Blog Archive

Friday, May 29, 2009

On Genius

"Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth - more than ruin - more even than death... Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man."

Bertrand Russell

"When a true genius appears in this world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him."

Jonathan Swift

"Gifted" children.

My eldest son is in first grade at the local public school.
A precocious child, he is already showing signs of boredom...and overreaches, on occasion, with his choice of books to read.
The Gifted and Talented Program in Texas says that it includes kids all the way down to Kindergarten in it's screenings.
What I have gleaned from the process is that K through second grade are screened using the third grade's criteria.
This leads to kids who are above their grade level, but not quite 2 grade levels above their own being passed over.
I haven't determined how this works beyond third grade...but so far, I'm not all that surprised.
I was a precocious child, some 30+ years ago...and in my experience, "gifted" children are viewed as anomalous...almost a variety of mental retardation (or whatever we're labelling those on the "short bus" these days).
Outside the Norm, in a system that is set up, almost exclusively, for those that fall within the Norm.
I'm sure things have improved since I was a kid, but it remains one of my greatest fears...that my kid will fall through the cracks...just like Dad.( with all the coincident problems and psychological issues)

America has a problem with smart people.
They scare folks.
Ask all kinds of uncomfortable questions.
Say things that nobody understands...or worse, misinterprets.

Our culture gives lip-service to the need and necessity of having smart folks among us, but on the ground, things are not so rosy.
On the one hand, Genius is encouraged to excell.
On the other, they are (surrepticiously) encouraged to sit down and shut up, act "normal"...hide their light under a bushel-basket.
At the same time, all the various programs in place to help and foster the young Geniuses among us are inundated with millions of parents who are just sure that their precious child should be included in the Genius ranks.

Too many times, this is simply not the case; Little Johnny/Jane does NOT rise to that level...few, after all, do.
But to exclude Johnny/Jane leads to wounded pride and hurt feelings, which are anathema to our current educational regime.
The outrage and gnashing of teeth has it's result...and the programs that were set aside for real Genius are inundated and watered down with "almost " Genius....or even worse, with idiot children of the rich.
Thus, I understand the position the testers and evaluators are in...a very unenviable one.
This shouldn't be an excuse,however.
The problem is systemic..running right through our entire culture.
And, in the end, I don't think it's an accident.

Genius is scary.
I fear that it is especially scary to those who sit at the top of the heap in our society.
The Parasitical Elite can't afford too many folks who think.
Someone might figure out their ruse...that we don't really need them.
That the whole edifice of Modern Western Society is pathological.

Can't have that.
Hence the long term "dumbing down" of the poulation...and the "inefficiencies" in the screning process that lead to the above scenario.
A Grand Conspiracy is not needed.
Just defund things that work, fund things that don't...and keep everybody fighting amongst themselves.
Keep them bickering about small injustices and perhaps they won't notice the large.


The result is the same, no matter if it's an accident, or an on purpose accident...
Kids who possess real Genius are marginalised, labelled as wierd by their peers, by turns as "underachieving", then as "problems", by the educators.
Some manage to get through without an inordinate amout of trauma...go on to College and Grad School and productive careers.
But how many fall through the cracks, and end up as suicides, drunks and crazies?
What Einsteins and Leonardos have we lost, these past 100 years?
And all because of the "normal" folk's fear and loathing and envy of the "Tall Weeds" that stick up from the mown field?

"There is in every madman a misunderstood genius whose idea, shining in his head, frightened people, and for whom delirium was the only solution to the strangulation that life had prepared for him."

Antonin Artaud, of Van Gogh

Amfortas and tech

My older stuff is on another blog,
...I forgot the password, this, newer, one is a continuation of the old...a YEAR later.
Not that tech-savy, I'm afraid...just make it up as I go along.

GM (Goliath Motors) and the Small Stone of Reality

GM (Giant Motors), and the Stone of Realty

So the Big 3 in Detroit are on the edge of Bankruptcy...and the Right is crying about Socialism....and the Evils of Unions and "Legacy Costs".
For almost 100 years, the Big 3 have been active in stamping down competition, alternative fuels and public transportation.
They have been at the forefront, the pinnacle , of the idea of "Too Big To Fail" and it's correllary, "Corporate Socialism".
During various periods, when the Right got caught out going too far, they were forced to give ground to the workers...the origens of these "Legacy Costs".
This is code for Health Care and Pensions.
One would think, that once they made a deal, a binding agreement with the Unions/workers, that they would do everything in their power to make those systems efficient and cost effective.
The Big 3 did just the opposite.
Turns out, even after 100+ years of Anti Marxism, Red Baiting Propaganda, that the Corporate World long ago developed Class Conciousness".
It seems that the Bosses looked at Big Pharma, Big Insurance, HMO's and all the other advocates of a For Profit Healthcare System, and saw Fellow Travellers.
Instead of looking at their obligations and saying, "Hmmm...perhaps since we are now obligated to pay for Healthcare...a For Profit System is not something that will be good for us in the long run."....
They saw the other tentacles of the Machine and saw "folks" like themselves.
And decided to stick with them, and the Ideology that bound them....namely "Free Market Fundamentalism" and "Reaganomics", "Trickle Down" and 'VooDoo".
Problem is, that the fundamental flaws and fallacies of this Ideology are now popping up everywhere.
Reality is intruding into their Sytem.
Turns out that Marxists have been right about some things.
All those Bad Liberals have been right.
Now, we hear moaning from the Right about Socialism...GM is "Too Big To Fail", on one hand.
On the other, turns out that Big Government is the Lender of Last Resort.
To keep GM from failing, and taking the rest of the economy with them, Government has to step in with $$$...and rightly take a controlling interest in the running of the company...including firing CEO's.(the Horror...)
After all, if you put up cash, even that printed by yourself, to buy a "controlling interest" in a given company, would you not expect to thereby exert some control?
The Right is tied in knots trying to reconcile these Dichotomies.
Single Payer Health would ameliorate the Legacy Costs.
If it's So Big It Can't Fail, and the Gooberment takes "Control", the Gooberment is in control.
If another arm of the Machine, the Banks, Brokers,and other Weasels of Wall Street, had not been given Cart Blanche in instituting Ponzi Schemes with Pension Funds, perhaps the costs involved in maintaining those funds would be more manageable.

This issue, of the Big 3, is being looked at...even by what passes for the "Left" in this country....looked at in a narrow, piecemeal fashion.
If one steps back, and looks at the Whole, it's all of a piece.
It is yet another failure of the Free Market Fundamentalists of the Reagan Revolution...
The Right have Revolved themselves into a hole...and expect us, the people, to bail them out...but with no oversight, and no ultimate penalties for those whose Ideology and shortsightedness and Greed engineered this fiasco in the first place.

Perhaps we should unBan Marx.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

on torture

Since my first "political awakening", in the middle of Reagan's second term, I have often heard lamentations regarding America's supposed loss of Morality, separation from God and our ,alleged, "slouch toward Gomorrah".
In all cases, these indictments were in reference to queers, abortion, Communism, hippies, or Secular Humanists. The Idea, almost exclusively from the Right Wing of American politics, was that, because of our collective immorality...or our tolerance of immorality...God had, or soon would , abandon us.
Politicians and televangelists preached ceaselessly about the consequences of the purported eviction of God from the public sphere, the banning of Prayer in public schools, and the various wages of Sin we would soon bear if we continued on this immoral path.
Now, in 2009, these same , Holier-than Thou folks are all over every news channel attempting to justify Torture, and other War Crimes.
...and the feeling I've had these past 8 years has solidified into conviction:
I am, for the first time in my life, Ashamed to call myself American.

The City on the Hill, the Last Best Hope of Mankind, the country that bills itself as the bastion of Liberty and Morality, and an example of both among nations, has abandoned it's lofty place.
As Mr Cheney, and friends, are all over TV, their fear on full display, I think about "the Home of the Brave", and wonder what happened. Are we so afraid of our "enemies" that we must resort to tactics used by Nazis and North korea?
Are our Founding Ideals so weak, that they must be put aside for mere "safety"?
I had believed, and fervently hoped, that the country of my birth was stronger and more courageous than that...that our collective Will was up to the challenge that terrorism presented.
It seems that we are not up to the challenge...we areinstead, cowards.

Now, the ends justify the means.
Now, we must abandon our Founding Ideals (like due process...) , because the previous Administration failed to heed the warnings that terrorists were "on the way".
Because of that failure, we are no longer the City on the longer the Last best Hope of Mankind. It seems that our Treaty Obligations, the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture,(let alone our own Founding Documents), all these things are mere paper. And the Ideals and Solemn Vows therein are to be abrogated and ignored when Fear so dictates.
In the future, when other nations employ "harsh interrogation techniques" against members of our own Armed Forces, or any other Americans, we must sit silently by.
We have given up our right, morally and legally, to protest.

What a sad, sad commentary on the state of Our Union.
I weep for what my country has become.We have become a Pariah.We are hated , around the world, for the things that have been done in our name.
Many persons I know don't care about that, and would call me a Traitor, UnAmerican or suggest that I "love it or leave it".

I counter these sentiments by stating, categorically, that. No, it is you, the apologist for Torture, who have destroyed my country.It is you, not I, that has brought us to this low , shameful state.
America is supposed to hold itself to a higher standard...a nation ruled by Law, not Men....A Nation that does what is Right, even when it hurts, or may be dangerous...a Nation that favors Justice over Expediency.
By engaging in what are, by definition, War Crimes, we have become what we have always fought against:An Hegemon, an Evil Empire, astride the globe, beyond the Rule of Law and immune from Justice.

It seems that those who hollered the loudest, back then, about our immorality were right...although for the wrong reasons.
It wasn't Queers, or Illegal Immigrants, or Dope Smoking Liberals, or Commies that made us immoral.
It was self described Patriots, cowering in fear behind a Red White and Blue curtain of overwhelming military force, who brought us here.Our Fear has led us to tolerate Evil to be done in our name.
And now, those who did these Evil deeds, as well as those whose fear still adheres them to a murderous, immoral Foreign Policy, are trying desperately to cover themselves...lest they be held accountable before the world.
American Exceptionalism writ as we say, not as we do...and, the Rules we force on the world don't apply to us, if it suits our purposes.
It is apalling that we are even having this "debate".
May god have mercy on us.