Paterno-ism

Well now, look at that; they took down Joe Paterno’s statue from outside the Penn State Stadium.  Why?  To make themselves feel better about the culture of excess and abuse they have created and continue to nurture around this country daily?  Football – the commodified and commercialized sport of champions – has become the heroic denouement in this bone-dry graveyard of capital.  How many more of our children, and ourselves, will be sacrificed on this altar of consumption, greed and excess, grinding down our youth in order to enrich the wealthy and distract the Joneses?  But, perhaps, this is not the right question.  Maybe we should go back a bit further to understand why their All-American hero, the late coach Paterno, was thrown under the bus.  The truth is that there is nothing sacred in this world of commodities except money.  And, above all else, Penn State wants to insure its continued access to capital: investments, contributions, donations, or what have you.

Truth is that Joe did what Joe had to do to protect the sacred cow, the almighty dollar and the culture of make-believe it supports.  Yet, he did no more than what other great men and women of this perverse nation have done.  In fact, while his cover-up may have sacrificed some young men’s innocence, he certainly did not destroy as many young men’s lives as the armed forces does weekly and continuously, grounded in yet more questionable heroic missions based upon more profound lies, distortions and cover-ups. Nor was his action (or lack thereof) any more heinous than the continuous lies, distortions, dissimulations, and cover-ups that we get weekly from our national leaders, along with the CIA and other appointed operatives, including the Supreme Court.

So now, topping it all off, the boys at the top of the pyramid (the National Collegiate Athletic Association) have weighed in and made it clear that money is the sole driver in this contemporary morality play.  A sixty million dollar fine has been assessed against Penn State University for the failures of its hierarchy to correct and report such behavior, along with a four-year ban from all post-season play for the football program and the vacating of all “wins” by the Nittany Lions since 1998.  Boy, if that isn’t rewriting a small piece of cultural history to satisfy one’s collective sense of guilt and self-loathing then I don’t know what is.  Look, it is not as if I seek to justify Jerry Sandusky’s behavior appropriately adjudicated or not; in short, I have no dog in this fight.  But neither am I in the least bit interested in buying into the bullshit tales that they (those further up the hierarchy) spin to justify and rectify their cultural mythologies. The Penn State spectacle is simply a microcosm of this culture of deceit and deception and denial; and yet the real bullies and cheats and liars go unpunished, while they serendipitously find a scapegoat for their own disgusting displays of inhumanity and lack of compassion.

Our culture idolizes its sports figures and football heroes if not more than all others.  Yet, football itself is a scale model representation of the same hierarchization and commodification we find rampant in the larger society, from the owners and general managers on down the line through the quarterback and then those who do the real heavy lifting on the “front lines” of defense and offense. A clear chain of command, specialization, a focus on competition and winning, the inappropriateness of questioning authority (at least not publicly), always show a perfect expression to the audience; these are the virtues of the system, the same system that plays itself out in the domain of politics, law and business.  Even the apparent necessity of teamwork on the field (and in the factory) is strongly linked to specialization (everybody plays a well-defined role), a need-to-know mentality, and a public face suggesting that all parts are working together efficiently, like a well oiled machine, in order to achieve victory… conquer the enemy or destroy the competition.

Perhaps Joe, and some of the other grown-ups in charge out there just believed as they were taught, that the rules are forever maleable, especially in the interests of winning, alumni funding, and the historical record.  I don’t know that Joe was wrong in this assessment, if in fact it was how he rationalized the situation.  But, there were two problems with his conclusion, in any event.  He did not plan on the cat getting out of the proverbial bag; nor was he high enough up the ladder to snuff it out if it did.  Perhaps, a third issue that grew season after season… too many young men were evidently too involved with the genteel Mr. Sandusky.

You see Obama, Bush, Clinton,  Cheney, Thatcher, Reagan, et. al., they had/have the sort of clout to keep their shit (lies, obfuscations, cover-ups, dodges) out of sight and out of the press; much more clout than the “former” winningest Division 1 college football coach in history.  That’s right folks; just like that the history books are changed.  It is an object lesson for us about the recording of history in general… it is written and rewritten by the Generals!  Remember that the next time you crack open one of those approved history texts that your son or daughter carries home from school: it will not be like reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.  Buyer forever be wary!!  And perhaps that is the history book you ought to expose you and your child to — even at this, the eleventh hour!

And now that we have the Sandusky trial out of the way in the land of law and order, we can turn our full and undivided attention to the trial of that poor idiot who massacred the folks at the theatre in sleepy (or is that junked-up) Aurora, Colorado.  This jackass also took his own delusions of invincibility too seriously, thinking he could rewrite history with a gun.  Well perhaps he did rewrite his-story. Ironically, it seems he made history this week, while Joe now appears never to have existed.  Isn’t it comforting to know we are protected by the loving arms of the fatherland!

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50 Responses to Paterno-ism

  1. baja-desert-rat says:

    very pleased you mention Howard Zinn – I adore the gentleman (he died last year but he will always be with us, with his books and taped-interviews and documentaries. I have learned so much from him, more than from any history book or teacher.
    Best regards to all the folks here!
    Cheers
    b-d-rat

  2. “…protect the sacred cow, the almighty dollar and the culture of make-believe it supports” Wow, Sandy, that one snip of a line says volumes about the Curriculum of the West. I have said several times that the real god of the West, especially the US is the almighty dollar. Of course, I am immediately met with denial and hostility. Can’t expose the man behind the curtain and destroy the myth, can we? Even though the myth has brought the planet to the teetering verge of destruction…though some of us feel that its fallen off the edge. But lets keep the myth intact, even as the world melts in a burning purge, made by the greedy hands of man. As I write this, the talking heads of TV land are bloviating the myth that every thing will be OK, if “we” just do things their way, which from the mouth of Eric Cantor is “more of the same that got us into the mess, but it will protect the wealthy, and keep the myth covered in its tattered rags for just a bit longer, and I’ll toss out every threadbare platitude and sports metaphor to make it so” damn it…STOP looking at the man behind the curtain!! ….omg Sandy, he is now claiming that the US Constitution is a christian document and the nation is one nation under god! Talk about rewriting history!! OMG!! it’s way too late….I do believe they are at the wrong opera, and have the wrong libretto..cheers!!

    • kulturcritic says:

      I actually think Cantor is right about the founding documents in a twisted sort of way. They certainly were not constructed with the intent of suggesting a strongly religious sentiment; but the underlying maniacal tyranny of that founding lay in some fairly richly soaked christian soils. The abrahamic faiths have been working hand in hand with civilized political action for millennia.

      • Yeah Sandy, Eric is certainly a twisted soul…though his rant was they are specifically, emphatically christian, damn it! *laughing* Though he is facing some serious challenge in his district ..going to be an interesting election season in the US. I’ve always thought that “faith” was believing in something that you know isn’t true. No wonder those abrahamic “faiths” are so shrill and blood soaked…”don’t you dare look being the curtain or we will kill you”

  3. bmiller says:

    Good post this week. Deception does seem to be the “law of the land”. From the financial institutions to that the preoccupation with sports, celebrity and true crime, the inhabitants of this land seem hell-bent on deceiving themselves. Peak resources, destruction of the environment, collapse of accountability in the financial sector…. “What?”
    “Turn the channel back to Paris Jackson. Why does she treat her grandma that way?”

  4. Macrobe says:

    “the almighty dollar” is only one symptom of the ailment: power. If it isn’t money, it’s some other manifestation, tool, behavior. They all are wielded and employed for control and power. Or course we are perfectionists at deceit and denial. They are ends to the mean.
    You are good at peeling away the layers to reveal the raw squirming dirtiness, Sandy. We need more of that.

  5. derekthered says:

    “and yet the real bullies and cheats and liars go unpunished, while they serendipitously find a scapegoat for their own disgusting displays of inhumanity and lack of compassion.”

    man! that is one good diatribe! really, sincerely, most excellent. stopped at the smoke shop to get my cancers this morning, some network “news” show was on (with the politically correct, focus grouped tested, seasonally adjusted, poll driven “anchors”) and i was struck once again with the contrast between the glittery, happy face world of our financial capital/capitol and the common everyday grind that is the lot of most of the population.

    truly, we are not in kansas anymore.

  6. “Well now, look at that; they took down Joe Paterno’s statue from outside the Penn State Stadium. Why? To make themselves feel better about the culture of excess and abuse they have created and continue to nurture around this country daily?”

    (To hide their shame.)

    I don’t know why you’re so serious, Sandy. The Olympics are happening!

    (As to that, and the Aurora, we wary the FF)

  7. derekthered says:

    JEAN BAUDRILLARD – SYMBOLIC EXCHANGE AND DEATH – EXCERPTS
    PARIS, 1976
    …Reality itself founders in hyperrealism, the meticulous reduplication of the real, preferably through another, reproductive medium, such as photography. From medium to medium, the real is volatilized, becoming an allegory of death. But it is also, in a sense, reinforced through its own destruction. It becomes reality for its own sake, the fetishism of the lost object: no longer the object of representation, but the ecstasy of denial and of its own ritual extermination: the hyperreal.
    Realism had already inaugurated this process. The rhetoric of the real signaled its gravely altered status (its golden age was characterized by an innocence of language in which it was not obliged to redouble what it said with a reality effect). Surrealism remained within the purview of the realism it contested – but also redoubled – through its rupture with the Imaginary. The hyperreal represents a much more advanced stage insofar as it manages to efface even this contradiction between the real and the imaginary. Unreality no longer resides in the dream or fantasy, or in the beyond, but in the real’s hallucinatory resemblance to itself.
    Baudrillard, Jean. Symbolic Exchange and Death, originally published in Paris, 1976. Available: http://www.uta.edu/english/apt/collab/texts/symbolic.html

    is it any wonder? what we see happening in the world around us? i believe, check that, i know that the ruling class knows exactly what is real and what is not, and it is they who pull the levers and control the gears of the sophisticated propaganda apparatus that they own.

    • kulturcritic says:

      “It becomes reality for its own sake, the fetishism of the lost object: no longer the object of representation, but the ecstasy of denial and of its own ritual extermination: the hyperreal.”

      Of course, the “hyperreal” is the only appropriate correlate of a hyper-rational mind; an obsessive fixation on some idealized fantasy. And the ‘ecstasy of denial’ (great phrase) is a substitute for the ecstasy of the engagement of the natural lived-body-world.

  8. ninaXYZ says:

    Dead men tell no tales.

  9. Malthus says:

    And the universe said go forth and create business schools to roll out money centric zombie robots that believe that money is “The truth is that there is nothing sacred in this world of commodities except money.” And create a planet full of humans that really like to consume and make it their mantra. Then create a system where the consumers will run in circles looking for that all important item that will bring happiness and contentment. And they will be slaves to the concept of money and will be willing to hear lies and distortions. And we will call it HELL.

  10. kulturcritic says:

    “looking for that all important item that will bring happiness and contentment.”

    The “ecstasy of denial”… I think derekthered called it!!

  11. Disaffected says:

    Looks like you’ve hit another one out of the park… er, scored another game winning TD again this week Sandy. I watched in amazement earlier this week as Penn State did their best “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” routine right out in the open for all to see by pulling down the old demented guy’s statue and associated paraphernalia like it never even existed. Makes you wonder about the stories they’ll tell the future generations about the “lost years,” assuming the PSU football legacy is even salvageable at all at this point. “But daddy, what happened to cause all those “oh-fer” years and who was the coach? He must have been a REAL loser! Did they fire his sorry ass, or what?” “Those are the dark years Timmy, and you must never speak of them again. They are NEVER, I REPEAT NEVER, to be spoken of or inquired about EVER again to ANYONE! Do you understand me?” Yeah right, it’ll be interesting to see how that goes for ’em, kids being kids and all.

    Truth was, they should have had the good sense to fire the old guy long ago not because of his questionable(?) moral fiber, but because he was obviously well into advanced stage dementia by the time he gave it up and in all likelihood didn’t have the capacity to be responsible for much of anything beyond his own bodily functions, if that. But of course even that was all about the money that the legacy of having the all-time winningest football coach would provide, and when that payoff was no longer possible either – then poof! – Joe Pa was never really ever here at all. Revisionist history indeed! And the lessons conveyed from the University’s actions? Now there’s the TRUE beauty in this whole situation! Just as you so eloquently described above, pretty much diametrically opposed to the ones they actually intended. A better and more transparent living parable of the hazards of duplicitous amoral behavior the world has not recently seen. Talk about your “teachable moment!” And yet incredibly, all the “teaching” surrounding this incident will almost certainly focus on EXACTLY the wrong lessons! Just incredible, this house of mirrors we’ve constructed here in the “Land of the Fee and the Home of the (Debt) Slaves!”

    • kulturcritic says:

      “But of course even that was all about the money that the legacy of having the all-time winningest football coach would provide, and when that payoff was no longer possible either – then poof!”

      I would say that is hitting the nail on the head, DA!

  12. Mike Sosebee says:

    “Maybe we should go back a bit further to understand why their All-American hero, the late coach Paterno, was thrown under the bus. The truth is that there is nothing sacred in this world of commodities except money. And, above all else, Penn State wants to insure its continued access to capital”. The re-writing of history is done by academia and it’s long ago been co-opted and strictly controlled by the levers of capital hence the need to quickly stem the hemorrhage at Pen State.

    Thanks for bringing up Howard Zinn. The NY Times, America’s paper of record, initially declined to review “The Peoples History of The United States”. Recently in AZ it was being taught in “ethnic studies” programs hence the need to close those avenues of truth to the real people that struggle daily with crippling injustice and state mandated poverty. Howard Zinn was a great hero for truth but he paid a heavy price personally and financially for telling truth as did Chris Hedges who in 2003 was forced to resign from the NY Times for being critical of George Bush and the invasion of Iraq. Today he teaches prisoners in some of the America’s penal colonies American History. Like teaching slaves to read he surreptitiously sneaks in the truth by teaching Zinn’s “People’s History…” Many of the black inmates sit in abject horror as they learn for the first time that their light “mulatto” skin is evidence that “slave-owners blood course through their veins”. I had the opportunity to film Chris in Los Angeles last month. Here is a link to part one of three: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9QX21JwJF3k&feature=player_detailpage Today with the internet nothing is esoteric yet the level of lies and denial has only gotten larger as people unable to think critically are led by corporate media and corporate universities. Mike Sosebee

    • Disaffected says:

      Chris and Howard are both proof that, yes indeed, there definitely are living, breathing heroes still among us who are not afraid to actually live up to their ideals, and that further, we too can be one of them if we only live up to ours! Where there are now only a few, there will soon be many! By hook or by crook!

    • kulturcritic says:

      Hedges is always a great read, Mike. But I think he still believes in the system.

  13. Rade says:

    It is ironic, but not surprising that modern society is shocked by Paterno’s crime against those innocent young men, but fails to see that the entire sports-educational-industrial complex constitute an even bigger crime against the humanity of all those involved. That young boys are sodomized is horrific, but that young men and women are turned into twisted servants of the industrial machine bares little mention.
    Last night my wife’s godmother’s daughter was over for dinner. Over the course of conversation she described how her brother, who recently graduated from college with a “business” degree, had as his highest aim, a job with a “big corporation, where he can travel a lot.” She seemed embarassed by this, and my wife and I could only take that statement with an uncomfortable silence and a sense of sorrow.

    • Disaffected says:

      Sad to hear that. The illusion, quite understandably I think, still has some appeal for the young. It’s been sold to them for their entire lives, so I can completely forgive the young, especially of modest means, for buying into it (now the Ivy League off-spring of the hyper-rich I’m not so sure about!). Unfortunately, their bubble is about to be popped for once and for all in their lifetimes, and the moment of realization ain’t going to be at all pretty. The best we can do is live a better truth ourselves for them to follow. In the end, that’s all we can do for ANYONE really. BE the truth you want to see. Sounds trite, but everyone comes around to it eventually.

    • kulturcritic says:

      The shock of course is faked by the big guys; they know there is much worse stuff going on. Yet, all Paterno did was try to protect the program… the money bag.

    • Brutus says:

      Rade sez: my wife and I could only take that statement with an uncomfortable silence and a sense of sorrow

      We are all products of our conditioning, and as long as the American Dream, which is mostly about affluence, is sold and adopted as the good life (as opposed to, say, a life of service or moral restraint or balance or erudition or any number of other worthy goals), then of course the masses are going to adopt it. I no long take such obvious statements of effective brainwashing in silence and sorrow. I speak up and say that bill of goods was sold to me, too, but I did my best to resist it. Sometimes I’ve been more successful than others not building my life around money-grubbing, but at the least I recognize the charade for what it is.

      The Olympics just started, and it’s a little strange that sports have come in for such attack at this blog, when in their purest forms they’re admirable. It’s especially after sports are monetized (as with college programs and professional leagues) that corruptions are so clear. Performance enhancement through pharmacy is another clear corruption. When sport is just about going faster or shooting straighter or whatever goal is at hand, those efforts are worthwhile and absolute. Yet I noticed that swim races have flash pots erupting with flames periodically, as though the races themselves lack enough interest, drama, or pizzazz. The natural grandeur of the Olympics ends up degraded like some kind of barker’s attraction.

      • Martin says:

        The Olympics have been mega- and meta-monetized for decades – perhaps since the inception of the ‘modern’ games. Anyone who buys into the myth of the ‘pure’ and ‘amateur’ Olympic event and/or athlete is living in yet another parallel universe. But still, some of the events are interesting, at least, and certainly provide a grand diversion from the ‘coincidence’ of the US national election circus.

      • kulturcritic says:

        There has been no systemic attack on sports at this blog, Brutus. However, it appears that most competitive team spectator sports are heavily financed, hyper-spectacles that further work as diversionary tactics among the populace, much as the gladiator games served in the Coliseum back in the good old days. Furthermore, spectacles like the Olympics serve to further entrench the myopic views of nationalism and exclusivism, again turning us all into slaves of the visual over the experiential. Just a few random thoughts. sandy

        • Brutus says:

          You and Martin both appear to be under the impression that I’m defending sports across the board whereas if you read my comment you will see I have more to say about their corruption than their admirability. I still believe there are admirable qualities to sports activities, but they aren’t easily found in the professional ranks unless all that matters is skill level, which is admirable only on a technical and statistical basis. Those particular qualities of many diverse endeavors interest me much less than other qualities that stem from character and motivation.

          • Martin says:

            Didn’t think you were defending anything, Brutus – just replying to the idea of non-monetization in sports, especially the Olympics. Ask me to show you a ‘pure and unadulterated’ sport and I’d show you sandlot baseball (if such in fact exists anymore) or how about croquet or backyard frisbee golf?

      • javacat says:

        I’ve studiously avoided the Olympics this time ’round because of the pervasive nationalism and stupid medal counts, but I understand the degradation you describe. The producers don’t trust us to be spellbound by the simple act of the sport, the sheer beauty of the human form. Unfortunately, the commercialism and the cheesy profiles have been around a long time, even as most of us would prefer more events…even if the US isn’t a contender. I think there are few instances where pure sport–pure athleticism–occurs. Among the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico perhaps, who seem to run for the pure joy of it. Perhaps among children who still play or friends who are working together. Most organized sports, though, have become crammed into the doom tube of ‘winning is the only thing’ and are elevated, near adulated, ad nauseum, at all levels of competition. Which is a shame, really, for it creates such a false view of self and worth.

  14. robindatta says:

    “Buggar the faggots who don’t like football!”?

  15. Craig Moodie says:

    A great lyric from Blue Oyster Cult ‘Winning, it makes losers of us all’.

  16. James says:

    I met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of bronze
    Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
    And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    `My name is Paterno, King of Football:
    Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
    The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

    Sandusky has a dopamine addiction, probably developed during childhood, whose circuitry is not easily erased. Were his actions willful, a matter of judgment, or was he unfortunately placed too close (showers) to a stimulus he could not resist. In any case, the mob set upon them for their actions, as child sexual predators are seen as losers in the social hierarchy, where mature sexual rewards are reserved for those with bristling muscles, large pom-poms, and the appropriate dopamine circuits.

    The inquisitors have no remorse for their own perverse addiction to dopamine releasing violence as they swill their whiskey before the circus begins to magnify their enjoyment of the competitive smash and hit. The human species will be busy throwing each other under the bus for centuries to come as the competition for the remaining dopamine (fossil fuels) becomes intense and they’ll be screaming their mindless chant, “We’re number one, we’re number one”, as millions and perhaps billions die. That’s what life is all about, being number “one”. Poor hierarchical ape, your fate is determined.

  17. javacat says:

    Penn State is not the only one expunging associations with Paterno. His undergraduate alma mater, Brown University, has done the same: removing his name from a head coaching chair and an award given to a freshmen male athlete. (http://news.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/2012/07/brown-distancin.html). Some alumni see through the hypocrisy of the changes and are calling out the University for not distancing itself, say, from its Goldman-Sachs board members.

    Sandy, I think your take is perfect: PSU and Brown are acting in a pure panic of self-preservation–that is the preservation of popularity, of pride, of tuition dollars, sports television deals, etc. There is no loyalty except to propping up the facade and keeping one’s fanny out of the fire. The extortion of the NCAA is mind-boggling, and the notion that the organization is the keeper of morality is a farce. In an perverse twist, some with an interest are concerned that the humongous fine levied will lessen the chance (i.e. the payout) of suits by plaintiffs. But it all spins around the maypole of money.

    As for the rewriting of history: In the book War is Force that Gives Us Meaning, Chris Hedges describes how mosques were razed in parts of the former Yugoslavia during their violent struggles. After a generation or two, there’s no one to remember that the mosque had been there, and so, it never existed. These attempts to erase the memory, the presence of the hero who fell so far, are of the same desire. the denial of what was. And so are the efforts with the selective history of text books, of laws that forbid the teaching of climate science, a platform that would ban the teaching of critical thinking in schools. If we deny it, it doesn’t exist. Kind of like we never, as a society, developed object permanence.

    • kulturcritic says:

      It is stunning, is it not JC, how the central concern of the universities are with their corporate owners and wealthy donors. Like you said, the “maypole of money.” Excellent image!

      • javacat says:

        It seems nothing can survive without corporate sponsorship. The infection is epidemic: university research, politicians, Boston subway stations, Little League. University administrators feign sincere fairness when their primo donors or board of trustees are caught…say, playing with international interest rates (LIBOR anyone?) because the school has already banked on the cash.

        Adding to the drama? The NCAA has added of the gravitas of a senior statesman to oversee Penn State’s compliance with the draconian sanctions: http://tinyurl.com/Mitchell-PSU. No disrespect for the former senator, but I am rolling my eyes at the absurd posturing of the NCAA. When does the Greek chorus arrive?

  18. I can hardly believe that could have happened in Russia. A coach could’ve taught a 10-y.o. about how to drink vodka not about sex.

  19. cpopblog says:

    Great post! You’re spot on with this self-professed, and innately brutish, spectacle sport. Football, and many other franchised “professional” sports provide the perfect distraction and precept for abuse–the specific connection to the military is especially poignant, MASH anyone? (the movie that is). NBA is situated in similar assay of manipulation of class and race, and is in fact encouraged as an outlet for the otherwise underprivileged and opportunity-less, “make your fame in the Colosseum, make six figures and entertain the emperor and masses!” It’s as obvious as the day is long.
    As for the history books, my brother in a senior in high school and Zinn’s ‘Peoples History’ was required reading, in fact the staple of the curriculum, of his History of the America’s class. The pockets of dissent are growing swelling the eleventh hour. What’s that saying? Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
    Thanks again for a wonderful critique.

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