RANGER AGAINST WAR: Out on the Op- LP: Mediocrity All 'Round <

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Out on the Op- LP: Mediocrity All 'Round

Brainwashed by the military
Brainwashed under duress
Brainwashed by the media
You're brainwashed by the press
Brainwashed by computer
Brainwashed by mobile phones
Brainwashed by the satellite
Brainwashed to the bone 
--Brainwashed, George Harrison 

Don't be mad once you see that he want it
If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it
--Single Lady, Beyonce 

She rocked out to Wham
Not a big Limp Bizkit fan
Thought she’d get a hand
On a member of Duran Duran 
--1985, Bowling for Soup

Happy Sunday and welcome to RangerAgainstWar's occasional feature, Out on the OP - LP.  Like we said, the concept is that this is a free-fire zone.  We welcome any and all comers to express what's on your mind, and feel free to ask for advice, forgiveness, whatever.  We'll do our best.

We will kick-start this with a question about values and mores:

According to Gallup polls, Hillary Clinton is the Most Admired Woman in History.  Her husband and former President Bill Clinton was named Father of the Year for 2013. Exactly what is it about the sly Hillary or the adulterous Bill that should garner such admiration? 

First Lady Michelle Obama is #2 on the Most Admired list.  Granted, she can do the Dougie, yes, but what else beyond sporting designer dresses whilst on European holidays? And yes, First Ladies like Jacqueline Kennedy also sported fine duds, but she did NOT do The Watusi; there was a certain decorum. Call me old fashioned, but can we not think back past our current year to find exemplars? 

Upon whose head can we rest these fetid laurels of ushering in our current mediocrity?  Surely President Reagan was the triumph of veneer over substance.  Before him, President Nixon's stating that he was "not a crook" despite evidence to the contrary was a hard dosage of collective cognitive dissonance.  Certainly President Clinton's saxophone playing on Arsenio Hall was an unnecessary plea to cool in a job which did not demand that quality. Perhaps the office of the President is not the only place to look for the genesis of our current state.

Moving from Most Admired to Most Ogled, Beyonce Knowles has been voted by Gentleman's Quarterly as "Sexiest Woman of the Century" (of course, with another 87 years to go in the century, she may not be able to maintain her hold.)  The singer is all about being "fierce, a term co-opted from the gay community associated with attitude. 

Beyonce, who was chosen to perform for the plum Super Bowl 2013 halftime show, is quoted as saying she works very hard on her craft, but her craft is not songwriting; it IS shaking her moneymaker, in ways that would make a pole dancer blush. She says, "And one thing about me: I practice ’till my feet bleed," admitting she is basically a hoofer.

So we choose to admire this women whose seductive-nee-salacious moves would be considered ghetto whore type stuff a few years back, and yet she serves as a model for many a young girls today. Christine Aguilera's belly-baring get-ups and Madonna's faux-Monroe, Like a Virgin poses are tame compared to Beyonce, who is consistently working her thing in every video and performance.  This stuff would have been labeled "pornography" a decade or so ago.

Beyonce's progenitors, like Britney Spears, certainly worked it, too, but their performances at least had some variety in terms of costuming and coverage.  For Beyonce, it is full-on lack of nuance crotch shots all the time.

In other entertainment, we love our brutal films, yet decry the violence in our society.  Can there be no valid linkage made without being dismissed as hopelessly Old School?

And what is it with "reality" television programs like "Honey Boo Boo"? Being in the South, we can understand the unfortunate necessity of listening to such people should one have the grave misfortune to live in rural McIntyre, Georgia.  But for the rest of us?  What is the excuse?  There are magazines and books to read, good films and documentaries at the library ... What's up with that?

We'd love to hear your thoughts on any of it.  (I'm going out now to shake this off of me, yet my chores entail a trip to Costco, where I shall be exposed to even more of it.  If you can assist in expunging the above infestations, I'd be much obliged.)

It looks like Lucy is seeking counsel, herself.

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Blogger Peter of Lone Tree said...

"Most Admired Woman in History"
That's easy: Hypatia.

Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 7:51:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Thinking on her murder reminds us that we always have been a murderous, thuggish band of marauders in fear of truth, no?

Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 10:02:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...


IMO the stuff you're looking at here is the symptoms, not the disease. We "admire" celebrities who have no internal sense of honor, no reticence, no probity, and no discretion because for all that we profess to "revere" these values we are feckless sluts and bobos as often as not. We make and enjoy violent movies not because they make us violent but because we ARE violent.

In fact - and you've heard me argue this before - my personal opinion is that we in the "developed" world are in general LESS violent today than almost any time in history. Where are our great, terrible pogroms? Our massacres of the weak and the outsider? Where are our legions of impoverished children dying in industrial slums? Where are the great mass killing wars?

We are violent because humans have always been violent, because the long arc of history has been the slow progress against this sort of violent madness.

Just as an aside, my thought isn't that we so much fear the truth as much as we fear that others may have a different "truth" than we do; that they may deny that ours IS "THE" truth, or, perhaps even worse, deny that there IS "A" truth and insist that ours is just one of many notions that have lodged in the crinkles of the human cerebrum...

Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 10:42:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been following RAW's posts on gun control issues with great interest. As a non-American I have the luxury of observing from a distance with no chance of any proposed legislation affecting me personally.

I think we can all agree there will be more US massacres in the near future similar to Conneticut or Aurora.

Therefore as a result, law-abiding gun owners should expect changes in gun control akin to the changes law-abiding air passengers were forced to endure post 9/11.

I do agree with RAW regarding the disparity between a citizens access to mil hardware compared to Law Enforcements. Being raised in Ireland where police officers are unarmed, I am uncomfortable around armed Law Enforcement. Personally I think a taser and baton should be sufficient but maybe that's just a cultural viewpoint.



Monday, February 25, 2013 at 2:03:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Nikolay Levin said...

Really? Michelle Obama strikes me as an accomplished, selfless woman who among other endeavors, left her prestigious job at a Chicago law firm to volunteer in her community to say nothing of her achievements and activism in academia. Indeed, its amazing how women like her end up getting married to horrible human beings like her husband.

As for the pessimistic misanthropic generalizing, I wonder... Have the !Kung ever fought a war? Have the Kaliai people ever built a slum? Have the Mosuo ever had societal discrimination based on gender?

Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan, Ph.D and Cacilda Jethá MD, despite its lewd title, makes a compelling case that so called "civilized" societies have been the most bloodthirsty, unequal and most damaging to have existed on this earth. While other societies have evolved to be much finer examples of humanity with a fraction of their resources.

One things for sure, you can't quite pigeonhole humanity in any way very easily.

Thank God for that.

Monday, February 25, 2013 at 5:48:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"my personal opinion is that we in the "developed" world are in general LESS violent today than almost any time in history. "

To riff off Nikolay - "war" amongst tribal peoples, in the pre-colonial days - was often nothing like the bloody slaughter that comes to mind when we "moderns" think of war. On the contrary, combat between tribes involved more of a show of capabilities via the macho saber rattling of the warriors. Actual casualties were minimal. African tribes fought major territory changing "wars" in which there were maybe 3 or 4 killed and a dozen wounded. It's like one side, sensing that it had been out maneouvered, out classed and out mojo'ed, would just give up and go home and the winning side would let them do it.

Take the Oglala (Sioux), the greatest most honorable feat in battle was not to kill the enemy, but to physically touch the enemy's most respected warrior and then back off; showing that one *could have* killed.

You find this sort of style of combat all over the world in the so called "primitive" societies.

Generally - I do aclowledge exceptions - it is only after introduction to the white man's ways that tribal warfare became more genocidal.

I'm not so sure that people are inherently all that violent. It seems that as population size increases, that individual lives become worth less and the dimensions of the slaughter increase.

So it's not a white man's disease either, per se. It's just that the white man developed large populations. The Aztecs, having well developed urban structures and relatively large population, also waged wars of total destruction on less developed neighboring tribes.

It seems to me that one of the downsides of large highly organized societies is that the societal structure can take on a life of its own. It becomes a cold machine that is predominant over the individual. In fact, it eats individuals for breakfast lunch and dinner. Those who do not serve the machine must be destroyed. Those who do serve the machine can be destroyed if the machine weighs the cost of the destruction to be less than the benefit.

Given that our machine seeks to gobble up the entire planet, it serves the machine to promote fantasies of violence via the media.



Monday, February 25, 2013 at 9:58:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


I am with you and Steven Pinker who wrote in his, "The Better Angels of Our Nature",

"We're living in primate heaven. We're warm, dry, we're not hungry, we don't have fleas and ticks and infections. So why are we so miserable?"

So yes, this is primate heaven, and it doesn't always look very pretty. The creations I mention are projections of ourselves, and in that way, "symptoms". One wonders what would motivate a better outcome ...

Could some sort of benevolent Skinnerian approach work on the infant human?

Monday, February 25, 2013 at 12:34:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Thank you for your cultural perspective. From speaking with my mum, it seems a better society when the beat cop needed only a Billy club. The relationship was non-adversarial, and the members of the community were known.


Thank you for bringing that provocative cultural perspective on warfare to the table. Oh that we could honor a "touche" today.


I always appreciate your informed opinions, but I'll dismiss "Sex at Dawn" as having a pretty clear agenda, and one with which I happen to disagree.

But, y'know, as you imply, "The world's so full of a number of things / I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings."

Monday, February 25, 2013 at 4:25:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Nikolay Levin said...

"Civilzation" as I define it is certainly not bound by race as the Japanese Empire rivaled European Empires in blood spilled even while becoming a world power in record time. Its perhaps not coincidental that the feudal society of the Medieval Japanese and the Europeans are exceptional only in their differences. Both likely traced to the marauding horse cultures that shared but mostly battled on the barren Eurasian steppes, the Mongols most infamous among them.

Whats interesting is that in contrast, the Masou or !Kung sometimes lack even the words for "killing" or "murder". When the Botswana government sought to put the !Kung into "sedentary villages" (read: concentration camps) to make way for diamond interests, Bushmen known for fashioning deadly spears and being world renown trackers did not retaliate against the Botswanans as people around the world would do if a central government undertook anything similar. To them it was unthinkable to intentionally harm another human being. Perhaps that this sentiment has been lost to time is a tragedy for the species.

My initial guess is that you looked into the book from the very rudimentary description on Wikipedia. I'd give it a chance. The speaker here goes into more depth. Its amazing how she brings the audience to laughter and then into tears at the ridiculous and then tragic story of the modern woman's commodification and disenfranchisement as a cornerstone of unjust societies everywhere. This has been approached from various angles and variations before. A pertinent quote from this book,

"[One example of a different approach comes] from "the words of an actual hunter-gatherer -- an Inuit from Greenland made famous in the Danish writer Peter Freuchen's Book of the Eskimo. Freuchen tells how one day, after coming home hungry from an unsuccessful walrus-hunting expedition, he found one of the successful hunters dropping off several hundred pounds of meat. He thanked him profusely. The man objected indignantly:

"Up in our country we are human!" said the hunter. "And since we are human we help each other. We don't like to hear anybody say thanks for that. What I get today you may get tomorrow. Up here we say that by gifts one makes slaves and by whips one makes dogs."

Since I've exposed myself as a shameless Commie I couldn't help but recommend Fredrich Engels book on the subject specifically.

There were crossroads in history when the groundwork for the destructive societies that eons later are now consuming the world were yet to be laid. A time even when European tribes followed egalitarian ways long forgotten. A time a different course could have made all the difference.

And then you find out about the Nri that managed to find a way to conquer without conquering, if having any conquerors at all. Then your back to square one.

Its then you realize that while you can't know all the answers, you are sure you can get close.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 5:57:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger FDChief said...

avedis: I think the difference between the pre-industrial and industrial/post-industrial societies isn't so much in their capacity FOR violence as much as their ABILITY to inflict violence.

Many tribal and pre-industrial societies make "war" as sport, entertainment, ritual, or pastime. I don't think that makes it or them "less violent"; I suspect that the Cheyenne or Maori warrior had much the same thoughts and feelings when about to enter battle as any modern Briton or German. But you're right in that those societies were "less violent" in that they were a lot better at NOT killing large numbers of human beings. Hunter-gatherer societies, with their low numbers and slow replacement rates tend to be cautious about stuff like that. It takes agriculture and pastoralism to create enough surplus resources and people to make genocide fun and profitable...

But Nikolai's tales of the peaceful Masou just point up that humans as a species tend to be mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 2:27:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


I appreciate your patronizing approach; I read the book (as much as I cared too), not the Wiki gloss.

That's what's wrong with you Commies -- your system is a lovely idea, downright Christian (in a perverse sense), but highly impracticable with the raw material at hand. We humans are arrogant and selfish to the point of folly and the lengths that ego allows and demands.

"More for me" is the bottom line, IMHO. The outliers prove the rule.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 4:16:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Nikolay Levin said...

Patronizing? I myself use Wikipedia to get a layout of anything I need to know more about and I'm not the only one. If I'm that means I'm lazy, I'm guilty.

If then you read it, Graeber and Engels all and still disagree, well then I'm sunk.

Neal Acheson's piece above still makes me conclude that the domineering centralized city states versus the equal, egalitarian societies was always a matter of preference and not fortune. The formers advantage in cultural hegemony and ethnocide seems to be working so far, several centuries strong.

But I guess the onus is on Marxists ourselves to prove that.

I admit I have my work cut for me.

I appreciate your thoughts.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 4:44:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Not Graeber and Engels, just "Sex at Dawn". Agreed that Wiki is a great start for many searches; but I would not so strongly reject a thesis on a simple gloss.

I admire your conviction, against the histotrical tide. Keep on keepin' on, as they say ;)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 8:33:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Podunk Paul said...

Well, Nikolay, I spent some time in the Northwest Territories, around Ellesmere Island, Tucktotoyaktuk and further north to Bent Horn. Peter Freuchen was a wonderful old fellow, but he romanticized the Inuit, who are not, from my limited contact with them, very different than the rest of us. If they are different, it’s to the degree of their pragmatism.

The story of the polar bear who had an Inuit wife as a lover sort of sums up the attitude. The bear warned the woman not to reveal where he lived. She promised to keep the secret. But, as things worked out, her husband came home empty-handed from a two-week hunt and the wife, feeling sorry for him, said that she knew where a bear lived. The bear heard all this, as the husband made for the lair, the bear circled back to the igloo. He stood there for a long time, his arms raised to crush the igloo and the woman inside.

And then, with a shake of his head, he turned away and went on a long trip over the ice.

The story ends with a comment about the bear, how sad it was that he should go on a long trip with his mind disordered. In that condition, he would not be alert to the tiny air holes in the snow that betray the hiding places of seals. There’s nothing there about unrequited love, betrayal or the sort of things that we might read into the story. It’s about the importance of keeping your mind clear.

Friday, March 1, 2013 at 6:22:00 PM GMT-5  

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