The Only Question: No Apologies Necessary

Well, a new whirlwind that had been brewing off the coast and heading towards the homeland, has now made landfall.  Is it a tropical storm, a hurricane, or perhaps just the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida?  Of course, we are familiar with all three phenomena.  Will this one be any different?  Of course not!  There will be lots of thunder and lightning. Many will get soaked or displaced in the downpour, others may die from boredom, the loss of an anchor, or simply crushed by the weight of all the uncertainty. Surely, the usual suspects will be rounded up, keeping the brown-shirts from homeland security busy throughout.  Perhaps the true believers among them will even supplicate their storm-god, Yahweh, to assist in the clean-up effort.

All the terrorists will be collected together under the small big-tent. Misfit Mitt, Paul Ryan, Ayn Rand, Rand Paul and Poppa Ron will all make their appearances, in person, if not epistemologically. Our own village idiot, Sister Sarah, is sure to make an appearance and throw a few bombs from the cheap seats in the back, or perhaps center stage. And, of course, there will be lots of cheering to complement the usual gnashing of teeth.  Hands will be wrung, dreams dashed, visions launched, passions released, backroom deals fixed, promises offered, and illicit sex in the VIP tents.  All while Yahweh threatens, as only he knows how, and Gaia moans under the yoke of yet another tragic human spectacle.

Unspoken presences will also make apparitional appearances, if only silently: Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, the Israeli Defense Minister, Iranian nuclear aspirations, four dead Hondurans, Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians, Libyans, Afghanis, and Iraqis. Even the current American hegemon, Barry Obama, will have his name offered up in ritual sacrifice to the god of guns and money.  No one is safe in the midst of such a spectacle.

The future of the American way of life will be in the balance, on center stage, and on trial.  Destroying the infidels and insuring the destiny of the greatest nation in the history of the planet, while safeguarding the wealth of the one percent, will be the constant, rhythmic, unfailing drumbeat.  And all the talking heads will be on hand, and on the air 24/7.  Fox, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC will all have people ‘on the ground’ to cover the drenching speeches, dissecting each word and thunderclap for our lazy and overweight democratic consumption.  Boy, isn’t freedom a wonderful thing.  Can someone just shut the fuck up already? (asks the boy from the Bronx)!

The unemployed, the homeless, the retired, the forlorn, the sick, the destitute, the disabled, the hanger-ons and the voiceless will remain voiceless.  The search for the Holy Grail – fossil fuel and a future free of welfare or reliance upon those terrorists in the third world – will be on everyone’s tongue.  “Full employment,” “a chicken in every pot,” and “let them eat cake:” these memes will figure prominently as the thunder rolls through.  There will be dancing and fighting in the streets; the first will be first; the last will be left to die.  And mother earth will have moaned and gasped yet again!

Perhaps you can tell that I am writing this in advance of the actual spectacle.  I am not making prognostications mind you; I am just ranting, as I have done on more than one occasion.  I have the right to be wrong, even in full-throated rant.  But we will see; and we can all play Monday morning quarterback. After all, we have been well trained to stand on the sidelines, cheer, and analyze the play-by-play.  So what’s new?

You may ask me, what is this all about, Sandy?  What exactly is the storm you are describing?  Is it a natural disaster or the manmade one?  Yet, that is not the proper question.  It may not even be the most important question.  The real question appears to be somewhat more elusive, somewhat less easy to articulate.  It is the one that concerns each of us personally, as individuals.  It concerns the issue of trust and the problem of belonging, amongst the anomie of post-industrial civilization and the relationships it engenders.

Let me ask you: who touches you? For whom is your life a primal concern? Who can you trust to watch your back? Have you surrounded yourself, or do you find yourself among those (or even with ‘the one’) who care for your welfare as much as they do their own?  It is not altruism that I am looking for here. It is the challenge of a genuine and profound engagement with the Other that concerns me today.  How does one find others (or a specific other) in whom to place their trust; how does one know he or she has found one?  That is my question.

It has been said that we humans are social animals.  If so, how does this basic sociability manifest itself?  Is it sated through participation in urban spectacles like the one described above: the political convention? Is it found within a tightly controlled military formation, the closely monitored corporate cubicle, the simple marital license, the local boy-scout troop, in the church of Christ, the Mosque, or somewhere skulking within the Jewish lawbooks?  Where is it hiding?  Someone tell me so I too can taste such satisfaction.

Is it possible even to find the correct answer in a world where the question can no longer be put properly?  Have we created an epistemological framework in which authentic relations with one another can never be established (or restored) because our focus on the self and selfishness is no longer adequate to feeling the Other, be it another human being, or the Otherness of an apparently objective and inanimate planet that nevertheless shelters and cares for us?  Rather, our sites seem set on the survival of the individual, in a hostile world where being right or being successful is more important than being loved.  Do we even know what we need, what we seek; or are we just mechanically channeling impulses provided by deep cultural expectations, our taken-for-granted assumptions about happiness or the meaning of life?

Martin Heidegger describes the phenomenon of “being-with” the Other as a fundamental aspect of the human condition; a dimension of our being human that pre-thematically includes the self within it.

By “Others” we do not mean everyone else but me – those over against whom the “I” stands out. They are rather those from whom, for the most part, one does not distinguish oneself – those among whom one is too. (Being and Time, p117)

Heidegger himself refers to the proper attitude characterizing the self’s relation to this Other, as one of ‘caring’ or ‘solicitude.’  Care, for Heidegger, emerges as the authentic human relation viz. a viz. the Other.

Hilary Clinton once hired a ghostwriter to help her pen a book called, It Takes A Village.  But perhaps it takes an entire tribe.  Maybe the lost tribe holds the key to our own sense of safety, security, love, belonging, and maturation.  I state this with no certainty about the answer.  I only speculate (there goes that spectacle again!), trying to locate the source of my own discomfort with the structure and types of relations we have constituted and have come to consider “normal” in our advanced urban, industrial, and competitive nation-state or empire.

Personal, social, and economic relations tend to reinforce one another, either towards healthy or pathological ends.  I believe we are living with the results of the latter.  I often speak with, or hear from, others who are also seeking sanctuary, love, understanding, and wholeness in this otherwise madhouse of anomie we call life in the modern civilized world.  To whom can we turn for comfort, respite, and rest: Mitt, Barack, Ayn, Aristotle, or Aquinas; your teachers, managers, neighbors, husbands, or wives; your children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren?  How and where are we connected, by what threads, invisible as they may be?  What bonds bind us to one another: a social contract, a state constitution, legal precedents, a marital agreement, a sense of guilt or obligation?  “Who am I to this person standing before me?”  And, “who is he or she to me?”  These are the most penetrating questions I can pose today.  What about you, my readers?

Where is Noah and his ark when you need him?  Or, are we just waiting for godot?  We need to find a way to reconstitute our mutual relations upon a radically different foundation; not one based upon legal necessity or economic convenience, upon winning and losing, but upon a basis of mutual trust and loyalty, grounded in real care – founded upon consanguinity and genuine, transparent affinity.  But this can only happen if we recognize that I am the Other, and the Other is me. This rigidified shell of selfhood, this state of hyper-individuality that we now worship, must be breached if we are to recover that space to stand out, that ek-stasis, the ecstasy of being-there-with-the-other.  But wouldn’t you know it. Paul Ryan has all the answers… the only problem is we cannot trust any of it, nor would we. Lying in this culture is pathological at all levels because the Other has become a mere object, a hurdle to be overcome.

45 Responses to The Only Question: No Apologies Necessary

  1. Lost Arrow says:

    There’s a storm a’comin’, no? When that proverbial “something” starts to give. Witness the smarmy, manipulated/manipulating, thoroughly bought false kinship and false consanguinity asserted in America today by political parties, religions, sports fans, and other dysglomerations. Read the bumper stickers and SUV window decals that say it all, nay, shout it to whomever happens to be following you on the highway or down the strip:

    Honk if you love Jesus!
    Support the troops!
    Red Sox Nation!
    My other car’s a Porsche
    My other car’s a bike
    We are the 99%
    South of the Border
    This Car Climbed Mt. Washington
    Your dogma ran over my karma
    IKTHYS

    Such yearning for kinship, unrequited! So empty and ultimately unfulfilling. Such anger and disappointment in the aftermath, when the promises are not kept.

    OccupyMBA!

  2. Dean says:

    One is the loneliest number and the only one!!

  3. Disaffected says:

    Great post again this week Sandy. You really seem to have focused in like a laser beam lately on some core issues underlying the social rot that’s infected the west.

    My personal social eliminator test is an easy one to apply, although it unfortunately (or is that “and it fortunately?”) eliminates the bulk of the candidates I meet. I call it the smart phone test. Arrange a “date” or other personal encounter with the prospective candidate where the expectation should be a one on one encounter where the both parties are at least pretending to give the other their full and undivided attention. A lunch, a dinner, a night out, an exercise session, whatever, but something outside of the immediate working environment if it’s during work hours or any other obvious social distractions.

    Then simply watch and wait. For most you won’t have to wait long, usually more than a few seconds. If the smart phone comes out immediately (or more likely was out from the start), eliminate them. Now if you think they’re worth the trouble you might ask them if what they’re doing is so important they can’t just please turn it off for the few minutes you’ll be interacting, but I’ve found that’s usually not necessary. Body language usually gives most of the connected people away immediately, as they don’t seem to merely respond passively to their electronic life control device, they actually seem to worship it as a religious totem. Depending on their behavior, I start out by belittling their childish addiction to their electronic tether, then escalate to simply walking away without an explanation shortly thereafter if they persist. Sad that it has to come to that, but a very effective time saving measure when it comes to prospective relationships otherwise.

    • kulturcritic says:

      DA, You and I seem to be swinging from the same branch right now; but I still enjoy a small amount of alcohol every day (well at least 6 days a week) to escape the cacophony. I love this phase from you comment. Boy have you hailed that one!! Thanks, DA!! “they don’t seem to merely respond passively to their electronic life control device, they actually seem to worship it as a religious totem.”

      • Disaffected says:

        KC,
        Hint, hint, I’m not “strictly religious” about abstinence from alcohol either anymore. In the course of my recent journey I re-learned that alcohol was indeed a “crutch” for me in dealing with my assorted problems, most of which are self-imposed due to my continued addiction to the REAL problem – an addiction to American dollars and the life-style they continue to enable for those of us privileged merely by virtue of their birth into the American first world west at a unique point in history – albeit at the eternal price of personal integrity. I’ve learned this lesson before a few times, and I had to relearn it again a little more painfully this time, but I STILL remain hopeful that in the end I will finally “get it” in this lifetime.

        In the end my friend, it’s our addictions that define us, even more than they undo us, and it was only through my first “formal” treatment for this long time addiction that I FINALLY began to see through the illusions that were plaguing me all along. I had some VERY well meaning counselors and mentors, all of which have been down the very same road I have (hint: that’s the current vogue for all rehab counselors), all of whom I still know and stay in contact with daily. VERY good people! Nonetheless, deluded and on their own personal “vision quest” as well, as are we all.

        My lessons learned from my recent and ongoing experiences? It’s back to basics baby! Yours and my personal “demons” vary all over the map and are literally (and ideally) undefinable going in. Power (which encompasses money and wealth) and prestige are the basics in the western mindset, and directly reflected in our religions. However, what I’ve come to realize, and this is the TRUE “aha!” moment, is that what the TRULY “advanced soul” desires is very simple: TOTAL AUTONOMY, at least as defined in a very narrow personal sense. Or TRUE “freedom,” as romanticized in the US Constitution.

        BUT, of course, that total autonomy comes with a price. Which means you have to be willing to walk away from all the popular conceptions of what is “right” and “proper” in the current environment (especially!), and go your own way TOTALLY and without regret. Kind of like what some mythical character named Jesus was have alleged to have said (INDEED, the TRUE meaning of the Jesus myth is that you have to be willing to walk away from your OWN LIFE on principle if necessary!), but which has since been lost in the subsequent historical distortion of mere dogma and official “religion.”

        In the end, should you and I worship a “saviour” of some sort? My answer is: INDEED we should! And where pray tell would I go to find him/her, you ask? To which anyone who truly knows would simply reply: in the mirror my friend, in the GOD-DAMNED mirror!

        Oh, by the way, it occurred to me during my walk today (6 hours, 42 minutes; EXTREMELY hilly, PLUS a dog bite just for fun!) that I think I need to trade mark the term Electronic Life Control Device (ELCD). Fuckin’ A! Wouldn’t THAT be rubbin’ it in TPTB face? LOL in extremis!

        • kulturcritic says:

          Dear DA – you are certainly one of a kind. And I am pleased to call you friend. Your writing is trenchant and evocative. I love reading your comments. The demons are many, but have sprung from common roots, I think. We agree. I do not know that the ‘savior’ is to be found in the mirror; it seems to me a contradiction. But, you are correct, the current Church is certainly a surrogate for empire in extremis. We should in IMHO never worship anything; idols can be enslaving. Rather, we should live life as a sacred obligation to nature, to others, to ourselves. Not the lonely individual, but the engaged hunter is the model for the best life. sandy

        • kulturcritic says:

          BTW – I am glad to know you still enjoy a bit (the greeks said, everything in moderation). One day, DA, I am certain we shall have the opportunity to tip one together. sandy

    • Ivy Mike says:

      RE: The Smart Phone Test

      That was great! I’ve never had even a cell phone, and was to a small party around a campfire last weekend. I mentioned this fact, and out came the evangelists with their smart phones! But at least I wasn’t being ignored; nay, I was being proselytized. 🙂

  4. derekthered says:

    lonely hours will be your doom

  5. Tom says:

    Being a caregiver for a spouse with dementia (who was a formerly popular schoolteacher) gives one a very close reading on community and society in the USA. This is not a good place for the weak to exist; nor is it a safe place for the Samaritan to slow down and help.
    I am going to get no approval unless I turn her into GDP by disappearing her into a nursing home/concentration camp and begin consuming again.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Understood, Tom… keep trying. sandy

    • Disaffected says:

      Tom,
      Understood, and I’m very nearly in a similar predicament with an elderly parent. Nonetheless, my outlook was recently improved by a caregiver I recently met at work, who unfortunately for her at least, moonlights as a caregiver in the elderly oriented Condo complex in which I live, in addition to her regular rather more well paying duties as a cleaning contractor at the corporate place that I work. She’s an amazing woman, about my age, 1st or 2nd generation MEXICAN, and she never EVER complains about her “lot in life.” UNBELIEVABLY upbeat all of the time. Can you POSSIBLY imagine THAT? Yes, there IS hope in the days ahead, albeit seemingly impossibly small at this time. By the way, my mom just HATES those “illegal Mexicans.” Little does she know…
      DA

  6. Rene says:

    The boy from the Bronx is one of the very few Americans who goes out of his way to show the rest of the World that there are some real men left in America. An American with a sense of honour, dignity, self-respect, love and caring! A man who is sticking out his neck to inform and awaken the American public. But ABOVE ALL, despite his knowledge and foresight, still has some room left in his brain to remember his high-school physics classes!

    • kulturcritic says:

      De Groot?? From Clarkstown? Was it Ellen or Rene? I cannot remember. Do I have the right idea here. Or have I lost my mind? Please reply. And thanks for the kudos!! sandy

      • Rene says:

        Grotius. From Amsterdam. Rene.

        Are you in the right frame of mind? 🙂

        All the best, Sandy!

        • kulturcritic says:

          I know you are on my moderate list. So I am in the wrong frame of mind, obviously. But why high school physics?

          • Rene says:

            WTC 7… how is it possible that it collapsed within its own footprint in 7 seconds, not being hit by an airplane?

            The official story by NIST is completely debunked, but characters like Chomsky, Hedges, Kunstler seem to go with that line without raising a single question of doubt. I have invested dozens of hours going through their books/articles, they are the ones being intellectually dishonest, and therefore, they are the ones who should be kriticized.

            • derekthered says:

              there’s all sorts of strange things in you tube universe, search “strange sounds heard around the world”, pretty soon it’s the annunaki and the illuminati batlling it out for control of the universe…………..
              or perhaps the flux transfer event is more your cup of tea
              http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/30oct_ftes/
              now for something completely different?

              “sounds of the planets” gets you pretty much all of them, which is a roundabout way of addressing your comment, it doesn’t matter, that’s their story, and they are sticking to it.

              now the strange sounds? who knows? could be beets, could be peaches, who cares? just cause it’s free don’t mean it’s no good…………
              fracking? destabilizing the bedrock so the surface sings? pole change anyone? the hardcore go on about ley lines and power centers, maybe they’re right.
              nah, the ruling clas wil do whatever they want, what’s scary is the general ignorance of the people, or not……..

              in the long run i believe if we have any descendants when the next ice age hits , they will be cursing us and other generations for squandering all the fuel. the die is pretty well cast, most people just want in on the good thing.

  7. derekthered says:

    “How does one find others (or a specific other) in whom to place their trust; how does one know he or she has found one? That is my question.”

    how do you find the one? dunno, i haven’t mastered that one yet, but i suspect it is just a numbers game, and we have lots of numbers. how do you know you have found the one? easy, the one you can get along with, the one who for whatever reason wants to get along, who just wants a pleasant life. i am reminded of jimmy stewart and doug mclure in “shenandoah”

    don’tcha know you can learn everything from the movies?

    • Ivy Mike says:

      @Sandy:

      You’ve got such good people here.

      @derekthered:

      An outstanding movie!

      Jimmy Stewart’s prayer at the dinner table is especially good too 🙂

      Lord, we cleared this land.
      We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it.
      We cook the harvest.
      It wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be eating it
      if we hadn’t done it all ourselves.
      We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel,
      but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we’re about to eat.
      Amen.

      • derekthered says:

        why thank you, here we have the state versus the individual

        i especially like where he says “without the sweat of one slave”, he told that johnny reb off proper! but the final question? i guess you bury them. james stewart could show controlled rage like no other, i don’t think i would have wanted to tangle with him.

        to the larger question of american politics, the gop is just about as full of shit as a christmas turkey, to them the class struggle just does not exist, this is no surprise. the donkey is more troubling as their message is much more subtle, but every bit as bankrupt. we have had 50 years of a “war on poverty”, but the working class is really no better off, why not? because w/o changing the basic equation the ruling class will give with one hand and take away with the other. the democrats seem to insist on us believing that 2+2=5. we have bernanke ready to “stimulate” the economy again, which will mean inflation. now, i do not favor seizing the means of production, then we would exchange one set of overlords for another. i would favor limits on profits for corps., the repeal of corp. personhood, outlawing of derivatives, limits on commodity speculation, structural changes which would put a leash on the beast, but these reforms have about a snowballs chance in hell; sure haven’t heard our most gracious emeperor obomber mention anything of the sort.

        of course none of this political stuff addresses the sort of issues sandy brings up, which is why i type here rather than somewhere else, because this is where the action is, and i like to think of myself as a happening type of guy. nah, it’s gonna take a sea change for sanity to come back around, and at least people here are asking the right questions.

      • kulturcritic says:

        Ivy Mike – Yes, I know! And you are one. sandy

    • cpopblog says:

      Thanks for this

    • kulturcritic says:

      Everything 😉 the American way!!

    • javacat says:

      Hadn’t seen this in decades…And after letting it sit awhile, this lovin’ and likin’ stuff makes more and more sense. There’s always more below the surface in Stewart’s characters.

  8. Disaffected says:

    Back to the thrust of the post, for once I managed to totally avoid the drama of the GOP convention. This had been building for some time, but somehow the total non-drama of a Romney-Ryan non-nomination clinched it for me. These guys are simply non-news right from the git-go. Yet another in an endless series of non-events in a run up to another non-eventful holiday season marking yet another non-ending to yet another non-eventful year. Yawn!

    And the alternative? Another not quite white liberal posing as another not quite alternative to a not quite legitimate status quo, for allegedly not quite legitimate reasons.

    And I’m supposed to almost legitimately care because why? Because I almost legitimately care about the health and welfare of countless of millions almost legitimate first world children born into almost legitimate first world countries based on the almost legitimate robbery of GENUINELY legitimate riches stolen at the point of a gun from GENUINELY legitimate people working GENUINELY legitimate land using GENUINELY legitimate labor?

    And exactly WHAT about this process am I expected to LEGITIMATELY feel good about?

    • derekthered says:

      “the almost legitimate robbery of GENUINELY legitimate riches stolen at the point of a gun from GENUINELY legitimate people working GENUINELY legitimate land using GENUINELY legitimate labor?”

      yup, and the fruits of that labor will be shipped around the world on container ships spewing pollutants into the atmosphere; and when the cats-paws of the corps. (here i am speaking of that obomney feller) take to the stage they will parrot the same line about the global economy. meanwhile the big rigs will be out on the highways tonight rushing all the goodies to your local big box store, all the while burning diesel, so that american consumers can jump into their SUV’s and spend their scrip.

      i have two teevees, they are both crts (use less power than the big screens), i laid out $210 for the both of them, and when one breaks i will have one. i do love to watch some movies, can you tell? but as for any programming/ PBS is hardly watchable anymore.

      nope, i can’t vote in this election, i have seen war for near 50 years now, starting with cronkite on the evening news. i don’t see an end to the madness.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Not too much, I’m afraid/

  9. ” We need to find a way to reconstitute our mutual relations upon a radically different foundation; not one based upon legal necessity or economic convenience, upon winning and losing, but upon a basis of mutual trust and loyalty, grounded in real care – founded upon consanguinity and genuine, transparent affinity”

    Here here!

    At first I thought this post would be fluff being written pre-event (and posted after?), but you’ve proven me wrong and you succinctly summarized the dilemma we face.

    The irony of the spectacle is that we are searching for belonging in abstract, non-transparent, non-consanguine and ultimately false institutions like political parties at all – and at a larger level states/nations/’the planet.’

    I think this may stem from our very alienation from our families at a young age, for one reason or another. Some postulate that this has been the aim of malthusians and social planners for centuries since the first kindergartens and social theory were founded, but isn’t it true that one cannot ‘make’ a man and a woman conceive – and so the parents should be responsible for the ‘belongingness’ of their child from the get-go far more than we dare to expect today?

    I am not entirely sure of the whole nebulous (and intentionally so) idea of a pre-modern tribe as a requirement for belonging, and participating in the Other. Don’t you guys think that we are falling into the trap of over-intellecualizing through infinite description a rather straightforward concept?

    Rather isn’t it true that we are right now compensating for at least some of our feelings of disunity and separation from It through spontaneously formed and genuine internet communities – whose bonds are – despite their lack of consanguinity and ‘tangibility’ – still far more genuine than those between, say, you local grocery store bagger and yourself? And would you really say nought of all of your spiritual and intellectual affinities, and heroes you’ve aspired to and villains you’ve fought against are part of a framework that spontaneously formed for you..precisely because it was required? Isn’t this community and others like it an outcropping of the need for the Other themselves?

    So I think that what is important is that formed bonds is required and it must be done, rather than how, even if it fails to be done in the most beneficial and genuine and immediate way. After all, which is preferable – the tender love of a mother, or the brutal logic of a gang? Men will rarely shun the latter if denied the former, and sufficient intellectual freedom/opportunity to form bonds of a less vicious kind.

    For this kind of reason I think that it is a pointless exercise to postulate on the possible outline of a possible ‘best kinship’ scenario, but rather important instead to remove the vicious and fearful aspects of humanity that shackle our ever-Other-seeking- hearts from the very outset. maybe all we can do is sculpt our lives that way, and spread that message. I genuinely do not think that is rational to believe that well-oriented individuals, not abandoned and abused already, would form vicious and bloodthirsty militaries and institutions of deceit like states and churches. To try and wonder about our nature and its relation to where we are, and where we should be is to deny the blackened roots of our civilization.

    So I guess what I’m suggesting is an ahistorical view of human nature, and instead a taking into account of the immediate roots of the illusory and manipulated guise of modern civilization, and those who fall prey to it again and again. What we need is not a revolution but a new planting.

    • cpopblog says:

      To You

      Bravo! This post was deeply inspiring and provoking, it certainly makes one wonder what part the spectrum our own consanguinity and awareness is. I worry about how much this awful madness has left an indelible impression on me, I am not old enough to have that little vaccination scar on my upper arm, that I always see on people of my parents generation. Yet, what inner marks do I carry, dormant, and gnawing and scarring my own consciousness?

      Forgive me for saying this but I honestly believe we will not know the answer to your question Sandy, until the moment we as individuals are forced to. And collectively as well we must suffer our own trial by fire that lets us all know who are real friends really are. ‘Shenandoah’ is an apt example for the Civil War was perhaps the last time Americans truly reaped what they had sown and were forced to make a decision, decide which side of history they were on, or just decide how they were going to live amidst a living hell. However, it is never that simple. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. remarked in his diary of the Civil War that many soldiers accustomed to shooting squirrels back home slowly grew accustomed to shooting people as well, a very small adjustment to an otherwise ‘normal’ behavior. Likewise the Civil War in reality was not political, it did not have boundaries–it was total, and as we know the ‘real war’ has never made it into the history books. Only this totality of experience can separate those who are capable of consciousness with the Other and our planet, and those who have lost their consciousness. For those not already experiencing it, the moment is nigh.

      Often when I speak to me people on the street, or meet new friends or just look at a stranger I wonder what will become of them when the time comes, when their world turns completely upside down. Many will suffer nervous breakdowns and become raving mad (those that aren’t already there), others may go rogue, leaving there past selves only to cascade into nihilistic survival (if that is not a contradiction in terms). Others I feel will regain their true selves and will be capable again of living with and for each other. First we must feel the burden of this storm wrap on our own lives on a deep personal level – ‘through doors—bursting in ruthless force, into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation; Into the school where the scholar is studying,’ However, even Whitman knew when to pause…

      ‘Stranger if you passing meet me, and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?’

    • kulturcritic says:

      As long as we use digging sticks, and not plows! Glad you plugged into the meaning of the posting VL! sandy

  10. Tom says:

    Interesting that Disaffected should mention a Mexican woman. Many traditional Mexican women have the carinosa quality he is describing.

    This week’s article had be thinking about Mexico while I was reading it and off and on through the day. Mexico is where I began to re-evaluate what I knew about trust. (All my experience is prior to the Mexican 2006 elections and the war on drugs. I would guess things are worse now.)

    The walls, the closed steel doors, the peep holes….yet I often found strangers to be decent and caring once you made personal conversation. Sometimes I would go to a village in Oaxaca and ask people about the next village 2 miles away, and they would say it was dangerous, the people were not good, it was not safe to walk there, etc. Then I would go to that next village and ask the same question about the last village, and get the same response. Who could you trust? Family, for sure, then extended family, the web of padrinos and extended family-like obligations, people from your village (often related in further out ripples), and after that trust tapered off quickly. Who don’t they trust: the federal government, state government, and municipal government – in descending order, and of course strangers. There’s who you know, and who you don’t know. Baptisms, communions, confirmations, and weddings all involve padrinos which extend relationships with implied obligations. Additionally, people in a village may take on expensive obligations to be the caretaker of a particular saint for year, which includes paying for a large fiesta on the feast day of that saint. It may take 10 years of saving for the expenses involved, and people apply years in advance and wait for that honor. I was at one where the woman involve had taken on an obligation for the benefit of her toddler son. At the end of the year she was expected to do 4 sequential afternoon-long fiestas (turkey, goat, pork, and chicken). I was at the last day’s chicken fiesta. There were at least 70 invited people who by implication were obligated to reciprocate in some way in the future. In a way she was buying insurance for her son. These webs of obligation substitute for untrustworthy government institutions. Inside these webs of trust people will do things for you. They often find it impossible to charge you because you are like family. A woman made a bridesmaid dress for my daughter without charging us because we had done something for them.

    In Mexico there are many accounts of people dying of a broken heart. I know a woman whose sister died of broken heart at age 20. The wonderful Cancion Mixteca (Mixtec Song) says “I want to die of sadness” for being far away from the rural home-earth of one’s birth. One’s soul blows life a leaf in the wind. The wonderful, beautiful Lila Downs sings it back in her home state of Oaxaca alternately in Spanish and Mixteca.

    Many Mexicans have a terrible fear of dying far away from their rural village. Friends and strangers will pool a lot of money they don’t have to ship the body back.

    Not to be missed, to counter the agricultural aggression of genetic engineering, Lila Downs has created a new song honoring the sanctity of corn, the miracle of the earth, and the women whose hands convert it to nourishment. Again she is in Oaxaca, this time in a Zapotec village.

    A beautiful detail in language – popcorn is called palomitas (little white doves).

  11. John Bollig says:

    sandy,

    the age of contraction is upon us. What nust give first ? The largly nonexistant safety net, of course. All of those who are unworthy of life to the ovens. My thinking is that people lost that sense of community many years ago.

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