On Steering the Herd.( Cobbled from old and new because they fit together))
Words, and their Meaning. (2012)
One hears an awful lot about Freedom, these days.
It is invoked as the reason for the Wars, as the reason folks run for Office, as the Goal of Life.
The word is thrown about by politicians, and would be politicians, as if the Meaning is so well known as to need no Definition...it is a Given..."Everyone" Knows what Freedom means.
I differ in this Sentiment, as in so many others.
I say that Important Words must be Defined.
This would entail much Debate, by just about everyone who will be affected by the Defining of such Words.
I think it is instructive that this is not the case.
No one, it seems, feels the need to Define anything, especially Important Words.
I posit that this has led, almost of necessity, to such Words becoming, if not Meaningless,then often meaning the Polar Opposite of what they once were....and what We think they still are.
A few Anecdotes...
My 8 year old Son is at the weekly (in Season) Ritual Battle with a Rival Town (Football game).
He's cattin' around",Socialising with his friends, especially Girls.
A Cop, the Grandfather of one of his friends, playfully handcuffs them, in turn....itself, a stealth form of Indoctrination, but not the most pernicious. That Honor goes to a little later, when a younger kid is caught, by this Cop, buying candy at the Concession,(concession to what?),an then going among the crowd, selling the candy at profit...Adam Smith, or Marx, would say that this boy is 1)showing initiative, 2) in effect, selling his Labor (waiting in line, delivery)....in other Words, being a Good Capitalist. However, this activity is, apparently, Forbidden.
It's not in any of the rules I've seen...and i doubt that it's Codified, at all.
But this Intervention, by the cop, is seen as uninterestingly commonplace, hardly worthy of comment.
My Son includes it as an aside, and only at my prompting does he elaborate.
What Message is this sending?
I don't, for one minute, think that this is an Intentional Message..the cop didn't learn it in Cop Class, didn't receive instructions from his Boss...it flows without comment or thought...just as Natural as Rain.
What I immediately Thought, was that this small act was a very Profound Statement on the Reality of our Modern World. The fact that it was unintentional, and unrecognised, makes it an even more Profound Statement.
In America, in the Early 21st Century, Capitalism is a Secular Religion...seen as the Highest Form of Social Organisation, and as an almost Divine Gift to Mankind...the State that all of Humanity is Reaching for.
The Mythology is Powerful...every man a King...Work Hard, Get Rich....Upward Mobility as an Article of Faith.
There are many examples of this being the case for certain Individuals...very many, in fact.
But what is the Economic Norm?
Most of us work for someone else...be that "Person" an actual Flesh and Blood Human, or the Bodiless, Paper Kind.
Furthermore, with the decline of Manufacturing, the preceding Monopolisation/Cetralisation of the Means...and the later "Off Shoring" of that Means, and the Jobs that went with it...we, in America, normally work in "Service"...be it waiting tables, or selling something made elsewhere.
The Core Service, no matter the Product being Sold, is making folks "Feel" Special...most of whom are anything but...rather ,quintessential examples of Mediocre and Homogeneous. The man at the table,B3, shaking his glass at the Waitress...insisting on a whole lemon with his tea...is made to Feel Special by her attention...(in these instances, she is rewarded with a pittance...which also Speaks Volumes)...he is made to Feel like a King.
This has become the most important "Product" that the vast majority of us sell...be it in a Cell Phone Store, a Wallmart, or on the Trading Floor.
It is a Simulacrum of the Dream...for none of us really have the Power that the Mythology implies is our Birthright.
Rather than Every Man a King, we are Cogs in the Machine of Capitalism.
The Cop's unintentional Lesson teaches this Implicitly.
This Child, with his Initiative, is breaking the Unspoken Rules....which run contrary to the Mythos.
Only those with Sanction, the Concession Stand,may use Initiative.
The rest of us must work for them.
Is this what is being "Conceded" at the Concession?
Probably not Intentionally...I don't know what the provenance of that word, used this way, is.
In this little tale, this Anecdote, that's what I derive.
The Austin News had 4 lead stories, the other night.
Both "sides" of the (Official, but Unspoken) Political Divide were represented.
What we call "Liberal" was represented by the story of a woman whose Property was "Annexed" by the City...which led to her being Forced to sell her Horses...it being a Violation of the city's Zoning Ordinances to keep Horses.
Busybody, Coercive Government...Lording it over the Individual...with One-Size-Fits-All Rule-Making...and an official "Concession" to the Individual, in the form of an expensive, Byzantine Process of Protest...whereby this woman could, albeit arduously, Contest the application of the Rules to her.
The other 3 stories were about the War on Drugs...which, in Reality and Effect, is a War on Marijuana. This is the "Conservative" portion of the newscast.
Big, Intrusive Government...Imposing Morality and Conformity on the Individual...with One-Size-Fits-All Rule-Making...and an official "Concession" to the Individual, in the form of an expensive, Byzantine Process of Protest...whereby one could, albeit arduously, Contest the application of the Rules to her/him.
One story detailed the Mandatory Drug Testing in School, in order for an Individual to participate in Extracurricular Activities...the "Out" was that no one is Forced to partake, to get Tested...but if an Individual Refuses, they are Forbidden from Participating.(it is better to follow the Rules)
Another, the necessity, according to the Chief of Police, of purchasing a number of Vans, equipped with technology that "sees" through walls, surveills houses from the street, without Warrant, in order to root out Drug Use.(We are Watching).
The last story was regarding a man who was arrested("stopped") for Possession of "Drugs"...which means, usually, Marijuana.
He was caught by a Liar...an "Undercover" Cop, presenting himself as a "Drug Dealer".("Drug Dealers", like the boy in the first story, are the Quintessential Capitalists)
(We will Find You...You Cannot Hide...and you Cannot Trust Anyone.)
These parenthetical Meanings are unacknowledged in the News Cast...
The Sanctioned Intoxicant/Relaxant, in America for most of the 20th Century, and the first decade of the 21st, is Alcohol...
What I derive from this is as follows.
Alcohol is conducive to Violence,Unreason, and a strange mixture of Passivity and Aggression.
It is a Lizard-Brain Drug...making Men into Swine.
Pot is a Front Brain Drug, making Men into Mystics.
The Implication is that we can have only so many Mystics, Front Brained Creatures...
Too many, and the System ceases to work.
The Mythology surrounding Marijuana confirms this.
The Horse Woman's experience is related in that Conformity to Arbitrary Norms is not Optional.
Horses are not allowed in the city, men are not "supposed" to have long hair, unless they're Drug Fiends...
And one must be Sanctioned,... Baptised, as it were...in order to Participate...whether it be in Band, or in Property Ownership,in Capitalism, or in the Management of one's Consciousness.
All of this runs Counter to the Mythological "Reality" we think we live in.
We Believe one thing, and Do another.
The Disconnect is unrecognised.
In this Culture, then, what is "Freedom"?
The Freedom to Conform? To do as you're told?
The Freedom to Follow the Rules...with the Threat of Force and Coercion, often Unspoken/Unthought-About, if one strays from the Path of Righteousness?
"Freedom" as Antipode to Freedom.
...to our reflexive "Understanding" of what "Freedom" means.
The Assumption,... Unexamined, as usual...is that We are a Free People...
So Free that the World is Envious of Us.
Defending this Freedom is the Purpose of the Wars...which leads, incidentally, to further Limits on Behaviour and Speech, as in the whole Matrix of "Support the Troops" Rhetoric...and “Watch what you say”.
To Challenge it is Verboten.
I submit that we have been Sold a Lie...
My , Considered, Definition of Freedom is Codified in Reciprocity...as in the Wiccan Rede, my favorite, most concise example..."An Harming None, Do as Thou Will"...
Given, to Live by this requires much Thought and Consideration...of the Consequences of Our Actions, more than anything.
In it's turn, this Consideration requires a certain Habit of Thought.
It doesn't work all that well without it...
More crumbs of Anecdotal Evidence are to be found in the Marijuana Culture, as opposed to the (more or less official) Alcohol Culture.
Potheads, when relatively Unmolested, are known for their Habits of Sharing...be it Munchies or Weed...Avoiding Unnecessary Conflict...and an Egalitarian Do as Thou Wilt...
Drinkers, on the other hand, are known for Belligerence...and for the guarding of one's drink,girl,etc.
The one is about Us; the other, Me.
Of course, this is not Universal...and there are many Variables that influence the Zeitgeist of a given situation...for instance, when Potheads are oppressed,actively sought out, they tend to become more like Drinkers. They guard their Stash, even from friends...
Conversely, Drinkers, when certain Variables are just so, are Amicable, Sharing, and Tolerant..
I realise that these are Generalisations...and that they come to me, at best, second hand,(one, filtered through the Mind of an eight-year-old)
...but Generalisations have their uses...and I believe that these, particular Generalisations, are ,on the whole, Accurate....from my own Experience.
That given, one is led to ask: why would a civilisation discourage the one, and encourage the other?
Again, I doubt that a "Decision" was made....the Smoky-Room Meme...it simply, Is....a Function of Our Culture, Unexamined, Unarticulated, and Unspoken...but Operative, nevertheless.
The Answer to this Dilemma, it occurs to me, is stated, Implicitly, above...Front-Brain/Lizard-Brain.
As in the first Anecdotes, our Civilisation requires the latter of all these Syllogisms.
If the Former were allowed to run rampant, Civilisation would Change...and Change runs contrary to Status Quo.
These Musings of mine, on such Commonplaces, might seem Farfetched...Insane, even...which, ultimately Proves the Point.
Examples of this confront us every day...usually Unnoticed, Unremarked...
They are the Jungian Things-Behind-Things...
The Archetypal Soup to our Bits of Celery and Potato.
Arguing with Geese. Episode # 10,123 (a Parable)(2014)
I went out to the Library/Monastery, today, bright and early.
We were all out there yesterday, unloading a trailer full of sand for the floor of the shop(fireproof, and the better to see the snakes on).
So I was a little worse for wear this morning.
I set up the ancient kiddie pool in what used to be the garden, between my place and Mom's, then went and opened gates on the way to where the Geese are, now...out behind Mom's, where the goats used to live.
Herded those ninnies all the way around the front, over the little dike, and to the Pool.
They stood there, looking at the water coming from the faucet, and muttered amongst themselves.
Then they wandered around the old garden...all in a knot...nibbling at grass seedheads, and muttering...keeping one eye out of 40 on me, at all times.
Having neglected to place chairs strategically around the route, I pushed them further...all the way into my old yard, under the big Oak.
Set up a sprinkler(one of their favorite things), and backed down the drive, towards Mom's...then back along the road, out of sight, and into the Library that way, stealthily.
I got into reading...checking on them every ten minutes or so.
They stood in a knot, muttering, for an hour.
Staring at the sprinkler.
Panting in the heat.
Then they, as one, waddled on over to Mom's.
I repeated the entire procedure.
Back and forth, in the 100-200 yards between Monastery and Mom's.
Staring at the pool, staring at the sprinkler...and thirsty.
As I've said, Geese will look at a newly opened gate for a month, ere they'll venture through it.
What I'm doing is re-writing their code...or at least attempting to.
As usual in such dealings with Geese, I can't help but think about the vast majority of ordinary rural Texans, as I have known them.
I'll repeat this Goose-Herding activity for a week, or a month...however long it takes for it to become “Normal”.
Put my place on the Goose-Map of their world, that they carry in their tiny brains.
Eventually, they'll just come over here. It will be on the Agenda for the day.
So long as I keep the pool filled, this jaunt to the Monastery will be “What Geese Do”.
We don't Think about what we're doing...or why we're doing it...nearly enough.
There's some evidence that this feature is operative throughout the Human Species...Bottom to Top...just, as I've said, those higher up the Pile enjoy access to better Information...a broader view...and the Leisure Time to sit and Think about such things.
But even they, the “Rulers” are subject to this Automata, just to a lesser degree.
In order for there to be any chance of conjuring the Great Work --of Reclaiming Our Civilisation from thems that stole it--we'll have to Retrain the Herd.
In the old Cattle Drives, the drovers kept their eye out for the Maverick...the old Bull who took no guff and went his own way...while the Herd would follow.
Control that one, and you control the Herd.
Most of Our Mavericks have been so coopted.
Pressed into service of the Machine.
Since the late 70's this has been so.
Note that there hasn't been a big time assassination of a Lefty Public Figure...that everyone was Certain WAS an Assassination(Paul Wellstone doesn't count, here)...since the 70's.
The Object Lesson was well taught...and well-learned, it seems.
Of course, there are indications that this state of affairs is changing...Occupy...Bernie Sanders...Liz Warren..Alan Grayson...Bill McKibben...the list is growing.
It is to be hoped that the advent of Viral Media...of 'Everyone as Journalist'...that this has made “Falling out of an Airplane”...or Getting “Eaten by Sharks”...or “Suicide by shooting oneself three times in the back of the head”...more trouble than it's worth.
I hope so.
We need Mavericks...Real Mavericks, unafraid to get out in Front...more than ever before.
That's how you steer the Bewildered Herd.
But we require Millions of them.
I often harp on How the Right Wing accomplished their Counter Revolution...by, first, sending out Bulk Mailings of little Questionnaires. Those who were frightened, and therefore Motivated, enough...answered...and were put on the List of Potential Targets.(Remember, Fear is the number one Motivator of the Right...then and now).
These Potential Targets then received closer attention...first through the mail(postage paid)...then by phone(call banks and volunteers(ever increasing))...then, if they fit the Criteria(which had been established at the beginning)...they would get a knock at the door.
Upon answering the door, one would find 2-3 Nice Young Men,,,well dressed, well spoken, clean cut(now, they use women, too)...
And Eager! Brimming with Evangelical Fervor...ready to Spread the Gospel of Conservatism.
These Criteria-Fitting Targets would be Scared Shitless by the Tale Told by the Nice Young Men...not least by Confirmation of what they already Expected.
There was little Surprise Disclosure of New Scary Information.
Just a Comforting, Reassuring, “We think like you. You are not alone. You're Right...””
If they fit a more narrowing , exclusive Criteria, they might be encouraged to Volunteer(licking stamps, cold calling, maintenance of the already faithful.)
Or, if passing the last test, Encouraged to run for School Board...for County Commissioner...City Council.
Through all of this Process, the Message...the Narrative Framework (Hammered Out Beforehand)...was Flogged, Preached, Confided, Whispered and Shouted...
If any of this looks somewhat familiar, that's because it comes, one could argue, from Saul of Taursus.
It is the political analog of Christian Witnessing...of Evangelizing...Preaching on Streetcorners and in Livingrooms and Kitchens.
Itinerant Preachers, holding Revivals in Tents, in School Auditoriums..
...and of course, at Church.
It is all about the Message, and it's Transmission into as many Minds as possible.
They melded Faith with Politics....and even with Economics.
A generic, Lowest Common Denominator version of Christianity, anodyne but with a powerful Subtext,...coupled with a Simplistic understanding of the “Correct” Ideology/Philosophy, Economics and Civics.
This Framework was infectious as hell.
It worked especially well when things were bad, out there in the country...but not too bad.
What about Us?
What's Our Narrative?
We have disowned ourselves from our past.
We were made to be ashamed of the Excess of the 60's...and of the 30's...
Never daring to think that, well, what did we expect, with a sudden release, after maybe even Millennia of Repression?
Explosions happen for reasons...and we can learn from them.
But we didn't learn from them except for the superficial parts that we were allowed to keep around...a defanged environmentalism, a laugh and point back to the land, a now regarded as perverted sexual revolution...We use their Memes ...their Words and Phrases.
Our Narrative currently consists of bits of the Language from those past struggles.
...shorn of Enthusiasm, Disconnected from an Overarching Theme, and almost exclusively in Market Language, Conservative Language:...Social Security, and other such Big Things...Hippies as part of the Fashion and Music Industries...Antiwar, Antiracist,Pro-People Fervor kept on stumps in the yard as quaint relics...the ideal of a Brotherhood/Sisterhood/Family of Humans, sharing a planet in all of our Diversity, placed deep into the closet.
All of this distilled into a Simplistic Caricature...a Cartoon of “The Left”.
(Theirs was a Cartoon, too...Justice League, GI Joe...)
We dropped our Narrative.
And let some folks of our number replace it with “Centrism”...”Third Way”...
Conceding to nearly the whole of the Criticism, fired from the Right. Running away from our Words, and the Ideas they represented.
The most Inspired among Us, we have pushed out...segregated...scattered...
Vegans don't talk to Coop Economists don't talk to Save the Whales don't talk to Human Rights Watch don't talk to Doctors without Borders. Burning Man and the Evolvers and Ravers...all on their little hills.
And all of them are trying to talk to the Democratic Party, separately, who takes their money and their votes, and leaves them exhausted and bedraggled in the morning-- without a goodbye or a working phone number.
It is often said in certain circles that, like all Movements, the 60's and the Hippies and the Radicals of 40 and a hundred years ago, contained within them their own death.
That they were Too Radical...and were, thus, a Failure...to be remembered only as a warning.
I, on the contrary, think that We should take the Good that came out of those Ages of Experimentation...and Improve upon it.
We haven't really had that conversation, in enough places.
We seem to be afraid to talk about it, having internalised the wall to wall caricature:
“Union Thugs” “Dirty Hippie” “Feminazi””Baby Killer””Gay Agenda””Tree Huggers””Marching in Lockstep”(!?)
”Big Government Liberal”
It's near Taboo in almost every Southern place that I've been...Texas to Florida....to have a conversation about those times,about what they Meant, without the perfunctory Denials and Condemnations.
We should have that conversation, any way.
We should Own the Good that came out of those past Struggles.
We...in the broadest sense...must write our Narrative.
For 2014-- For now.
...and stop letting our Foes do it for us.
A Message...Simple... containing fluffy seeds of Bigger, Broader things, that blossom in the Minds where they blow.
They have their Dog Whistles...their Mothership, disseminating Marching Orders--
we need a Conch Shell...a Shofarr...a Tarzan Yell...an Orgasmic Moan.
The Right, from the late 70's onward, built and maintained their Movement with the Worst parts of Human Nature...Fear and Loathing, Jealousy and Greed.
Powerful, yet somehow Weak,Enemies and Scary Monsters.
We should build ours on the Best Parts.
Compassion and Reason, Tempering one another.
Diversity and Connection.
and the Courage to Experiment.
Talk about them incessantly, Argue about them... because nailing them down is for later.
I'm not talking about Policy...about Planks in the Platform...
I'm talking about Thinking and Talking into Existence the Nebula from which such stars are formed.
About Radical Inclusion...about welcoming all manner of Ideas into the Compost Pile of our Discourse together...and seeing what springs forth.
I'm talking about Philosophy.
We all should be.
Can't have a Movement without it.
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