On Ordinariness: A Foray In Cultural Phenomenology

[We’ve had opportunities to hear some of these arguments from Marvin Bram, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Mikhail Epstein earlier in the year.  I would like now to flesh-out these points more concretely, and consider the  phenomenological apperception of what one anthropologist has termed the experience of “liminality” — a state in which one’s usually well-delineated cultural distinctions  become blurred, even foreign.]

By virtue of natality and the ability to act, each new individual poses a threat to civilization. The child carries barbarism with him or her. (Einer Øverenget, Hannah Arendt, 217)

Let us first agree that modern cultures, and most especially the Western Curriculum, are about making distinctions. Language, and of course writing,1 is a vital accomplice in this activity that “cuts” the world up into so many discrete entities, creating a sense of order where formerly there was just (dare we say it) ordinary stuff. The logic of a culture’s language (syntactic, grammatic, and logistic structures) will determine in large measure how these distinctions are drawn and what categories are applicable within different contexts, establishing diverse horizons of meaning.

But what is this “barbarism” in Øverenget’s above reading of Hannah Arendt?  Is it true that our civilization must fight continuously to maintain its delicate conceptual hold on reality, to keep the weeds from overtaking the paved highways, so to speak? Can it be that each new human life poses such a threat to civilized culture and the well-ordered world we have created? Is there really a question of these young barbarians doing additional malice to an environment already cut-up and divided into so many pieces by the predominant culture?

Perhaps the real challenge to civilization is that the mere presence of newcomers suggests an incipient erasure or “healing”2 of those distinctions, signaling a prospective return to a more primal state of affairs in which we all found ourselves initially thrown. As we may recall, Rousseau suggested that the principal function of a civil society is the sublimation of the natural man (read ‘barbarian’) in order to recreate him or her with a new nature. In The Social Contract (II, 7), Rousseau wrote,

[The Legislator must] so to speak change human nature, transform each individual, who by himself is a perfect and solitary whole, into part of a greater whole from which that individual as it were gets his life and his being; weaken man’s constitution to strengthen it; substitute a partial and moral existence for the physical and independent existence which we all have received from nature.  He must, in a word, take man’s own forces away from him in order to give him forces which are foreign to him and which he cannot use without the help of others. The more the natural forces are dead and annihilated, the greater and more lasting the acquired ones…

So here’s the story: while our pre-civilized ancestors were transformed through some act of existential surgery, thereby becoming full citizens of a new curriculum – so that we now understand ourselves and our world in terms of distinctions provided by controlling social and political institutions within our civilization’s lingua franca – the incidence of yet-un-enculturated individuals in our midst reminds us again of a paradise lost and threatens a possible Fall back into some indeterminate, more primitive mode of being.

But, not only did this civilization makeover each individual as a well-trained citizen; in this process it also remade the everyday-world-as-given into a comprehensive and apparently well-managed cosmos. Furthermore, there is a tendency in the culture-building activity of the Western Curriculum not simply to maintain but to expand the orderliness, to eradicate any possible indeterminateness (arbitrariness, spontaneity) that might threaten to dissolve our civilized boundaries and betray an underlying condition of more humble origin.

I now want to explore the quality of experience at the intersection of civilized artifice and the more inarticulate foundation of everyday existence that preceded it; an experience which might again arbitrarily impinge upon the complex organization of civilized life.

I continue briefly with this myth of origins. As Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau all suggested in slightly different formulations, the everyday state-of-nature might appear rather unpredictable, and apparently not all that well-suited to the basic needs of a civil society.  So it becomes a chief objective of civilization to establish clearly articulated and well-managed institutions to orchestrate the safe pursuit of a collective life together rationally, and without fear. Through intersubjective agreement, made possible by a shared tongue (ultimately mathematics), civil society articulates novel frameworks for human community, as well as for scientific (cultural) advancement. But this new world, as Rousseau suggests, is anything but spontaneous and natural; rather, it is an artful construction of “new forces.” However, lost beneath the categorical neatness of such artifice, life’s fundamental ordinariness recedes from view but still haunts and challenges civilization’s very ability to establish, maintain, and control its well-ordered world.

As colorful as these philosophical reflections seem, we need to shift our focus and examine such speculations in light of a more readily traceable shift from the kinship-based bands of pre-urban, pre-literate humanity to our modern stratified, hierarchical, urban societies.  In a very brief analysis, Marvin Bram reminded us that the 35,000-year period of genetically modern human pre-history, before the birth of civilized states, represents the “kinship era” after its unique form of social organization.  As Bram stated:

Kinship means that what urban peoples call political, social, economic, and cultural arrangements are made not by specialists or professionals, usually strangers to most persons, but by the elders of clans, well-known to all clanspersons.

The “post-kinship era,” on the other hand, is characterized by the growth of large-scale domestic groupings (cities), associated with precisely those forms of impersonal political, social, economic and institutional arrangements that we currently find operating in all modern states today.  This transition appears to have made an early appearance approximately fifty-five hundred years ago in the Middle East and Central Asian Steppe.

Embracing observations by Alexis de Tocqueville in his commentary on nineteenth-century America, Bram notes,

[In a ‘post-kinship’ era] the nuclear family by itself cannot resist the impingements of modern political and economic institutions: the father, mother, and their children must be surrounded by some intermediate, protective body of persons in order to be safe from unacceptable levels of [institutional] control. In fact, those modern political and economic institutions could not have been created in the first place unless the original protective body of persons, the clan, was broken into its constituent and susceptible parts, its nuclear families. The first civilization, in the Middle East, and all subsequent civilizations elsewhere, were constructed on the break-up of their pre-urban clans. 3

This sounds like Rousseau’s presumption about the replacement of man’s natural forces with new foreign ones, without which the individual cannot long survive in a civilized state. Suffice it to say, we need only recognize that with the birth of civilization – documented now by the written word – there was a momentous transformation in how human beings began to relate to one another and to the world around them, and that whatever was lost in this transition still haunts humanity even today.

How, then, do we proceed to explore this underlying liminality — what I will call the ordinary underbelly of life — threatening to encroach upon and otherwise disrupt our safe havens of orderliness? In Transculture and Society, post-Soviet émigré Mikhail Epstein offered us a preliminary glimpse. He stated, “The ordinary can be defined as something indefinable that exits in the gap, in the pause, in between cultural categories.”4 The difficulty is that most modern urban societies seek to account for every extension of space and every moment in time, every potential variable, so that no “gaps” exist in the fabric of their socio-cultural life; no semiotic vagueness remains that could lead citizens into confusion or indecisiveness. Let us call such cultures tightly woven.  Much effort may be expended by these tightly woven cultures on this objective alone, to reclaim, delete or eliminate any potentially marginal, liminal, or indeterminate extra-cultural influences; build-out and polish every centimeter of the natural world – close the borders, circle the wagons – assimilate the culturally aberrant and bring everyone and everything into the big tent in an effort to insure the sanctity and security of the civilized artifice.

My initial wager is that this vague (albeit sometimes arresting) sense of life’s ordinariness emerges from and embodies a liminal or ‘limit-experience’ in our civilized framework. It is disorienting because it pushes at the edge of our common expectations – temporally, spatially and psychically.  It may, accordingly, show itself in the most mundane of circumstances where one simply loses control in an otherwise controlled world, or perhaps where something purely unanticipated occurs in an otherwise well-organized life: for example, when you awake in the morning to prepare for work only to find there is no hot water in your apartment; or when the heat suddenly goes off late at night while the temperature outside is well-below freezing. In other words, it may be something that quite arbitrarily shakes us out of this carefully constructed artifice and brings us again face to face with our own irreducible, inescapable humanity.

If ordinariness appears in these gaps of our cultural fabric, perhaps we can better recognize it by looking cross-culturally, for example, at some of my personal experiences over the past years living in Siberia. It is strange, but there is a feeling of cultural dislocation here that is quite unlike anything I have felt before, even in other parts of Europe. Of course, Russians are notorious for their love, or is it their endurance, of institutional controls, as is well represented by their daily toleration of bureaucracy (making certain that all the proper stamps are on the necessary documents, etc). Yet, there is an extra-cultural innocence here that hearkens back to a simpler world… one that may be hard to pinpoint without referring back to a time almost fifty years ago when I was a child growing-up in America.

The year was 1959 and I can still recall walking down to the end of the street from my home in our small village only thirty miles outside of New York City; from there, I can remember following various meandering paths through the woods made by the frequent comings and goings of me, my friends, relatives and other wanderers as we traversed an undomesticated wasteland just at the edge of town that spilled over into our small community. It was an unused, but not pristine wooded area: an undeveloped territory, because no one owned it or tended to it. And there were numerous unmarked, but well-wrought shortcuts through these fields that led to other small communities, shops or good sledding areas that we so loved on wintry days. For years this place went officially unrecognized by our community (except to us little barbarians); but it was never accorded the privilege of remaining undeveloped. After several years it was annexed and became part of a local urban development plan. But while we children enjoyed ourselves there, this place was unremarkable, unstructured, and undomesticated; it was what I would describe now as a place of artlessness and spontaneity, an occurrence of the ordinary within my world, without signs or cultural safeguards.

And it is precisely such experiences that you still find so frequently in Siberia today, where

…the insufficiency of mapping, of cultural demarcations, makes life more dangerous and uncomfortable than it is in the West. You do not know where you are, on the edge of a forest or on the site of a future building: nature is polluted and culture is diffused. But this is what creates ordinariness.5

On a recent summer day in the Altai region of Russia, my wife Anna decided we should go for a leisurely stroll.  Walking out of the driveway from our apartment block, she led me off the main road and across an open meadow (well, not quite a meadow, rather an untended and sparsely forested field) at the far-end of which was a deep cropping of birch trees. As we wandered into this unused parcel of land, there was a dirt footpath haphazardly winding through the tall grasses leading indirectly to the out-cropping of trees. We followed that path into the trees, at which point we entered a densely wooded area interspersed with some discarded evidence of civilization, where we could hear sounds of unrest – both natural (small animals perhaps), and human (children playing in the trees).  Emerging on the other side of this wood, we found ourselves at a clearing with several shops positioned before us.

Obviously, this was a well-worn path through an undeveloped and ill-defined parcel of land, connecting two different urban communities.  It was not the planned way of getting from here to there, articulated neither by roads, curbs nor street signs; but it was the way that many local feet had trodden, perhaps hurriedly at times on colder winter days; and it perfectly reflected how this feeling of ordinariness could penetrate everyday life here.

My first impression of this and similar incidents was that Siberia was simply less developed than what I was accustomed to in America; and that was certainly true.  But this preliminary assessment did not quite capture what I was experiencing here. Furthermore, it begged the question of why (as I would later discover) there was a preponderance of such ‘gaps’ within the cultural fabric, spatially, temporally and psychically.  It seemed to me that there was more going on here, but because it was so unfamiliar to me conceptually it was not until I accidentally happened upon Epstein’s own analyses and his comparison with what he found in America that I was able to grasp this indeterminate feeling more clearly.

[In Russia] when you go through a meadow you always find several narrow paths that were not designed by the developers of this territory but spontaneously created by people who need to make a shortcut from one village to another. While walking these paths you feel the blessed meaning of the ordinary that does not belong to any category, which spontaneously emerges and remains arbitrary…6

This seemed to describe more adequately what I was experiencing; there was a palpable unpredictability and carefreeness not only on such meandering paths but elsewhere in daily life, betraying a freedom from the structured machinations of encroaching civilization, a source of spontaneity lodged somewhere within the far recesses of the Russian experience.  As I came to realize, the quality of my own feelings in these situations was reflected as well in the way in which such occasions were met with, accepted and even cherished by the local population; not just by children, but by people of all ages, income levels, educational and professional backgrounds. No one was exempt from wandering these backpaths and recognizing the quiet whimsical feeling they evoked. And, as people here enjoy pointing out, there is an abundance of space and much time in Russia, enough space and time to walk even without a specific destination in view.  And, in the Russian language there is a term to denote such aimless walking around,  gulyat, which connotes that such activity has no definitive purpose or objective – just walking.

This same attitude can be evidenced, as well, in how they deal with other rather fluid moments in life here: for example, spending time at a modest dacha or country cottage resting, fishing or cultivating a small plot of land; spending time in the vast Siberian forests – perhaps mushroom-hunting; or even time at a local banya – more than just a steam bath – relaxing with friends or family.  In each instance one gets the unspoken message that now we will enjoy a cultural “time-out,” a break from the recognized orderliness and noise of a routinely civilized existence. Even that term gulyat (‘just walking around’) has a more colloquial meaning — “to have a day off from work,” “to make merry,” or “to live it up.”  Again, this betrays an affinity in the Russian experience between physical meandering and the psychic spaciousness of a more relaxed, less-structured existence. And if you ask anyone about this fluidity, about the apparent abundance of “gaps” in the ordering of life here, they will tell you that it makes life more interesting.  Indeed, they will tell you how difficult it is to make plans in Russia because life may suddenly (spontaneously, arbitrarily, artlessly) intervene and disrupt your plans. Perhaps what we have here is a more loosely woven cultural fabric, dictated in part by the specific gravity of the Russian soul.

Suffice it to say that such experiences cannot be forced into simple categorical dichotomies like nature v culture, or disorder v order; such categorizations would certainly lead to misunderstanding the lived-experience. Rather these incidences are ordinary in the sense of remaining artless or capricious, if you will; disclosed in the subtle dissolution of hard conceptual distinctions, in that gap where the normal chatter of civilization is broken by a preeminent silence.

Let me recount another brief example – a trip to Lake Balkhash in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan from the small town of Tekeli.  This was an adventure in uncle Volodya’s car (one that just barely ran), with one of his friends following closely behind.  The two-hour drive down old patched roads to a turn-off at an unmarked dirt intersection led our small entourage into a crisscrossing set of paths through massive sand dunes, slowly leading us further into an untamed desert area. There were no signs, no concrete byways, no parking areas, and no vendors selling towels, souvenirs or frosty cones; there was just unmarked dune after dune, with an occasional broken down vehicle along the path that evidently could not finish its journey.

At the end of this drive, with many false starts and wrong turns – like on the back of a two-humped camel – we arrived at the edge of an enormous lake; again no signs, no demarcation, no designated parking areas. Several more spins around the last dune left our two cars vying for position close to the water, but parallel to each other so that we could make camp by throwing a tarp over the two cars and creating a shelter in between them.  Again, for me this was just such an irreducible experience of life’s ‘ordinariness’ breaking-through a rather large ‘gap’ in the fabric…

And as Epstein suggests, such occurrences are all but absent in the American  experience today, where

even islands of spontaneity such as natural parks and preserves are carefully demarcated; their very naturalness is the object of cultivation… so that even nature is reduced to the sign of nature (“wildlife refuge”).  [I]n American national parks or wilderness areas the boundary between culture and nature is drawn very strictly with an exactitude of several centimeters. There are special trails that delineate the route of penetration of culture into the domain of nature.  But neither cultural nor natural areas in themselves create the feeling of ordinariness. 7

Having lived the majority of my life in America, including twenty-years in Colorado, I can verify his assessment; our approach to nature in the USA is to enculturate it – map it out, clean it up and deodorize it – so that it becomes part of the plan; an easily accessible piece of Nature that everyone can enjoy while still comfortably ensconced within a seamlessly organized world.

Now, what makes the Russian vantage point so compelling here is the archeological and anthropological evidence suggesting that the Altai Region of Siberia represents perhaps one of the most primitive and independent origins of human habitation some half-million years ago; the location of some of the earliest kinship groupings known to modern research. So, as we think about the birth of civilization and myths of origin, we might imagine that the prehistoric incidence of simple “band egalitarian societies”8 in the Altai Mountains of Russia could represent the factical location of those very transformations of our pre-urban ancestors into post-kinship civilized persons – with the attendant sublimation of a more primal experience of human dwelling that underlies and haunts our civilized artifices.  And it might even be argued that throughout Russia’s long and arduous history one can see an unrelenting affection for this obscured aspect of our common humanity, as demonstrated by the continued inherence and influence on the Russian psyche of the simple and perhaps un-civilizable, but well-mythologized, peasant soul. 9

Moreover, the very severity and vastness of this great Siberian terrain militates against a comprehensive ordering of the natural, encouraging such spontaneity and providing ample opportunity for the chance emergence of the ordinary within the world-as-lived.

In Russia there are huge semi-developed territories where culture and nature are so confused and diffused in each other that one feels this inordinate place is the true place of the ordinary.10

One final, but not insignificant example is the typical Russian experience of waiting in endless queues, be they at the bank, the train station, the phone company or the local housing registration office. And again these queues seem to emerge spontaneously because as you enter a room people are not necessarily lined-up, single file, one behind the other; rather they may just be sitting haphazardly around or meandering about the room. So you must inquire as to who is the last person in the queue, even though no queue visibly exists; yet everyone seems to know where his or her place is in this queue.  Milling around, waiting in these long (but not quite identifiable) queues, “you can feel life… so slow and empty that reality reveals its authentic substance and duration.”11

As Epstein concludes, “what makes the ordinary so precious is the spontaneity of human actions, the growth of the natural out of the cultural.”12  And this is perhaps what the above reading of Hannah Arendt may be suggesting; that each yet-unsocialized person bears within him or herself an “excess of existence that does not fit into any existing cultural model” and cannot be easily assimilated into the civilized milieu – a surplus of just being,13 which his very presence can bring crashing down upon us at any moment, thereby disrupting our otherwise secure cultural artifice.

So how are we to make sense of this experience if there is really no easy way to grasp it in terms of our common, shared cultural categories?  Is it like knowing we are in the presence of the Sacred, which according to most religious traditions also cannot be described adequately in everyday language?  Perhaps there is something embedded deep within human genome, and in the nature of the symbolic systems we create, that always presents us with the possibility of recovering this experience within (or out of) the cultural, anywhere at anytime.

But, what could this be? Well, perhaps it is not so mysterious after all. If the artifice of civilization creates our basic sense of reality, with conceptual prejudices to protect us from oblique experiences and extracultural apparitions, then surely there are certain limit situations where this feeling might burst through unabated. Obviously, these would most likely be culturally confusing circumstances where our normal conceptual frameworks come into question or simply do not function properly, conditions that breed cultural ambiguity.

But whether the specific cause of such ambiguity be rooted in more personally unsettling moments of loneliness, anguish, suffering, madness and boredom, or perhaps born of more structured (shared) experiences of disruption, like foreign travel, emigration, cross-cultural exchange, or more dramatically perhaps, threats of terrorism, a consistent element in all these limit situations is the sudden or even subtle experience of marginality or strangeness: an incipient feeling of difference, Alterity, either in the sense of being-beside-oneself, coping with the otherness of a strange world or a stranger in our midst, or even an emergent awareness of the otherness of our own cultural landscape.

Let us briefly gloss two views of the stranger in sociological theory, to suggest both the interiorized as well as the exterior face of such otherness.

The stranger, like the poor and sundry ‘inner enemies,’ is an element of the group itself.  His position as a full-fledged member involves both being outside it and confronting it… 14

The cultural pattern of the approached group is to the stranger not a shelter but a field of adventure, not a matter of course but a questionable topic of investigation…15

And, while we are all strangers to ourselves because we are artful products of prior cultural reconstruction, we are also strangers to our culture “because we come to a given society from our childhood [read ‘barbarism’], from our loneliness, from those extracultural and countercultural niches that are common to the majority of people all over the world.” 16

For the stranger then, either within or outside of us, the normal categories of the group become marginalized and problematic. And it is in this respect that otherness (Alterity) and strangeness become likely protagonists in the experience of the ordinary, because they are fundamentally liminal elements haunting each individual and making us aware of our own mundane humanity, our finitude, our temporality, our own facticity. In this respect, the outsider in our midst or the stranger within positions us face to face with a vision of what we are not, but what we might have been…our own potentiality for being other than we are or never having been at all, in other words, the possibility of our own non-being.

Whenever we are confronted by such marginality or have the feeling of being adrift without the safety and security of our civilized world (psychically, semiotically or physically), it is precisely in these gaps that we may be struck by the  life’s ordinariness. And this experience uniquely possesses the capacity to expose both the relativity and arbitrariness of our own existence, because it is in the face of this marginality – where we rub up against the limits of normal cultural controls – that we are most apt to recognize the accidental nature of our own culturally defined world, and so become dumb-struck by life’s simple extension and duration.

Perhaps wherever individuals come face to face with their own facticity — the raw embodiment and temporality of simply being in the world — demonstrating a “bare courage and patience to be,”17 perhaps this is what it means to experience life’s ordinariness, offering us but a glimpse of that barbarism that always lies beneath the surface of each enculturated citizen, as a potential event and a haunting reminder of both our temporal origins and our pending demise!

And perhaps this is why the barbarian in our midst or within poses such a threat to civilization, because a citizenry so exposed would be very difficult to control indeed.

Notes

1 See Walter Ong, The Presence of the Word, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1981) and Jack Goody, The Domestication of the Savage Mind (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1978)

2 Marvin Bram, “On Distinctions,” Geneva Peace Symposium (www.genevapeace.org), December 15, 2006

3 Marvin Bram, “The Violence Directed to the Children’s World,” Geneva Peace Symposium (www.genevapeace.org), January 18, 2005. See also Marvin Bram, The Recovery of the West, An Essay In Symbolic History, (Xlibris Corporation, May 2002)

4 Ellen E. Berry and Mikhail N. Epstein, Transcultural Experiments, Russian and American Models of Creative Communication, (New York: St. Martins Press, 1999), p. 110

5  Ibid, p. 111

6 Ibid, p. 111

7 Ibid, pp. 110-111

8 Morton H. Fried, The Evolution of Political Society, An Essay In Political Anthropology (New York: Random House, 1967), pp. 51 et al.

9  Orlando Figes, Natasha’s Dance, A Cultural History of Russia (New York: Henry Holt, 2002), pp. 220-287

10 Ellen E. Berry and Mikhail N. Epstein, Op. Cit., p. 110

11  Ibid, p. 111

12  Ibid, p. 111

13  Ibid, p. 112

14  The Sociology of Georg Simmel, trans., ed., KH Wolff (New York: Free Press, 1950) pp. 402-404

15  Alfred Schutz, Collected Papers, II, Ed, A Brodersen (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1964) p. 104

16 Ellen E. Berry and Mikhail N. Epstein, Op. Cit., p. 104

17 Ibid, p.111

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115 Responses to On Ordinariness: A Foray In Cultural Phenomenology

  1. “And perhaps this is why the barbarian in our midst or within poses such a threat to civilization, because a citizenry so exposed would be very difficult to control indeed.”

    The few I know who know the true definition of anarchy, and live it, tend to be vastly more wise, astute and vibrant, then the average of my acquaintances. A whole people like those few, would be uncontrollable, by any Authority but a larger number given to abject violence. I often think, if you could go back in time, any time from about 10,000 years ago, to the dawn of Homo spaien 200,000 years ago, and plucked out an average man and woman, and then propped them up against a typical American, the latter would appear pathetic.

    I’m reading The Goddess vs The Alphabet. Leonard Shlain makes an excellent case, that not gathering into greater numbers alone, but the written word defined our current way of being, literally restructuring the brain for left brain dominance, and the elevation of linear, sequential, reductionist and abstract thinking, and consequent patriarchal hierarchy, the subjugation women and overthrow of the mythology of the Great Mother by the imageless Sky God, commanding, controlling, dominating.

    (BTW – I was disappointed to see Kunstler didn’t add you to his list of “homies” from a couple of Monday’s ago.)

    • Disaffected says:

      The more of Kunstler I’ve read lately, the more I find him wandering from his strengths. I think he sees the big picture, cause and effect stuff pretty well, but I think he’s wandering more and more into questionable scapegoating and vilification of large swaths of society to no good effect. Too much bitterness and too little relevance lately for my taste. His commentary board most definitely reflects that observation as well.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Hey William

      I also think writing had much to do with the transformation of our “view” of the world, and the elevation of “ratiocination” over all other forms of apperception. BTW – Kunstler does not seem to care much for my style, so it would appear.

      • Disaffected says:

        I think you’re over his head Sandy. James has assumed a decidedly low-brow, pragmatic streak of late. I get the feeling he still believes some sort of technological fix – albeit as a return to the low technology of yesteryear – can fix things. It can’t. Our problems are deeper and more profound than that.

        • kulturcritic says:

          It is certainly going to be simpler… but perhaps more so than James believes. LOL

          • Henri says:

            From Kunstler to Ugo Bardi [Cassandra’s legacy blog], all I see is the Kübler-Ross bargaining stage behavior of a schlerotic alcoholic presenting with severe jaundice, promising to drink only half a glass of technology this time.

            Unfortunately, the hairless Great Apes’ death warrant was signed on November 1, 1952 by Ivy Mike and his glorious revofusionaries. You humans are hanging by the skin of your teeth on borrowed time. You’re not going fission. You’re dead already.

            Oh no, you humans are not going to even slide down gently “Towards a Post-Industrial Stone Age” as Dr. Richard Duncan’s “Olduvai Theory” suggests. It’s another fantasy “hopium” that humans will be around in 100 years knapping obsidian around a campfire.

            ”Every ‘small’ war pulls the trigger in nuclear roulette. Each of these probabilities, by itself, is small. But taken together over a year’s time, they add up to a cumulative probability which is no longer small. Taken together over a century, they make nuclear war virtually INEVITABLE.” ~Dr. Martin E. Hellman, Stanford University

            How do you think dwindling Peak Oil, Peak Water, Peak Protein resources are going to be allocated in RealPolitik? Really, think about it. There’s no way out. “If in Act I you have a pistol hanging on the wall, then it must fire in the last act.”

            “Sometimes the cat door is closed.” ~Henri [Attenti al gatto]

            • Brutus says:

              Can’t say I disagree, Henri, but then, I don’t wanto to be the one telling everyone else “You’re gonna die. You’re all … gonna … die!!” You appear to revel in it.

              And FWIW, in my experience, the saner folks all wring their hands and say “game over.” But that doesn’t mean it’s time yet to swallow any bullets.

            • derekthered says:

              we do have our choice of apocalypse, a veritable smorgasbord of scenarios. will it be a scientist trying to cure an incurable disease but unwittingly unleashing a bio-engineered virus? or collapse of the honeybees? so many choices.

              my favorite is of course zombie apocalypse, where if you follow the adventures of alice is of course caused by a virus, a modern update of the voodoo ritual, but this time the high priest wears a lab coat.

              wallowing in dopamine depression one just about gets to the point where you just want them to bring it on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! but alas, it will probably be something far less dranatic, a slow decline, the long emergency.

              meanwhile back at the ranch one can but despair at the inanity which passes for a dialectic, i would expect more of some short of blowuo between the members of varying urban groupings before the planet is all nuked to a cinder.

              but what the hell, i will keep dragging my ass out of bed every morning to work for the hourly wage, most of us really have very little choice, most don’t want to even think about anything that really matters, that good old hive mentality, domestic drones and they ain’t up in the sky.

              • derekthered says:

                in the meantime, keep the chin up, listen to the cicadas sing. but yeah, i have to have the radio on to go to sleep, not able to relax w/o the din in my ears, this is pure mediatization, at least i realize it.

  2. Disaffected says:

    Hey Sandy. Here’s another interesting post I found during my internet travels this week, that ties in at least loosely with this week’s post and last week’s foray into monotheism and religion in general. This thesis sounded a little simplistic to me the first time I read it, but the more I considered it, the more truth I found. The Human Evasion, by Celia Green The author defines “sanity” as the great human evasion, or the attempt to paper over and “normalize” our primal fear/wonder/terror at the contemplation of our existence in an infinite universe that we fundamentally have no personal comprehension of whatsoever.

    • kulturcritic says:

      DA

      Sounds like Celia Green is on-target. Our sanity as the great evasion!!! Love it!!

    • Malthus says:

      I think he does Sandy, it just seems that he is so obsessed with the currant situation and sees no way out as do a lot of us and then his blog turns into some kind of shouting match between trolls about stuff other than what the topic is. This post of yours today is really good and I wish I understood more of it. I keep getting hung up on the very word civilization because to most it seems we are supposed to be under one big umbrella we are all under but there are so many warring factions wanting to make their points of view the best, the real, and the ever lasting view of what life is about and what it means and will be the only one to work forever. The best “civilization” in some ones pov and how best to manipulate the masses into going along with what ever grand master plan some one has cooked up to keep everything going in the “right direction.” All the while the human brain is so very malleable that it can easily be conditioned with a little push here and a little push there to do exactingly what is needed to continue that pov no matter if it is any good for anyone or not. Or if there will be unintended consequences. But that isn’t the real question. The real question is how to keep everybody in line even the ones that do not have any intention to do so. It has gotten so out of hand as far as individual imagination is concerned that it matters nothing at all. And on top of that we as a species have overpopulated the planet to such an extent that when something happens anywhere in the world it affects everyone. Not good.

      • Malthus says:

        sorry some misspelled words and a few things out of order.

      • kulturcritic says:

        Malthus – I think the definition of civilization is an important one. And I believe it is used by different people with often divergent meanings. Perhaps my definition of civilization would be a good post. I will think on that. But you are right… way too many people on this earth.

    • Disaffected says:

      Green attacks sanity as society’s attempt to “dumb things down” sufficiently so that individuals stop asking the essential questions – why are we here, what are we doing, what, if anything, is the meaning of our existence, etc. On the one hand, everything becomes mundane and boring under this process, but on the other, it attempts to eliminate the mundane and simply ordinary altogether by substituting culturally generated “white noise” (and who can doubt that anything emanating from the TV these days is anything more than that?) in its place. Whenever individuals actually confront the silence of the ordinary for any period of time the experience is almost always profound. It’s telling that in our modern “sane” society artists have been designated as those allowed to pursue their muse safely. All the better to package, commodify, and sell their resulting observations, safe in the knowledge that observations once removed from the actual observer can be trusted not to stir up too much social unrest in the barnyard.
      During my recent careening off course into the *joys* of alcoholism (actually, I never had an actual physical addiction to alcohol, but I was and am bored to tears with living in a stultifying American culture, and took to enjoying the *comforts* of strong drink on a regular basis as a means of escape), I gradually came to realize what it was that I was actually looking for, which, as is almost always the case, was exactly the opposite of what I was getting with alcohol. Ordinariness. Silence. Solitude. Meaning. The Infinite.
      So now my practice is six hour walks in the mountains immersed in the infinite in place of six hour drunks immersed in the internet, more often than not followed by 36-48 hour recoveries immersed in abject misery. Needless to say, the difference has been profound! And no holy books or psychotropic helpers allowed or needed!
      And the true relevance of all this? I’ve always prided myself, as is quite fashionable these days, in “marching to a different drummer.” And like a lot of people of similar mind I’ve spent a lot of time thrashing around looking for a philosophy, intellectual construct, religious framework, etc. to hang my hat on, at least in part. But in fact, as has been said many times before, the simplest answer was the best, and as always, it’s the one that’s been right in front of me all along. Any expression of real *truth” that you EVER experience in your life will ALWAYS and ONLY come from one place: within yourself. Someone else might say it too, prompting you to recognize it within yourself, but the truth, YOUR truth, can ONLY exist within YOU! As the (somewhat) famous book title admonished: If you see the Buddha on the road, KILL HIM!

      • javacat says:

        Well played.

      • kulturcritic says:

        DA – thanks for weighing in with a personal note about discovery. And, this quote of yours is a classic!!!

        “All the better to package, commodify, and sell their resulting observations, safe in the knowledge that observations once removed from the actual observer can be trusted not to stir up too much social unrest in the barnyard.”

        • Ivy Mike says:

          Civilization is indeed a barnyard, now that humans have been deliberately bred for docility and stupidity (smaller brains[1] are a cardinal biological sign of domestication), i.e., domesticated.[2] The domination system of agricultural civilization has been culling the wild out of the herd for a long time.

          “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son…all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die.” ~ Deuteronomy, The Tanakh תַּנַ”ךְ‎

          “If we aspire to break the bonds domestication has laid on us, stop being dogs and become wolves again.”[3] Well, maybe, if you think Henri the cat can just walk out his door.
          _________
          [1] “If Modern Humans Are So Smart, Why Are Our Brains Shrinking?” (Sept. 2010) Discover Magazine.
          [2] Peter J. Wilson (1991) “The Domestication of the Human Species.” Yale University Press.
          [3] Jason Godesky (2006) “Wolves & Dogs” rewild.info/anthropik/2006/11/­wolves-dogs/

  3. javacat says:

    Sandy, thanks for such a timely and evocative piece. It’s good to be able to breathe again, for the tension of the proscribed culture suffocates.

    Your childhood memories let me recall my own. Those places we discovered–the unkempt backyards of abandoned houses, the rocky ledges beyond the school fields–were natural magnets. We were drawn by natural affinity, an unspoken understanding. The play was simple but rich in experience that was direct and bypassed judgment. Another place of paths? Stop at any college campus. Criss-crossing the neatly trimmed grass and by-passing the carefully designed walk ways are the well trampled footpaths created by hundreds of students following the easiest path. No organized decision, no conscious plan to challenge the university–just a need to get from one place to the other.

    The culture of America does not trust itself or its citizens to move in such ways. The ordinary can’t be enough! Hence our penchant for the so-called extraordinary: extreme sports, extreme violence (real or celluloid), the ego of politics, and sex that has lost all subtlety and connection. We put zip lines in the forest for the rush of it, yet we can’t see any the reason we’re there. Another commenter, a few weeks back, posted on the Olympics: the beauty and achievement of the athletes themselves are not sufficient; we must add fireworks and glitz to create spectacle. Sure, a rush is exhilarating and can break through our normal control, but the articial rush offiered in this society is an exception, externally imposed, not a way of living.

    America devalues the ordinary. Too slow. Too boring. Not aggressive enough. Not striving enough. Yet to move within the ordinary, to be ordinary is like entering a kind of suspended animation. I’m speaking of a stepping away from the norms and cycle of the culture and into a beingness outside the culture and of time. I’ve spoken before of John Berger’s seeing ‘between the frames’–of film–but implied, of course, is living between the frames of culture. For the frames are frozen, disconnected moments, and it is what we don’t see–what is between, what is behind, what exists that we sense in other means–that is real.

    We’re a culture of lookers–rubber-neckers, bystanders, audience-voyeurs–but we rarely see. Media and politics promote this, rapid-fire, with their endless supply of the vacuous and the insubstantial: who’s trending now, Facebook memes, cute cat videos, candidate sound bites–and nothing is connected to anything else. What this cultivates is a massive collective case of ADHD, seriously impeding our individual ability to think, to go deeper, to understand.

    To be in the ordinary requires us to slow down. Sometimes it’s forced–as in those long unqueue queues you describe, Sandy. Sometimes we choose it. The ordinary surrounds us, though we must be receptive if we are to connect. We need to get to a place where the normal scales of time and measure fall away and we begin to see because we are connecting with the experience–the objects, the people, the energies–around us.

    • kulturcritic says:

      JC – I am pleased it was so evocative for you. I can see by your response that it raised the most critical of issues. Breathing is hard enough in the rarified atmosphere we have reduced through years of toxicity and ignorance; but the toxic odor of the Curriculum makes it all the more so. Finding room to breathe in this culture and its atmosphere is competition enough, even without the spectacles that surround us; the very effort chokes the air from our lungs, as we pine and whine for the next great olympic medal, sob for victims of the next homicidal terrorist, or debate the contrived differences of the candidates-in-waiting. We cannot seem to escape the thrill, the fast pace, the smooth and dust-free artificial surfaces, the neat toys, and the creaturely comforts. But, when I am at dacha, as I was yesterday and today, the extraordinarily ordinary is what I find without even looking. And the root of my basic humanity bubbles up in my aloneness and in the solitude of the surround.

      • javacat says:

        Was I on a rant? 😉 Sometimes I push so hard against the locked door that I don’t realize there’s no door there at all! In this society, we become conditioned to constricted breathing–by all the means you mention–to the point where we don’t even realize that we’re pulling the rope ourselves.

        “…the extraordinarily ordinary is what I find without even looking. And the root of my basic humanity bubbles up in my aloneness and in the solitude of the surround.” These are the most lovely words I’ve read in a long time. It doesn’t surprise me that you were at the dacha, for your writing flows from a deeper place there. I like that there was aloneness and solitude but no loneliness. I just read a Japanese term called ‘kami-sabi’ which the author describes as a “‘perception of a sacred Presence in all things…It is the profound ‘ah!’ of firsthand seeing.” To me, this means that the boundary between subject and object dissolves and there is only pure reciprocal perception.

        Whatever our vocation, we daily move in that toxic world you so aptly describe. We navigate between the sacred and the profane. Yet, those moments in which we feel the extraordinarily ordinary are true states of grace–not in the Catholic sense, but in the sense of deep joy and delight. Now I need to go back & reread your post, for there are so many good thoughts to savor. 🙂

    • Disaffected says:

      As I alluded to above, no one yet has figured out a sufficiently profitable business model to package the ordinary either, other than the once removed observations of our safely designated and heavily media-hyped “artists.” But of course merely purchasing the observations of another is not the same as having the experience yourself. As we still say about the sixties (the irony of the sixties generation turning its back on its own roots is indeed profound as well, although that’s a story for another day), if you claim to actually remember any of it, you probably weren’t there.

      • javacat says:

        Commodifying the ordinary…You’ve struck oil here. I envision special package ‘Tours of the Ordinary’ led by guides rigorously trained in the art of flushing out the quotidian, (complete with hushed and breathless tones remarkable on NPR feature stories and duck hunters on the old American Sportsman show). Celebrity testimonials on their discovery of the everyday right there in their own kitchen! And then, as a finale, a reality show in which contestants compete to enthrall with the mundane! It’s brilliant! 😉

        As for the betrayal by the 60s generation…I was born late enough to just be on its fringes, but am reading a nice analysis in Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt of how the ‘do-your-own-thing’ generation fragmented the Left and eventually opened the door for the whacko-Right we live with today. Keep that story in mind.

        • Disaffected says:

          Brings to mind the Kramer Reality Bus Tour in the final season of Seinfeld (renamed the Peterman Reality Bus Tour after Kramer sold his inane stories to J. Peterman). I’m a fan, if you haven’t guessed already.

          • kulturcritic says:

            A wild, Kramer, clip!!

          • Morocco Bama says:

            Ha! Speaking of multiple embedded iterations of unreality disguised as reality, Larry David is a trailblazer as far as that is concerned. In case you didn’t know, Michael Richards has Groats disease. May he rest in peace. Make sure you empty your bladder and bowels before watching the following clip, or in the least, slip on a pair of Oops! I Crapped MY Pants.

            • Disaffected says:

              Ahh yes. Groat’s disease, the great silent killer. Fortunately almost all of it’s victims die of other causes first, but it’s definitely nothing to be taken lightly. Thanks to the many recent advances in hat therapy, most of its victims can now lead relatively normal, albeit humorous, lives.

              • kulturcritic says:

                Great clip; distracting!!!

                • Morocco Bama says:

                  Yes, very distracting, but what do we have to do that’s more important? I know, I know, I have two bathrooms to clean today before my wife gets home and beats my ass, but seriously. I have a memory of one of my corporate stints with a renowned Southern Florida real estate developer. I was there on 9/11, and I’ll never forget the Department Head marching into the boardroom where the T.V. screens were, ordering everyone back to their cubicles in Napoleonic fashion. He was unimpressed by what was transpiring in Manhattan, and he didn’t like people being distracted from………what, exactly? Most, if not all of the corporate staff, were about 20% productive…..and that was on a good day. Sure, everyone played the game and made it appear that they were busier and more important and necessary than they actually were, but they were not very productive, and even when they were productive, it was at a useless task that no one really valued anyway. So, what was Joe’s real motivation for ordering everyone back to their cubicles? Perhaps it has something to do with how routine is used as a form of control in our culture. Events like 9/11 are one of those events like Floyd’s “when the cloud bursts thunder in your ear.” Joe intuitively, yet most likely unconsciously, knew that, and so felt obliged to do his duty for our culture, and get the loonies back on the path.

                  • kulturcritic says:

                    I was in Tampa; we were on a conference all with corporate. My boss, the CEO, said; forget the TV we have work to do. Boy was he right.

                    • Disaffected says:

                      Sandy,

                      I think leavergirl or whomever was right down post. Need to fix these margins for multiple replies. Lots of white space wasted to the right of long, very narrow replies.

                    • kulturcritic says:

                      DA, Leavergirl, et al – there is no way on wordpress for me to nest the comments in a threaded way so you can follow a particular discussion, without also increasing the margins and reducing the writing space. If you don’t want threaded cnversations, tell me; but then it will be difficult to understand any ongoing discussion. sandy

  4. Morocco Bama says:

    Beautiful essay. It really resonates with me. I so long for the Barbaric Ordinariness of which you speak, and in those fleeting moments in the narrow gaps when I do experience it, I am grateful for it, and look forward to it serendipitously and spontaneously arriving again.

    An example of this is the story my wife relates to me about her childhood. Her Father owned a produce company, and would rise at four in the morning and not arrive home until seven in the evening. He would eat dinner, watch television for an hour or so, and then he was off to bed. As a result, he was rather detached and they were never really close. However, she does remember a few times where that wall/veil had been broken/breached. Whenever there was a power outage, she relates that her father became a different person to the point she hardly recognized this sudden, yet dynamic and engaging, stranger. It’s her fondest memories of him…of what he could have been, of what they could have had, if only.

    So, it’s not just the written word, as we all know, it’s gone well beyond that now. Civilization is constantly finding new and improved ways to penetrate and probe the core of our beings, and yet the deeper and wider it probes, the closer it comes to losing all control. Yes, I agree that it most likely began with the written word. With that, the bards and muses became obsolete along with so many other vital necessities of a life that was well worth living.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Morocco Bama (great handle)

      Your wife’s story is genuinely enlightening. It is a valuable lesson for us all in this age of 24 hour connectivity. I am pleased as well that you enjoyed the essay so. Getting outside into the “gap” is sort of like getting “off grid” But the difference is in the artlessness or spontaneity of the former, which unfortunately is un-reproducable in the later. It is also true that Civ is penetrating further into our core, and such probing may indeed become the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and prove its unraveling. Glad to hear your voice… stick around. sandy

      • Morocco Bama says:

        Sandy, thanks for the invitation. I think I will take you up on it.

        I believe my wife’s aberrational experience with her Father during power outages is the spontaneous gap to which you speak, and not getting off the grid. It was a serendipitous act not predicated by any conscious action her Father had taken. It just happened, and when it did, it was likened to a switch going off, or on, and he became what he was always intended to be before enculturation got a hold of him. The Barbarian in him was awakened from its sequestered slumber. He was suddenly alive and in the moment. He was there. He was palpable. He was ALIVE.

        Heretofore, her Father would never consider getting “off grid”. But when Electricity, the substance that comprises the web of our Culture, is suddenly absent, her Father becomes the Barbarian at the Gates, and that’s not necessarily a negative thing, although Civilization certainly would have us think so, if one were to believe conventional descriptions of Barbarism.

        This talk of Barbarism reminds me of a argument I had with a notable former Head of The Department of Defense not too long ago. An argument, by the way, in which he threatened my life. I explained to him why I could never be in the Armed Forces. His reply was predictably authoritarian, and I countered it, and from there it escalated with him asking for my name and address so he could some of his men to do to me what they did to Che. In this process he insanely said this:

        I’ll be glad to give you the right person’s phone number. BTW, my ancestors were in the first crusade.

        I replied as follows, and this was a completely unconscious response, but now that I’ve read your essay, it makes more sense:

        WooHoo, your ancestors were in the Crusades! My ancestors stormed Rome in the last days…..they were the Barbarians at the gate.

        Coincidentally, or not, I am Slavic in origin, so I guess it’s not surprising. I have always had an affinity and longing for The Gap. It’s part of my fabric. I suppose that’s why I eschewed becoming a partner with Ernst & Young, and in some strange way, found my way to a fellow colleague’s blog who is of the same disposition. Who would have thought? In a firm replete with enculturated, sycophantic robots, there would have been two of us in their midst. Are their more? Perhaps. But will they ever know?

        • kulturcritic says:

          Wow, Moroccobama, you greased the skids with a guy running DoD? Woulda loved to be a fly on that wall. Wow, again!! So you were in the midst of the wolf pack as well, at E&Y? Very small world my friend. I lasted there about three years, then resigned my partner post. When I went in to meet with the Chairman (also a Jewish boy), he thought I was out of my mind. He said, “No partner resigns from E&Y. Are you mad?” So, I left, and things worked out fine; and here we are!! best my comrade, sandy

          • Morocco Bama says:

            Yeah, the e-mail exchange was enlightening, or should I say, validating….and probably suicidal on my part, but he got my dander up when he compared me to Bill Clinton for not joining the Armed Forces. When he asked for my name and address so his buds could come get me, or intimidate me I guess, I e-mailed him because he was censoring any responses I sent to his blog. I figured with email, I could get both sides of the fracas on record, which I did, of course. I said this about his threat:

            Is that a threat? You should get down on your knees right now and apologize to those of us who are paying your bloated pension, and to my parents who worked hard their entire lives and were forced to pay tribute to the likes of you who squashed Democracy around the globe in the dark of night, surreptitiously. Yes, you’re a coward, and the fact that you won’t show my last comment, yet you respond to it, shows you for what you are. So, you and your SF brethren admit to killing, or in the least, wanting to kill/assassinate U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, because that is what that comment implies, and that makes you not only a coward, but a traitor to the Constitution you claim to hold so dear.

            I’m in the process of printing your picture out, and the children and I will spit on it in effigy, you over-the hill, ass-licking murderer for hire.

            That’s harsh, I know, but this guy was a bully of the first sort, and I have no tolerance for bullies…and, he threatened not only me, but my wife and children with his implication. Needless to say, I have stepped away from that, and no longer engage or interact with this Inside The Beltway Establishment Representative.

            Yeah, I was situated in the Birmingham office in the mid nineties. I spent several years there, and was one of their rising stars. When I left and used several of the Partners and Senior Managers as references, they would tell the prospective employers they were disappointed that I had left, because I was Partner material, and I was on the Partner track. If you remember, this was the office that handled the Healthsouth account, and that crook of a Partner who serviced Healthsouth, not surprisingly, was never held to account, and you know he knew and signed off on all of it. These Partners throw the dice everyday, but these days, they’re part of the House, so the odds are predominantly in their favor, so it’s no longer much of a gamble. I got out of there because these Partners, with few exceptions, looked like death warmed over. They were in their mid-fifties and they looked, and acted, like they were eighty. I told my wife, I won’t live like this. If that’s the end result, I refuse to pursue this any further, and so I left. It took me several more stints in Corporate Finance to finally walk away for good….with nothing, mind you. I have nothing to my name from that former life, no pension, no retirement, no nothing, but I consider that a positive, because it’s that much less baggage and that much more motivation for pursuing an entirely different way of life. It’s anchor’s away.

            • Morocco Bama says:

              Actually, that should read Anchors Aweigh.

            • kulturcritic says:

              Well MB – We have traversed similar paths. Yes, I remember the Birmingham office and the Healthsouth account. I was in the National Healthcare Consulting group that got sold off to CAP Gemini in France just as I was leaving. And many of my “partners” were summarily dismissed in any event. Gawd… what a fu….ing life. And they were all pastey white and overweight; not a good way to be. In the Chicago Office, we used to lunch at the private club atop the Sears Tower, cigars, whiskey and all. At my Manhattan location on 6th Avenue, we usually ordered chinese in. LOL But then we would go diner at the best italian restaurants in the city… price was no object. Wow, what memories. What sickness I was engaged in.

  5. derekthered says:

    “Ashes to ash and funk to funky
    We know Major Tom’s a junkie
    Strung out in heaven’s high
    Hitting an all-time low”

    ASHES TO ASHES – David Bowie

    yeah well, i told you that you were above my pay grade; because i have no idea what you are talking about, must be too fine a distinction for my brain. my everyday life is too ordinary, ordinarily a grind; and as for barbarity? got some, that is all monopoly capitalism is about, giant millstones grinding that grit. you know what i am talking about, the millstones we wear around our necks.

    language and mnemonics are the currency of the species homo sapiens, w/o our intelligence and oppose-able thumb we’ed still be living in the trees. now, our technology and the sadists who control it do want everyone in a line, step out of line? you know the name of that tune.

    we really don’t know what pressures primitive tribes put on their members to conform, now do we? we can guess, and my guess is members adhered pretty closely to the tribal customs.

    yeah, we have got all kinds of rights, all kinds of choices, just not the choice to step outside the closed set of controlled society.

    if i have never mentioned it, the term “mediatization” as practiced in Napoleonic France is interesting to research, a form of internal exile; nowadays it is those w/o cable, w/o a cell phone, who are in exile.

    • kulturcritic says:

      exactly… you understand well

    • Disaffected says:

      …nowadays it is those w/o cable, w/o a cell phone, who are in exile.

      I would argue, it is only they who are truly free. I look to be one of them very soon.

      • leavergirl says:

        Really?! In that case, I have arrived! Been without a cable for 11 years, and never a cell phone. Is that all it takes? LOL

        • Disaffected says:

          That’s not all, but it makes for a damn good start.

          • kulturcritic says:

            Great images, JC. Watch for Ordinary TV, coming soon to your cable!

            • Disaffected says:

              Imagine, if you will, this future nature reality show: a video of a family huddling in easy chairs and lying on the grass around a flatscreen TV on a pristine lawn, watching a video of themselves watching a video of themselves, all while the camera does a slow pan backwards though successive mirror TV images. It’ll be called We First TV and be shown on the Natural TV network (formerly Human TV, which was renamed after it was decided that the name was merely redundant, since as everyone knows all things natural are human). It’ll be the ultimate in navel gazing for a society that glorifies all things trivially human.

        • Disaffected says:

          So leavergirl, is the handle a reference to Ishmael? If so, please expound on your take.

          • leavergirl says:

            Of course it is, dear Disaffected. Here is an essay that may be of interest… where yours truly attempts to deconstruct Ishmael, or the Leavers, or some such.
            http://leavingbabylon.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/who-are-the-leavers/

            • Disaffected says:

              Very nice! I like the distinction between leaverism and primitivism, which are easily confused. I think most drop outs these days are locked into the idea of a decidedly taker oriented primitivism, what with the hoards of guns, ammo, and food supplies, etc. I’ve always found that notion to be rather naive and short-sighted, but I think it’s also just a natural psychological response in the face of a leviathan that appears to be overwhelming. I still don’t have a clear picture of how a true leaver can actually live successfully in the current first world environment (and one that is now obsessed with control and power like never before) on any large scale. Perhaps minimizing our propensity to take is the best most of us can do, or at least start to do. And the biblical admonition about the last becoming first and and the first last? Maybe that’s a practical observation of how our current situation vis-a-vis the first and third worlds is eventually going to turn out as well. One thing’s for sure, takerism writ large has surely run it’s course. I think that much is obvious to all now, although many are coping with that fact by denial. Taker finance and taker energy has sold us a bill of goods that it is simply unable to deliver. And unfortunately for all of us, taker societies don’t go down to defeat – even to mother nature – at all peaceably. It’s gonna get very interesting over the course of the next few decades.

              • leavergirl says:

                I think takerism has far from run its course. And no, it never goes down peacefully.

                Glad you enjoyed! 🙂

                We cannot leave by stepping outside; we must find the place that is “in the world but not of it.” And yes, the last and the first… that’s in there too. All part of the problem of power.

                My feeling is that some of us are starting to get it. And none too soon… I’ll be posting an essay tomorrow that touches on some of this… particularly why people voluntarily give up their own power.

  6. Martin says:

    Sandy –
    Though the source of the following is slightly askew of the topic, your reference to your childhood experiences (similar to my own, except mine occurred much earlier) brought it to mind for some odd reason:

    “The Timeless Way
    1. It is a process which brings order out of nothing but ourselves; it cannot be attained, but it will happen of its own accord, if we will only let it.
    2. There is a central quality which is the root criterion of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building, or a wilderness. This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named.
    3. The search which we make for this quality, in our own lives, is the central search of any person, and the crux of any individual person’s story. It is the search for those moments and situations when we are most alive.”

    Christopher Alexander, “The Timeless Way of Building”

    It’s a book you might find interesting.

  7. Morocco Bama says:

    A theme song for this post, perhaps.

    The lunatic is on the grass
    The lunatic is on the grass
    Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs
    Got to keep the loonies on the path
    The lunatic is in the hall
    The lunatics are in my hall
    The paper holds their folded faces to the floor
    And every day the paper boy brings more
    And if the dam breaks open many years too soon
    And if there is no room upon the hill
    And if your head explodes with dark forbodings too
    I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon
    The lunatic is in my head
    The lunatic is in my head
    You raise the blade, you make the change
    You re-arrange me ’till I’m sane
    You lock the door
    And throw away the key
    There’s someone in my head but it’s not me.
    And if the cloud bursts, thunder in your ear
    You shout and no one seems to hear
    And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes
    I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon

    • Disaffected says:

      I’ve often wondered how those guys could have been so perceptive at such a young age. And their stuff is just as meaningful now as it was then, probably more so. One of the distinct advantages of being an artist I guess. You can pursue your muse full time, provided the resulting money, fame, and adulation (if they come) doesn’t turn your head inside out in the process.

      • Morocco Bama says:

        I agree, Their insight was astounding considering their short time on this mortal coil up to that point of time in their lives. I also appreciate and respect their musing about the process of the System exploiting their musing, and all that implies. In fact, The Machine to which they were welcomed eventually did get a hold of them. They called it, It swallowed them, as it does pretty much everything else in its path.

        In the above song, although there are numerous interpretations, I see the lunatic as Civilization/Culture, and the narrator as someone who has resisted the enculturation process, to the extent that’s possible. Of course, if you resist, and don’t disappear, you eventually get labeled and treated as a nutcase that must be treated and or fixed, hence the raising of the blade to rearrange the resistor until he’s sane. And of course, insane and sane are reversed in this case. Civilization is insane, and it is consistently, and persistently, encroaching, and as I’ve said earlier, finding new and improved ways of going deeper and wider to get you, closing off avenues of escape, eliminating frontiers….making the holding pen complete and full proof.

        In the U.S., and increasingly everywhere these days, the ordinariness of which Sandy speaks is perceived as inordinary to Civilization, and vice versa, and we all know that to much inordinary will get you committed…..not to the looney bin, because there is not funding for that any longer, but rather to Gitmo, and all places like it. The inordinary will not be tolerated.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Yes, the Floyd would always make a good theme song, for much of my work, actually!

  8. Morocco Bama says:

    Sandy, I’m putting this here rather than as a reply because the space is narrowing in the reply field and becoming cumbersome to read. I promise this is it on E&Y, but I just wanted to get it off my chest with someone who understands it intimately, as you do.

    I’m of the disposition that Neas knew Healthsouth was crooked before he retired and Lamphron was an idiot. I worked with Lamphron on the Decatur Hospital audit, and let me tell you, he was one weird bird. A real flake. An ex-marine who drove a Miata he was ever so proud of, and he was always toying with subordinates. One time I drove him and a group of us to lunch, and he turned my radio up to full volume and my air conditioner to full blast so that when I started my car, that’s what I got. He was like a seventeen-year old child. You could imagine conversations with this crowd. Needless to say, we weren’t discussing Phenomemology. Anyhow, here’s a book review on it. I’m sure Lamphron (looked like Mr. Heat Miser….perfect hair, always) received a nice pay package for taking it on the chin for the firm. He now consults for another national firm….and Neas, he’s probably in line for a liver transplant since he was quite the lush.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=VLxvUV8xFsgC&pg=PA358&lpg=PA358&dq=marc+neas+ernst+%26+young&source=bl&ots=ZJDnvTtZvw&sig=iO75LiIlHuJYQ7czOIs8drWE-BQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=xAYoUIqoDIPA9QSZs4CQBg&ved=0CEUQ6AEwBDgK#v=onepage&q=marc%20neas%20ernst%20%26%20young&f=false

    One of the first things we did as auditors was to do an account flux analysis from year to year. Those accounts listed by Vines in the email would have stood out like a sore thumb screaming to be investigated. If I was on it, I never would have let that pass. That’s probably why I wasn’t on it. They knew. I know they knew, but it’s just a molecule of water in a rather large iceberg. It’s water under the bridge when there is no bridge.

    I wrote this about the double-entry system of accounting on another blog. I think it’s pertinent.

    Most of us can think of dozens of fasteners that help hold this suicidal system in place. On another blog I frequent, a poster commented about the double-entry accounting system. Well, it is yet another of those aforementioned fasteners. I had this to say to him concerning it.

    I agree with your sentiments concerning the double-entry system of accounting…..and I’m a former CPA. It’s a half decent mechanism for items that are largely physical/tangible, but beyond that, it becomes increasingly useless, and inappropriate. It is emblematic of the Western Mindset where all things under the sun, and above the sun, must be categorized, quantified and qualified…or in other words, made to fit a limited image.

    I may have mentioned this before, but since the advent of the double-entry system, transactions have become exponentially more complex, and the double-entry system in the face of this, is an utter farce. Not only is the system itself ridiculously inadequate in capturing the complexity, but those who administer it increasingly do so either incompetently, or fraudulently. Often it’s the latter disguised as the former. One such facet of the double-entry system that is ripe for shenanigans of all sorts is the accrual process. Everywhere I have been in my career, without exception, there has been an flagrant abuse of the accrual process….and it’s precisely because it’s the one facet of the double-entry system that allows for some subjective creativity…..and incentivized wolves can be quite creative when it comes to counting sheep.

    The double-entry system at this point is a farcical veneer meant to lend legitimacy to a rotten to the core economic system. Some know it, and pretend otherwise, and others worship it as though it were Yahweh. Either way, it’s lipstick on this squealing pig.

    Another poster disagreed and credited the double-entry system with the rise of Civilization, to which I responded.

    I’ve read many of the accounts about the origins of the current iteration of the double-entry system(s), and yeah, it has some value in helping outside parties make somewhat more objective opinions about the financial state of an organization at a given point in time. However, that very same value is also a hindrance because it shapes how organizations are perceived, and thus formed and arranged. IMO, it helps to keep all of humanity’s immense potential anchored to the status quo because it controls the boundaries of humanity’s perspective. In otherwords, it is a box.

    • kulturcritic says:

      I am ready to die now… I have found a deeply philosophical accountant. WOW. LOL. I love it. And the guys I worked with were just as sick… believe me. best, comrade krolick.

    • leavergirl says:

      Awesome stuff. I did not know… Thank you.

    • Disaffected says:

      Double entry accounting: one set of entries for the auditors, and one set for internal consumption.

      Personal note: I’m a decidedly late entry in the accounting/finance/business game and at a decidedly small time level at that. After 20+ years in the USAF as an aircraft maintenance tech/supervisor, I had the opportunity to segue into “accounting” (actually an oxymoron when used in conjunction with anything related to the DoD) and found I had an affinity for computers, numbers, and yes, accounting.

      So I retired from the USAF a few years later and did what numb-nuts like me are wont to do: use government benefits to pursue their aptitudes in pursuit of the ever-elusive “good paying j-o-b”, rather than something that might have made them h-a-p-p-y instead. A few years later, here I am. Along the way, I honestly didn’t learn very much (to put it kindly), but I did learn this: accounting amounts to so much legal “trickeration” – it’s law with numbers and attracts the same anal retentive types – and is only suited for those who lack the intelligence and creativity to pursue something of true value.

      My current and ongoing experiences with my current employer have only reinforced that opinion in spades. Needless to say – and quite happily I might add – I’m on the “do not promote and consider for elimination at the earliest opportunity – bad attitude” list, a badge of honor which I wear quite openly and proudly these days. In the end, it’s actually quite liberating to be considered “old and opinionated” in your early fifties, and finally able to loose that fabled youthful “rebel yell” of old in earnest and with relatively minimal penalty.

      And the youngsters these days? I hate it for them, I really do. Enough so that I’d actually say a prayer for their sorry asses if I thought it would do any good. But of course they’re all busy praying for they and theirs themselves already, aren’t they? Just as they’re voting to cut government benefits to people like us who just might have believed in such a thing as a social contract when we agreed to provide the services we did. All in the name of the holy grail of grails: the free market utopia! Same as it ever was. Lemmings. Lemmings to the sea.

  9. cpopblog says:

    Thanks for the Floyd reference, they are one of the few contemporary artists to relevantly and critically evaluate our post-modern life. Recently saw Roger Water’s The Wall–perhaps the only spectacle I’ve seen that told it like it is haha.

    Excellent thoughts here, yet I disagree with the lost character of our ‘inner barbarian’ and the demarcation of, specifically, American wildness. As many were glued to their televisions over the last few weeks watching millisecond replays of synchronized swimming, I was swimming on my own in an unnamed glacial lake, in an unnamed draw, miles away from any trail, in the pantheon of America’s ‘cultural’ parks, Yosemite. True, that I waited in line at the “Wilderness Center” at 5am to secure a (free) “Wilderness permit” to enter into the backcountry, and had to pack out my own used tp and haul around bear cans, but my experience in one of America’s most managed, abused, and overpopulated parks turned out to anything but a herded hike on a well used trail. In fact they encourage backpackers to explore the expanse of the park on their own, off trail, and discover their own sense of mystery–that is if you have the heart to do so.
    Perhaps it’s because I grew up hopping BLM fences and traversing meandering derelict National Forest roads, making camp where-ever we could by moonlight, or exploring ghost towns and mines that, well, we didn’t know who owned them, that I have always had a feeling that the real ‘gaps’ in our culture are the ones we carry with us in our coolers or RV’s. The world is natural and free, an ordinary place as it is and always has been and it is infinity ready for our discovery. There is a recent movement in environmental education to encourage children to get dirty, get lost, get hurt, explore creation without boundaries, without preconceived lines of where ‘Nature’ starts and where it ends.
    I was also recently in Denali National Park, participating in a ‘Composing in the Wilderness’ seminar. The synergy felt with the nine other composer participants and the ethic expressed by the park was extraordinary. There is one dirt/gravel road that splits Denali east/west, all of the cruise line and tour buses traverse this road, probing the horizon for wildlife. However we would drive along the road, park, and hike cross-country wherever we wished, over creeks and up remote mountain draws, only to stop for thirty minutes of “creative time”, to compose and ponder. The ‘elemental’ imagination that lies dormant in many of us is there and readily available. Connecting wildness with creativity is an essential act that sees no distinction between ‘Nature’ and ‘Culture’ but harbors them both in symbiosis. As long as we realize the designated trail and campground is just a thin veneer, a fallacy that can be undone quicker than it was concocted, we realize the real gaps are the parking lots and buildings, the dams and roads, patiently waiting for the grasses and water to trickle and break through.

    Thanks again for a thought provoking read!

  10. Henri says:

    “We cannot escape ourselves.” ~Henri

    • kulturcritic says:

      So you know all the secret code… wonderful, Jonathan BTW – I think your avatar is quite appropriate, JD

    • Disaffected says:

      I like the avatar as well. Matter of fact, I’ve used it before myself, and believe it or not, it actually even resembles an earlier iteration of me. What? Me worry?

    • Morocco Bama says:

      It wasn’t prolix to me. If you want an example of prolix, try reading John Dominic Crossan’s The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. Every creative writing course should use that as an example of prolixity. I put it down after 100 grueling pages. Of course, I’m not sure why I ever purchased the pretentious book. It’s quite clear to me now through other less expensive means of research that there was no actual person named Jesus, and that religion is a cultural artifice for purposes of control. The Jesuits helped me come to that conclusion, believe it, or not.

    • Disaffected says:

      OK, so Prolix means WHAT?

  11. Nichole says:

    I dunno, a very polished, almost Lewis Lapham polished, essay on finding the ordinary beneath, beyond, the civilized veneer. Hmmmm.

    Veneer on the veneer?

    I wonder how we escape the veneer. Perhaps moving to Siberia, or near Nome or the northwest shore of Hudson’s Bay to carve soapstone and avoid the hunger of white bears who have no longer any ice to tread on to find seals? I dunno.

    I suspect the breakage of civilization as we know it will require breakage of polished essays as well as the breakage through a no longer mythical and misty Northwest Passage. Good sailing or walking.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Nichole – I thought i might slip one semi-polished essay by ya’ll. After all, it is hard to write fresh each week. Anyway, you caught me… love the smell of veneer. It’s so captivating. LOL sandy

      • Nichole says:

        Hardly, Sandy. Most of your essays are very polished, when you write essays. Your blog posts not so much polished, but always of interest.

        But, isn’t that part of what we Children of Civilization do? Polish essays rather than polish knapped spear points or carved stone Goddess figurines. We’ve all such a long ways to go before we rest, eh?

        Another “but”. But, when the old’s overthrown doesn’t something remain to build with? I think of citizens and villagers climbing away from their homes as the waters rose in the basin that became the Black Sea. Or, perhaps, the people of Dvaraka as the waves reclaimed their huts and palaces at the end of Krishna’s life?

        Will we only salvage our lives and the ordinary, aimless paths from former places to former places?

        • kulturcritic says:

          Where is my carved stone goddess figurine; I saw her just the other day, nearby my knapped spear points. Ha Ha. Honestly, you are absolutely right; but, we do as we were trained, and the training we get is not what comes naturally to us, and of little value when things start to go straight down. We try to protect our ideas, and not our surround. What we will salvage will be anything but the truth; for, that we lost long, long ago. Thanks for reminding me. sandy

          • Nichole says:

            Why, you’re welcome, (another “but”) but, did you ever believe there was/is some truth that we once had? Not aware of your background, mine was evangelical xtian, very big on truth (with or without an initial cap.) yet, somewhere around fourteen the discrepancies and ironies became too large. There were/are no universal truths.

            No salvationist religious doctrines to divide us into goats and sheep, black of letters and white of tablet, sane and insane, good and evil; yet, we continue to search for truth of the salvific type. Yes, we find our pasts frame our presents, and diminish our presences.

            The trick is to be aware of false dichotomies and open to the unity. Easily said, eh?

            Thank you.

            • kulturcritic says:

              You are correct, of course, Nichole. It was a hurried comment. I stand corrected.

            • Ivy Mike says:

              Mainly, salvationist religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity kept people from becoming a culture of cannibals from protein hunger, which is what happened in the New World with the Aztecs.

              After I read anthropologist Marvin Harris’ “Cannibals and Kings,” I can appreciate the miserly small offering of a host-hostility (same etymological root) in a “Take Eat, This is My Body” protein substitute, and the misery of existence being sublimated by a pretend Heaven where, if one behaves properly, “They shall no more hunger.”

              Of course, one can look at the extinction of 200 species a day by industrial culture as cannibalism of steroids.

              • Interesting thoughts, Ivy Mike. But, they strike me as having the value of suppositions rather than having the value of being factual.

                Although, I reckon in democratic discourse one could make the argument that any opinion has the same value as any other. (I won’t make that argument, but you feel free to should you wish. I think you’ll have difficulty providing evidence that would show the Aztec culture as being based on cannibalism – except of course for the chatter of the priests among the Cortez expedition who may well have said most anything about those destroyed and enslaved. Due to protein-dearth I assume that the Spaniards fed the peasants human body parts as well? I don’t recall any mention by de Las Casas of central Mexican cannibalism. I suppose it may be there.)

                I think what one sees in the Abrahamic religions, anyhoo, is the degrading of value of the natural world and women in particular as part of that natural world. I mean, what could be more stupifyingly suffocating of sense than the notion that some sort of father-god is capable of procreation by himself? It got much worse after that gem became the foundational story of the Habiru. Red tents indeed!

                • Ivy MIke says:

                  Suppositions? The chapter “The Cannibal Kingdom” lists as references Harner (1975, 1977a, b), Diaz (1956, pp. 217-20), De Sahagun (1950, pp. 4, 589), Duran (1964, p. 121), and Tapia (1971), Scheele (1950, p. 101), Flinn et al. (1976), Métraux (1945), Dornstreich and Morren (1974), Cook (1946), Diaz (1965, p. 119), Tapia (1971, p. 583), Soustelle (1962, p. 101), Cook (1946, p. 283), De Sahagun (1950, pp. 24, 29), and Duran (1964, p. 122).

                  Come on, don’t smear a good anthropologist with a cheap shot at his scholarship like you’ve attempted.

                  • Nichole says:

                    Mike, I suppose I could be rather nasty and suggest that you e tend your cubic yards of books a few more feet and as something other than a compendium of 1950s and 60s anthropology papers to prove your point.

                    Instead, I’ll suggest you wiki “Aztec cannibalism” and see that there are other resources that disagree with the e tent of said. nnialism Nd even that it took place at all. Human sacrifice? Yes. Cannibalism? Perhaps ritually, but widespread throughout the culture, not so much.

                    Opinions seem divided, but hardly 50-50 in academic circles. But also hardly worth the argument were they divided so. the thing about scholdarship is that it’s nuanced and seldom cut and dried for a singular pov.

                    This brings us back to the sin/good dichotomy of salvific religion as applied to scholarship. Can’t be done. You be well.

                    • Ivy MIke says:

                      “I suppose I could be rather nasty”

                      Vestigial Evangelical Fundamentalism?

                      At any rate, whether or not Aztecs sated their protein hunger on Long Pig as Marvin Harris’ research suggests, its a side issue to the main issue addressed, the cultural purpose of Christianity.

                      It seems you think I took a heretical positive view of Christianity, which set you off on your tirade. Read Harris sometime, his view is less than charitable of Christianity.

                      Communion is a fake redistribution of goods, rather than the real redistribution of goods practiced by redistributive chiefs, with a fabled redistribution of goods in the afterlife.

        • kulturcritic says:

          You are getting way too poetic, Nichole. On Aug 13, 2012,

          • Nichole says:

            “You are getting way too poetic, Nichole.” Sez Sandy.

            O, so sorry. I appear to have missed the “poetic’s limited to two sentences every thirty days” rule. 😉 I’ll try to keep a better mindfulness of the rules of the blog from here out! LOL

            Although be warned, I often find the poetic holds a resonance that impacts more deeply than pedestrian prose. That may be a likely reason that Lao Tzu and Siddartha favored aphoristic poetry for their teachings.

            But, we southahn gals appeah ta rite laik ar moah distinguished elders: Faulkner, Davies, Ransom, O’Conner, Wolfe, et al whan weez larnt ta rite uhtal. It gits in yore soul and ya gotta let it go sumtimes. Caint seem ta avoid it.

  12. Brutus says:

    I like your analytical posts better than those attuned to news cycles, but I note the irony of my preference for the rational and categorical even as you discuss the ineffable, intuitive, and uncategorical. Good comments as usual from your rogue’s gallery. The most striking thing to me is your quote of Epstein (note 7): “even islands of spontaneity such as natural parks and preserves are carefully demarcated; their very naturalness is the object of cultivation.” Reminded me of something I wrote on my blog last fall regarding a nature encounter.

    The video of the cat in the comments also hits home for me, since it’s funny, sad, and trenchant. The inscrutability of felines is a good analogue of the liminality under discussion and something of an anodyne to the Curriculum. Indeed, each in their own ways, human babies and domesticated house pets are bridges across what Michael Balint (one of the founders of the object relations branch of psychotherapy) describes as the gap alienating us from ourselves, also sometimes called the nemo. Can’t remember where I read it, but babies have been described as incipient threats in part because they represent the barbarian residing within each of us — at least until we are civilized and tamed.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Yes, I read your post. I think you nailed it there quite frankly. And, of course, you read the baby as barbarian thing here, last year… but I have now expanded the ideas from that last post.

  13. Disaffected says:

    On an entirely different note, I’d like to give a big shout out to this blog – Schwerpunkt International which I picked up on over at the Klusterfucker’s blog and have spent most of the day reading. Just the right mix of legitimate heady and relevant social commentary, derogatory and utterly nasty cynicism, and utter and complete nihilism to suit my tastes. Good stuff!

  14. The beginning of ‘civilized man’ coincides with the end of ‘civilization,’ in my purview.

  15. robindatta says:

    Civilisation is the process of domestication. Of humans, to better serve the purposes of the hierarchy. This domestication began about 10,000 years ago at the time of the adoption of agriculture and the domestication of (non-human) animals.

    Domestication makes animals (including humans) more compliant, and is associated with a shrinkage in brain size. This shrinkage in human brain size goes back to 20,000 years, suggesting that the beginnings of “civilised” society  date to that time. Domestication makes for a greater compliance with the vertical dictates of hierarchy, dictates which over time seek control over the horizontal interactions between individuals that form the cohesion of community. Intensely hierarchical systems such as in the former Soviet Union, which do not offer even an illusion of participation, do result in the formation of sub rosa horizontal interactions “under the table” as was so ably described by Dmitry Orlov. These form a community that exists within the strictures of the hierarchy/society.

    Where an illusion of participation (i.e. “democracy”) is maintained, the urges to interaction are channelled from the horizontal to the vertical, with the loss of community, as is seen in ‘mericuh. Grass-roots action is not likely where the grass has withered away and humans have progressively become compliant livestock. It is only when their keepers are unable to feed and water them that they become “unruly” in the true sense of that word.

    Climbing the hierarchy requires, amongst other things, an atrophy of empathy, a form of awareness that is nurtured by horizontal interactions of community but suppressed by the (vertical) hierarchical coercions of society. When combined with social skills, this lack of empathy makes a psychopath – particularly dangerous because they fit so well into society. In the absence of those social skills lack of empathy makes one a sociopath, fitting poorly into society, becoming common criminals, serial killers and (illegal!) mass murderers. That is how a person who steals ten dollars goes to jail, while one who steals a billion dollars is respected and adulated by the system. Or one who murders a dozen people is a criminal, while one who murders a few hundred thousand is a defender of “freedom”. 

    But of course the system with its built-in need for perpetual growth on a finite planet has its doom preordained. What is regrettable is that the attendant despoliation will leave behind an unliveable world. 

    • derekthered says:

      found this just this morning
      http://rewild.info/anthropik/2006/11/wolves-dogs/index.html
      but could the shrinkage in brain size be due to less protein in the diet, less fat? or do domesticated humans just not have to be as clever as our prehistoric forefathers/mothers?

      “It is only when their keepers are unable to feed and water them that they become “unruly” in the true sense of that word.’

      yup, people with full stomachs don’t revolt, half the time they don’t revolt when they are starving.

      • Henri says:

        The major loss in brain size in humans (from 1500 cc 30,000 years ago in Europe to 1350 today) is the olfactory bulb, with dogs’ noses replacing that capability, via co-evolution between dogs and men, “true symbiosis,” as noted in Godesky’s essay.

        No one has ever claimed that humans and cats co-evolved, because feline operate well above mere humans and dogs, except for when “the white idiot writhes on his chair begging for cheeseburgers.” ~Henri

        • derekthered says:

          your videos are hilarious, but i’m still a dog person, can’t stand that independent streak, or, i’m just a pack animal; even wolf society would require some sort of group dynamic, the lone wolf had better be one tough sumbitch, oui?

          the question becomes whether it works or not. the ideas in his essay are interesting and troubling at the same time, he takes some real shots at the status-quo, the universal ideal, thoughts i myself have had from time to time. is the democratic ideal of the perfectly equal state just a manifestation of our linear thinking? a bad case of the city of god? just new and improved?

          he does kind of veer off his central theme, but i can see where his logic makes sense. weird because i had found it on the web before brain size was even mentioned.

      • robindatta says:

        A tennis-ball sized volume of brain has been lost in the past 20,000 years for an average sized current male Homo sapiens. Both olfactory lobes and the rhinencephalon would not likely account for that much volume loss.

    • Ivy Mike says:

      Examine each single characteristic in Robert D. Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist [/wiki/Hare_Psychopathy_Checklist], and they describe State society as a culture to a tee.

      Individual psychopathy is merely an adaptation to those awakened to the realities of agricultural civilization.

      Only psychopaths can survive untrammelled in the horribly ugly “Behavior Sink” of Mass Society. The crowding and stress today leaves two kinds of people, control freaks and fairly social creatures driven mad.

      1. “Those who managed to control space led relatively normal lives.”
      2. “Unwanted, unavoidable social interaction that drove even fairly social creatures mad.”

      Plumbing the ‘Behavioral Sink’: Medical Historian Examines NIMH Experiments in Crowding
      National Institute of Health RECORD, Vol. LX, No. 15
      http://nihrecord.od.nih.gov/newsletters/2008/07_25_2008/story1.htm

    • kulturcritic says:

      Compliance is the name of the game we are playing in; that is for sure.

  16. Paul H. says:

    I recommend Morris Berman’s “Coming to Our Senses” for an examination of the split between self & other, how it has developed in recent centuries (perhaps not for the first time), and how history shows examples of retaliation against attempts to re-somaticize human relations with the rest of creation—to directly experience reality rather than obediently follow the schemata & diktats of a society’s rulers.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Berman is not bad; but there are a host of others I would recommend before him. Check my Bookshelf, Paul H. And, I will look at that book from Berman right away. thanks, sandy

      • Ivy MIke says:

        A nice bookshelf! Although I have many of your books. I’ll be buying some more of your bookshelf choices. I have bought 17 linear feet of books in the last 18 months, and just installed a rolling library ladder and more 5/4″ hardwood shelves to keep my first wife happy and the heavy texts not sagging.

        Thanks!

    • Brutus says:

      I just reread Coming to Our Senses earlier this year, which is partially where my Aug. 13 reply to this thread came from. I’ve been recommending Berman periodically to Sandy, but our host here has his own preferred sources. I’d love to delve deeper into Sandy’s bookshelf, but alas, my reading list is already far too long for my limited time these days. For example, I’ve been slogging through Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary off and on for over a year, and what McGilchrists has to say about the long-term development of Western culture (not the Curriculum of the West) sheds quite a bit of light on issues we discuss here.

      • kulturcritic says:

        Brutus – It’s not like I can just pop into my nearby bookstore and pick up what I want. And then, when I am stateside, there is alot more I need to do than book shopping. But, I have read some Berman. He is not bad.

  17. Kenuck says:

    Just trying to get an abandoned refinery up this week..wish us luck!

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