univocity of the documented word.  It provided the hierarchy and structure to manage the new menagerie of human community, and realize the possibilities that civilized life now afforded.  As the story in Genesis (11:5-6) relates:

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. 6And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.

The building of cities, the concrete establishment of civilization — the Tower — was dependent upon the unambiguous univocality of the written word, and the hierarchical control it afforded the literati of the imperial court.  And so, in strict conformity to a burgeoning universal logic, the early empires of the Near East were established and blossomed, despite (‘divine’) attempts to again confuse the tongues of man.  This logistic and its subordinating structural coherence provided the basis for effective exercise of bureaucratic power relations and management control.  But, what was lost in this transformation to the written word, in the subordination of thought and speech within the apparently universal grammar of literacy and its proper voice — the sterile logic of the syllogism and, finally, of mathematics?  In any case, can any of what was lost be recovered? And, finally, how are we to survive all of these extravagances we so relentlessly pursued and created? 

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65 Responses to Literacy, Bureaucracy, and the Closing of the Savage Mind

  1. kulturcritic says:

    I am off to NYC at the crack of dawn, with a 5 day layover in Moscow… so I am posting early my friends. Sandy

    • Ivy Mike says:

      Godspeed, my friend. Thank you for the brilliant exegesis on the Tower of Babel.

      • Greg Knepp says:

        The Old Testament is chock full of odd stories that seem to lend themselves to elaborate, extrapolated and sometimes bizarre interpretations. This is one reason that the Bible in general and the OT in particular has had such staying power over the centuries, and why preachers, priests and, yes, even scholars have been able to milk it so effectively in their endless quests to mold the thought-lives of their respective followers. The conclusions in this post, though well presented, are strictly representative of one (or a few) contemporary schools of thought.

        I doubt that the nomads who first related this account around the evening camp gathering, or even the ‘civilized’ scholars who first wrote it down (probably laboring under the auspices of the Davidic monarchy) would have considered it a “mythic…representation of the overarching structural integrity of a universal language…” People in positions of authority didn’t think that way back then, anymore than they do now.

        To fully understand the Tower of Babel account (and it IS an account – not a story) one must place oneself in the mindset and circumstances of the time and place of its occurrence rather that the present – a present with unique challenges and conventions
        of its own.

        • Ivy Mike says:

          “Bizarre”? How bizarre, how bizarre! Ooh, baby, it’s making me crazy.

          Regarding your story vs. account consternation, can you set the folks straight writing dictionaries?

          sto·ry (noun) 1. an account of … ~Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press
          sto·ry (noun) 2a. an account of … ~Merriam Webster Dictionary
          sto·ry (noun) 1. an account of … ~Macmillan Dictionary

          • Greg Knepp says:

            “I would say it is a mythic recognition of the univocal trajectory of writing – its capacity for disambiguation, thus enabling greater displays of command and control”

            account (noun) : 1. a written or spoken report of something. 2. an explanation of something that has happened.

            story (noun) : 2. a short fictional prose piece.

        • kulturcritic says:

          Greg – I also doubt that they considered it as such. But, perhaps you are not reading me well. I think you would see things differently, and perhaps more amenably to my position, if we could agree on the term “myth.” Also, I am not suggesting that this was their self-understanding; they were writing to teach, to remind, to interpret and record the meaning of events and times they were living through. It is up to us to glean what meaning we can from those mythic accounts, or stories… So, both you and IvyMike need to focus on the meaning of “myth” rather than account or story. Love ya’ll. Sandy

        • Greg Knepp says:

          Agreeing on a definition of ‘myth, is gonna’ be a problem; it seems the mushiest of all concepts. I like to think of a myth as a malignant cultural growth feeding on a host – the host being a real person or group, or a historic event or series of events. A myth seems to fill some cultural void, and, over time, can grow to consume the reality of the host. First thing you know, we end up with David Crockett as a great frontier hero, Ronald Reagan as a great President and America as the greatest country on earth. Of course myths are generally used (and sometimes created) by various power centers within a culture or subculture to advance favored ideations. Paradoxically, myths are also the stuff of great art. The Cathedral of Chartres might be seen as a grand mythic statement in stone and mortar.

          The Tower of Babel is less of a myth and more of a first hand account. It is of particular interest because it lends immediate and uncensored access to the mindset of the ancient ME nomad – a mindset that is astonishingly similar to our own. The OT is full of such fresh unfettered accounts – less so the NT, which is more contrived and predictably drab.

          • Disaffected says:

            The Tower of Babel is less of a myth and more of a first hand account. It is of particular interest because it lends immediate and uncensored access to the mindset of the ancient ME nomad – a mindset that is astonishingly similar to our own. The OT is full of such fresh unfettered accounts – less so the NT, which is more contrived and predictably drab.

            Let me guess…

            No offense, but the more I hear academics speak the more I’m sure they’re full of it. Especially when I suspect they’re merely apologizing for this or that religious “tradition.”

            At this point, it’s all a fucking MYTH in ALL RESPECTS!

            • Greg Knepp says:

              1. Yes, one can see that the Tower has taken on random cultural baggage, and, to this extent, has become mythical despite it’s original intent.

              2. I’m not an academic – far from it; I’m a T-shirt printer..but thanks anyway!

  2. derekthered says:

    whoa there pardner!! straying into some Foucaultian shee-it here……………
    the Jungian wastes are not to be traveled lightly, something like that;
    where what we speak only has meaning within the construct of our own imagination, and we stand outside the desert of the real……………
    stay tuned for the next exciting installment.
    this will take some thought.

  3. Disaffected says:

    Sandy,
    Love this latest installment! It seems that the heat of the lunacy of the US Prez contest might have finally passed, and with it, some sense of sanity to the day to day.
    Along those lines(and I apologize in advance for my brief foray into politics):
    I get an increasing (and totally unsurprising) sense of ‘fait accompli’ among the people I know regarding US politics in general. This Prez election is just not that big a deal, even among people who should have ‘skin in the game’! That says a lot!
    It’s not that Obama is necessarily considered bad, or that Mittney is considered either better or worse, it’s that most people just genuinely don’t care anymore. What that says about our whole ‘condition’ I don’t know, but I do find it interesting.
    Anyway, sorry for the diversion. I really liked your post this week and will comment on it further later as I digest it. Lots of food for thought there for sure. I leave you with this (fucking Kenny Rogers no less!:

  4. Brutus says:

    You’re driving at an idea that I’ve seen expressed several times before, namely, that we’re moving beyond being material processors (everything eats, everything poops) to being information processors (pure thought, or like computers, thoughtless machine processes). The rise of hierarchy and the Curriculum of the West at the outset of the Agrarian Revolution was a turning point and necessary condition, to be sure, but the real action began in the Industrial Revolution when we began our transition away from the “coal mind” to the “silicon mind.” Once the actual electronic computer (a considerable enhancement over the machanical calculator, typewriter, and codex as both processors of and storage containers for information) got to be cheap enough to deploy at scale, well, all bets were off. And we admire the computer so much we seek to be like them: unthinking, unfeeling information processors without critical regard for the quality of the stuff flowing through our mental circuitry. (And a lot of information is pure crap — lots of bits and bytes without any real meaning.) At a deep level, we are throwing the body and biology under the bus in favor of the abstraction of information, a mental landscape that functions like a virtual reality. There is obviously lots more to say about this than fits in a blog comment.

    • derekthered says:

      legend has it that andy warhol said “i want to be a robot”, i can see him saying that, as his genius was to drain representational art of it’s reality. a quote that is attributed to him is, “Isn’t life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?”

      a copy, of a copy, of a copy.

      “At a deep level, we are throwing the body and biology under the bus in favor of the abstraction of information, a mental landscape that functions like a virtual reality.”

      that’s what i’m saying, objectification of self, the false zen of the “circulation of events”, we are no longer human, at least individually human, just a collection of biological processes. and most people have fallen for it hook, line, and sinker; under the rubric of human liberation, when nothing could be further from the truth.

      radical stuff, iconoclastic.

      “Well, I don’t care if it rains or freezes,
      Long as I have my plastic Jesus
      Riding on the dashboard of my car”

    • kulturcritic says:

      The body is under the bus!! That is rich! E Tu Brutus!

    • Disaffected says:

      I think the Big Lebowski Gutterballs sequence (fucking KENNY ROGERS!) should be enshrined somewhere. That said, I’m digging the cerebral more and more since I began flogging the physical in earnest once again. I’ll admit, I’m not going cold turkey anymore at night, but since losing some weight and enforcing a no excuses rule at sunup once again, life has once again turned rosy at the tender age of almost double nickles. Body and biology? Essential! Everything else follows ONLY from that!

      Are we not men? Do we not bleed? OK, admittedly, that’s a throwaway Seinfeld quote.

      DA

  5. Here are a few comments to offer on this weeks essay on the power of words and their effect upon the truth.

    “Everything about our Western Curriculum wreaks of hierarchy, and its foundation is easily discovered in the common structures…”
    Yes, Sandy, this is great delusional dilemma from which to awaken and disentangle one’s self. The “world” demands your allegiance, and will shame you and make you an outcast if it does not receive payment.

    “…for rationality a.k.a., enlightened self-interest, is almost all we have been taught for at least the past six thousand years.”
    “Almost” is an important word in your statement as the importance and meaningfulnss of love, kindness, generosity, self-sacrifice, and self-effacement have always been kept alive and taught to those ready, and who would dare, to put them into practice.

    “…but spirituality, they say, will be our saving grace.  Well, excuse me, but I would suggest that perhaps the Druids are in better shape to assist in the recovery of embodied-selfhood than are the transcendentalists or those seeking spiritual enlightenment.”
    Perhaps there is a misunderstanding of what a spiritually-minded path in life aspires to? What is the worth of questioning the why and wherefore of one’s being and the purpose or meaning of life itself? If one sticks to the above-mentioned Western Curriculum frame, observations of spirituality, its practices and teachings can become distorted by a limited intellectual judgment. Inner experience is really the only true teacher that can inform or enlighten.

  6. Ivy Mike says:

    Symbolic is always flashy
    From somebody else’s take
    You dream about going in there
    But that is a big mistake
    Just look at the world around you
    Right here on the Earth’s green floor
    Such wonderful things surround you
    What more is you lookin’ for?

    Under the bus
    Under the bus
    Don’t throw the body
    It’s not so shoddy
    Take it from us!

    Up in the city they work all day
    Inside the smoke they slave away
    While we devotin’
    Full time to huntin’
    Not under the bus.

    sung to the Disney tune Under the Sea

    “Somebody stop me!” ~The Mask LOL!

    • Disaffected says:

      OK, Mike. Five internet dollars for a DETAILED exposition on the EXACT origin of the term “under the bus.” Why? Because inquiring Disaffected stupid asses WANT TO KNOW!

  7. derekthered says:

    i wish i could remember the quote, the context, whether it was a movie, a first person account, or a novel; where the indian chief (native american) says something to the effect of “the white man takes the earth and writes it down on a piece of paper, and then the land that was ours, where we used to go hunt, is not ours anymore, and now there is a line on the prairie that we dare not cross. the white mans paper is truly a marvelous thing, it has great power”.

    yeah well, Tȟašúŋke Witkó (crazy horse) didn’t think much of the white mans paper, and we see what it got him, a treacherous death essentially under a flag of truce. but then don’t we always glorify the vanquished? well, never mind, he still has a place in my heart.

    i am put in mind of jack london’s short story “the white mans way”, even with it’s own overtones of condescension towards the Inuit.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Thanks for reminding us again, derek

      • derekthered says:

        i do tend to go on about he native american stories, but Osceola, Crazy Horse, Tecumseh, they were my childhood heroes, (always been a bit of a rebel). i read their biographies, admired their intelligence, gumption, and not in a gloopy PBS sort of way.

        legend has it that Osceola, shackled hand and foot, could only get to the spike holding his chains to the floor with his teeth, so he proceeded to pull a six inch spike out of a stone floor with his teeth, with his teeth! in order to escape. guess they should have used an eight inch spike, huh? now, that was one tough sob right there.
        the other interesting thing is that the Seminoles never signed a peace treaty, just a truce. if you’ve ever met a Seminole, they do tend toward XXL, if that is not to gross of a generalization. but then, with our Anglo-centric attitude we don’t realize a lot of things, such as that Samoans (and Polynesians in general) can be some pretty big old boys, like that one guy who is world champion Sumo wrestler.

        but Osceola has always stuck in my mind, and unlike Robin Hood? these people were historical fact, they did fight the good fight. yeah, and old yellow-hair, m-f did def have it coming, after the crap he pulled. nuff said.
        good book about Crazy Horse
        http://www.wmich.edu/dialogues/texts/crazyhorse.html
        by this lady
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mari_Sandoz
        bit dry at first, well honestly, throughout; i didn’t find it an easy read, but details his personal struggles. as well as his struggles against empire.
        sorry if i repeat myself, we old codgers……………….

        • Ivy Mike says:

          “When an Indian Child has been brought up among us, taught our language and habituated to our Customs, yet if he goes to see his relations and make one Indian Ramble with them, there is no perswading him ever to return, and that this is not natural [to them] merely as Indians, but as men, is plain from this, that when white persons of either sex have been taken prisoners young by the Indians, and lived a while among them, tho’ ransomed by their Friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay among the English, yet in a Short time they become disgusted with our manner of life, and the care and pains that are necessary to support it, and take the first good Opportunity of escaping again into the Woods, from whence there is no reclaiming them. One instance I remember to have heard, where the person was brought home to possess a good Estate; but finding some care necessary to keep it together, he relinquished it to a younger Brother, reserving to himself nothing but a gun and a match-Coat, with which he took his way again to the Wilderness.

          Though they have few but natural wants and those easily supplied. But with us are infinite Artificial wants, no less craving than those of Nature, and much more difficult to satisfy….”

          ~Benjamin Franklin, letter to Peter Collinson, May 9, 1753

          • kulturcritic says:

            says an awful lot, doesn’t it!!!

          • What a brilliant observation for Benjamin Franklin to be open to and bravely share. I wonder how far this may have reached beyond Collinson during his time?

            The key to lasting happiness and the gradual elimination of suffering lies in this final statement. In a culture as so many of us live in, and so deeply identified with, the idea of examining ones wants and cravings is paramount to facing up to whether we may be utterly ignorant about how the world works. It is the suffering that stems from the ignorance and unsatisfied self-interest that can potentially inspire the daring required to consider the inherent reasonableness in wisdom teachings that are treated by conventional, cynical culture as quaint, idealistic, or naive. All that remains then is the double-daring of putting one or more into practice. What occurs then, one must experience for one’s self.

          • derekthered says:

            excellent, most excellent

        • Disaffected says:

          My mother’s family hails from Osceola, NE, and most of their remains are buried just east outside of town there. My mother has a plot reserved for her and me in that same cemetery, although I’ve already informed her I don’t plan to be “buried” anywhere. The story of the “settling” of the American west in indeed a tragic one. Poor and desperate European immigrants driven west based on false promises at the behest of entrenched wealthy Eastern interests, many to die in poverty and despair, much as their heirs continue to do so more or less now. Who got fucked worse in the process – the native American Indian or the White Settler? Hard to say at this point, other than to say WE ALL DID! Bitterness and acrimony abounds.

  8. cliffkrolick says:

    Oh shall nature soon truely teach us on the East coast the value of living outside the box.
    Ride on Sandy! Good job keep it coming

  9. Malthus says:

    Having fun Sandy? Nature at its best and named Sandy how about that?. My sister is named Sandy also. She can pack a wallop. I was on the Island of Okinawa once when a Typhoon hit with 210 miles an hour winds. Nature at its best. Lets us humans know who is the real boss. I am watching a TV on a station that is showing hour after hour of the storm. The talking heads are loving it. What drama. Idiots all.

  10. kulturcritic says:

    Well folks… I am in the middle of things here in Manhattan… the stores have been closed along 7th avenue most of the day… for no apparent reason other than spectacle obsession… the streets are jammed with tourists, one pub is open at 54th… the Irish Pub… much drinking and friendly talk and tv gawking goin on…. the winds have picked up… the rains relatively light but steady… a crane at the top of a new construct high rise at 57th and 7th is dangling by a few remaining cables… no one wants to go up the 40 floors on the elevatore to secure it… so it swings in the winds, while the spectators take photo ops and gawk… the FDNY and PD are close by… 7th ave is cloed from Central park to 55th… really, this storm so far is not much to get excited about; however, one never knows, and so the people in charge paln for the worst. the subways and trains and buses have been closed all day… really the only thing to do is drink and eat and buy souvenirs at the few remaining places that have stayed open… this is Sandy… reporting live form Manhattan on the state of hurricane Sandy… stay tuned!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • leavergirl says:

      It’s hit landfall and the bottom tip of Jersey Shore and then south of Atlantic City, which has not evacuated, and no one is reporting anything particularly dire except it’s a bad post-tropical storm with lots of coastal flooding and bad weather ahead. It’s already slowing down. WV is supposed to get 2-3 ft of snow… wish I wuz there.

      Maybe the US could rethink the way it does things so that every bad nor’easter and every bad snowstorm does not result in gazillions of people without power and supplies? Nah…

      What really gets me is that NOAA istead of simply downgrading it to a post-tropical storm is now calling it cyclone. Spectacle rules!

  11. javacat says:

    Yes, a ‘post-tropical cyclone’ is rather a let-down, isn’t it? Though the MTA reports 4 feet of sea water in the East River Subway.

    Funny…there’s something that makes us eager for these storms, to experience that reality. We’re feeling a little left out here in Maine that all we have is a little wind and rain. I think we’re drawn to these forces beyond our control and want to connect with their energy. It’s real, dammit. And, following on Brutus’ thought that it might not be a bad thing for us to experience some power outages, water loss, etc.: I think we want to know we can do it. We can tough it out. We can survive. A storm can be the excuse to drop the pretense of society.

    • leavergirl says:

      True, that. I think sitting in a cabin in WV with three feet of snow outside is heaven, with a wood fire and candlelight and nowhere to go. 🙂

      Yahoo is reporting that Sandy is windy, wet and loud, and wrecked a pier at Ocean City. Wow. News for parrots. Over and out.

      • kulturcritic says:

        True, I am windy, wet and loud… wild as well! But heaven here in Manhattan is 5 hours at the Irish Pub drinking Jameson and eating chicken wings!! Either that or standing on the corner of 7th and 55th, watching the dangling crane head hanging down from the new “billionaire’s club” hi rise. He, He!

      • kulturcritic says:

        Oh, I’m sorry; you meant Sandy the post-tropical cyclone. Well, I guess that qualifies me, as well.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Yep – no pretence at the Irish Pub… just lots of drinkin’ – LOL

  12. Brutus says:

    I might have been too oblique (yet still too obvious) before about The Second Coming. Let me be more direct by quoting William Butler Yeats’s poem of this very title, which seems apropos to our circumstances:

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again; but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

    The passionate intensity with which the storm is tracked, reported, and indeed celebrated is no small matter, be it news media or bloggers. I continue to puzzle over how best to face awful developments in the world, yet other have no such compunction, come what may, and gaze pitilessly along the path of destruction. Yeats observes that lack of hesitation clearly, as we move ever closer to mere anarchy. Why I stop to deplore anything is a good question, when the time has already drawn nigh to abandon caution and pretense. Let the drink flow.

  13. http://blog.sfgate.com/morford/2012/10/30/splendid-monuments/
    This is an article that struck me as perspective on the world that enhances or possibly challenges (you be the judge) much of what is expressed by Sandy and others on this site.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Great link, Ron!! Thanks, Sandy

    • derekthered says:

      i have been getting slammed lately for not really caring about climate change, oh i believe it, i have observed it in my life, drought, hi-temps, no snow, i’ve seen it, i believe it. evidence of the glazzies, oh my brother. and i do care, i do, somewhat. i just don’t think we are going to stop it, more energy consumption equals more people, more people means more energy consumption, etc. etc. and round and round she goes.
      perhaps it’s just ignorance, but i have a hrd time seeing us replacing 20 million barrels a day. plus there is the versatility of gasoline, you can carry it in a can, take it anywhere you want. run out of juice in the middle of the Mojave desert in a Tesla? better have a pretty long extension cord.
      the other thing is that the multi-nationals sure love to take advantage of the low wages around the world. i will believe this country is serious about global warming when we close our overseas bases and the candidates start traveling by train.
      i think the technotopian crowd is fooling themselves.

      • kulturcritic says:

        excellent observations, derek

      • Derek, if citizens opened up to making changes, both on their own and in cooperation with each other, there are many creative ways of using less carbon-based fuels. We are truly addicted to our life styles and the thinking that prompts the behavior. Appreciation of public (cooperative) transportation could make a come back once the motivations are in place. Just imagine millions of citizens not burdened by all the expenses and responsibilities of car ownership once a door to door alternative is put in place.

        Here is a letter from the SF Chronicle this month on the subject:
        And leave the driving to them
        I have begun to notice that there is an interest in having vehicles that will do the driving for you (“Robotic vehicles get the go-ahead,” Sept. 26). You simply decide where you want to go, and the robotized vehicle will take you there, hopefully safe and sound.
        Well, this is going to surprise everyone, but there already are vehicles that do that, and not only that. They also do not require you to repair, maintain, insure, clean or purchase fuel for them. So, where can I get one on these fabulous vehicles, you ask, and what is it called?
        Public transportation. Such a brilliant idea, so cooperative, collaborative, economical and so, so civilized. Is it not the perfect time to celebrate and expand its use?
        Ron Greenstein, El Cerrito

        • derekthered says:

          yup, the city where i live is a grid, but mass-trans is still focused on downtown, it’s crazy. it’s not the 30’s anymore where secretary’s rode the bus to work. nowadays people need to get across town to their minimum wage job at the fast food joint.
          i lived for thre years when i was a younger man w/o a car, i walked everywhere, ot took the bus. kind of hard to get dates, w/o a car you are a loser!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
          sure attitudes have changed.
          the buses need to be lighter, hold less people, but easier to flex, to adjust to demand; don’t run such big buses, just more small ones.
          still, the flow of soccer moms and the river of steel doesn’t seem to be abating, least not around here.
          nah, said it before, we need a concerted program to settle people back on small self-sufficient farmsteads, much like the interregnum between the civil war and ww one, only w/o the native-american genocide and jim crow. i volunteer, i would love to get my hand’s dirty during my twilight.

    • javacat says:

      A good post, almost poetic in form. I agree with much–our fascination, our relief at finding something larger than and outside ourselves, our capacity for amnesia. I agree that these events do not discriminate, have no goals, do not select victims, but I don’t believe they are wholly egalitarian. The poor in all countries are disproportionately harmed. In New Orleans, Katrina hit the poor and the old more than any other groups. Those with ways and means have more chance of survival. One thought, though, is that those who begin with less have less to lose and may be better able to survive than those used to easy comforts and convenience.

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