Monday, June 20, 2016

Curious Yellow Boys

There's a sucker born every minute
--David Hannum

We're doing a series on the
ten most sordid social welfare cases.  
--I Am Curious (Yellow), 1967

Subtitle: Stupidity Masquerading as Violence and Redemption.

Talk about turning rutabagas into sunflowers.

Our group think culture has taken a tawdry act on the part of all parties and massaged it into a cause célèbre. The incipient plucky heroine of the recent Stanford sexual assault case has a book contract and is well-placed for a Medal of Freedom.

Except, she is no heroine, and the story of this case lies in a place other than where the media shines its spotlight. However, everything is to be wrung dry for its entertainment value, or for its exploitation by vested interests, and "Emily Doe" is a "Citizen Ruth" for our times.

Vice President Joe Biden called her "courageous" and the Swedish passers by, "heroes". One of the ersatz news programs gave her 12-page manifesto one-half hour of valuable air play. Last week "House Members United to Read Stanford Rape Victim's Letter" (except in their passion they and the NYT got it wrong -- it was not rape but sexual assault.)

Representative Ann McLane Kuster, Democrat of New Hampshire said, “We are all Emily Doe,” a la President Kennedy's momentous, "Ich Ein Berliner" speech.

But no, we are not. Not unless you go to a frat party after drinking four shots of whisky and drinking two more of vodka and unknown quantities of beer and then go with a younger frat boy behind a dumpster, for that is who Ms. Doe is.

At the moment, she is an addict and possibly a sexual predator, most likely just wanting to get her kink on with a younger man. (The distance from 19 y.o. male freshman to a 22 y-o female graduate is great.)

The young man, Brock Turner, is nothing special in this regards, and neither is she. It is hardly the "night that ruined her life", as she began drinking her shots eyes wide open.

In reality, it will be the night that made her -- undeservedly -- something special in our culture of instantaneous stardom. She will possibly do the media rounds to capitalize and monetize her moment, and crocodile tears will be shed over the actions of the Big Bad Wolf.

She says she was "robbed of [her] worth", but she did that to herself before she went behind the dumpster to have sex with a frat boy three years her junior. (You didn't think they were going to read "Ulysses", did you?)

She calls herself "Everywoman", and why not? It's a heady moment for her. I suspect it is not her first rodeo, and an erstwhile skanky scene has been spit-polished into a story of true grit.

But she doesn't speak for me, not at any point in my life.

I don't care to talk of the young man, for he is a known quantity: 19 y-o male drinking heavily at a frat party. His role as an insecure and/or horny young male is to find the low-hanging fruit and schtup her; call it a night. He could be a necrophiliac in training, or maybe just a young American male getting ready for the sort of action he can anticipate after graduation when he marries a sorority girl.

But the female is the sticking point in this story, and we are not viewing it for what it actually is.

The obvious untold story is the substance abuse of the designated victim and her choice to be in a frat house party environment so drunk that she did not wake up for six hours after the act. The violence in this story is self-inflicted and issues from the same fonts which are now celebrating her victim-hood, who run flashy stories which depict drunken celebrity party-goers as having the time of their lives.

The violence may lie in having the misfortune to live an entitled and cosseted life as so many Santa Barbara residents do. In having a mother who would deposit you at a frat house party after you had already consumed four shots of whisky.

One subtext of this story is misogynistic. The press and politcoes are falling over the 12-page victim’s statement, but implicit in their surprise is that not all women who drink to the point of being comatose are illiterate hootchie mamas. In fact, they exist in number, but we are not interested. 

This is what passes for a "feel-good" story today. Predictably, we get up in arms. We act like we are shocked and outraged, like we actually care about the plight of women (and men for that matter.)

My guess is that the 12-page manifesto was either a compiled effort by a women's group who saw their moment in the sun, or the writer herself is a borderline personality, either of which was necessary to push this story into the spotlight, with a bump from social media. But beyond the uncovered substance abuse and misogyny lies yet another story, that of privilege.

This sort of thing happens every day of the week in most towns, but the participants are not often white frat boy potential future Olympians or UC-Santa Barbara grads. The privilege of the participants alone is what makes it newsworthy. It feeds our salacious desire to have the privileged white man atone, or for self-flagellation, depending upon your affiliation. 

The ultimate irony is that the outlets which are supposedly uber-sympathetic to this woman, couldn't give a damn that the same thing (and far worse) happens every day of the week to younger or older, non-white, non-Santa Barbara grads. What they dare not say is: those stories are ugly. This story is pretty, so it has legs.

We get to discharge more collective vitriol, hate the judge ("off with his head!"), and feel very smug, righteous and strac, for a bit.

Very probably, had the Swedish bicyclists not happened by the scene, we never would have heard about the matter; it wouldn’t look good for either party. (Wouldn't be prudent, as a Bush père might've said.)

What makes this a good story is that white male privilege gets a knock (and we will give a pass to the white female of privilege, ignoring the actual issues at hand.) Messy facts simply do not matter today.

The fact is, the press on this issue will change nothing, because the things which can be changed are not being addressed. But the folks on Capital Hill get some nice press and ensuing gravitas by leeching on to the non-story.

Here's a surprise: young men like sex, and if you put yourself in an extremely compromising position, you cannot cry wolf. For all our enlightenment, we may not re-engineer human brains or hormones. But what we could address is the culture of binge drinking, and to do so honestly would require both males and females to take responsibility for their actions.

You don’t get to wave the red flag in front of the bull and not elicit a reaction, or claim naivete when you do. (Drinking' til you're trashed does not provide plausible deniability.)  You may re-educate, but that training will go by the wayside once one’s executive functions have been overridden with booze.

Lesson: Everyone must be responsible. If you want to get wasted, have a designated escort to watch over you; better yet, do it at home, or among a group of trusted, platonic friends. Best -- don’t get that wasted, and choose your environments wisely.

Ms. Doe should not be book-worthy until she enters and successfully completes a course of rehab, and stays clean and sober for six months. She can then write from a position of understanding a cautionary "life of an addict" book, and it will be one of much too many.

Next: A Year of Inanity

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Gorilla Violence

  The extraordinary gentleness of the adult male [gorilla]
with his young dispels all the King Kong mythology
--Dian Fossey

Besides love and sympathy, animals exhibit other qualities
connected with the social instincts
which in us would be called moral
--Charles Darwin
All the arguments to prove man's superiority
cannot shatter this hard fact:
in suffering the animals are our equals 
--Rattling the Cage, Steven Wise

 SUBTITLE: #Ape Lives Matter.

I did not want to read the gorilla story. But when I saw the film of the gorilla’s approach to the child and subsequent behavior, the horror of the decision to murder the animal became obvious.

Harambe, the 17-year-old gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo, leaned in to the water and scooped the child up carefully in both of his arms. At that moment, when the people realized a three-year-old had rolled down into the ravine, all hell broke loose (this video is missing the initial moment of encounter, before the human screaming began.)

Gorillas are gentle giants, largely vegetarian (Western lowland gorillas like Harambe, however, also eat termites and ants). Very shy and reserved, they must be provoked before they will attack. Though nothing in the gorilla's behavior indicated distress, the suddenly restive crowd began screaming like banshees, resembling nothing so much as a troupe of screaming chimps (our closer relatives).

Meanwhile, the distressed gorilla looked up and reacting to this tumult, scampered off with the child in tow for cover, into a grotto. This animal sat with the child for almost 20 minutes before the kill decision was executed. Why?

He did not hang the child by the leg, or throw him up in the air for pleasure, as some humans do to their young. He did not bash its head against the side of a ravine to kill the child, as Nazis did. He did not impale him on a bamboo shoot, all actions which the clever human has devised for meting out violence to his fellows.

After 20 minutes the child was unharmed; he was released from the hospital the next day after being treated for contusions probably suffered mostly from falling 20 feet into the ravine. It is unlikely during those 20 minutes that the animal was cogitating upon even more heinous ways that he might off the child.

But sadly, anger and violence is the first thing that comes to the human mind. Even though it was the human child who had breached the animal’s space; in our world, we have "Castle Laws", and a home invasion would warrant a kill. That is not the tack Harambe took.

We watch shows like “Zoo” which curry the paranoid mindset that the animals -- everything from rats to squid -- are plotting to murder us. Movies like “Jaws” and “Willard” enthrall us, allowing us to pay vicarious penance for the violence we have meted out to our animal brethren.

The decision against darting made little sense, for if the animal became agitated, then the ultimate move to kill could have been executed. He was captive in a small enclosure, nowhere to escape. Why was there no reaction plan in place for the eventuality of a careless parent?

What could have been an inspirational story for this child and the rest of us, turned out to be yet one more vulgar story of human neglect followed by overreaction, and finally, justification for violence.

The gorilla's death is yet one more example of the sad human recourse to violence-as-solution.

Poor gorilla. He showed more humanity than his killers.


~Stupidity Masquerading as Violence

~A Year in Provenance: Violence in Public Discourse

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hatred Abounds

  Man is conceived in sin
and born in corruption
and he passeth from the stink of the didie
to the stench of the shroud 
--All the King's Men, 
 Robert Penn Warren

I'd rather you were dead
than be a fuckin' faggot
--American Beauty (1999)

 Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky 
---Imagine, John Lennon

Scenarios are created by words in context. We are not a very serious people today, and require inflammatory rhetoric to keep us online and connected in even the fragile and tenuous way that we are when we subsume the "news feed", such as it is.

Of course, we are not connected with the truth, but only the facts with which we are presented, so we can only know those things which are fed to us.

A number of incidents over the past few weeks have struck me as either so unworthy of the coverage or of the sort it received. These stories are so tortuously constructed that they become, well, torturous. The stores are difficult because they are being used to front an agenda, instead of to understand who we are. I will write about several over the next few days.

Violence is the common thread, so the relevance to our project at RangerAgainstWar is solid.

Today, I will mention the shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, in which 49 people were killed and slightly more than that number were wounded. The shooter, Omar Mateen, had been a regular at the club and used a gay chat app over the course of a year with one of the customers.

Yes, Mateen claimed the kills for ISIS, but no one has asked the serious questions that must be asked if this sort of thing is to be extinguished.

First, his father said (after the requisite "I love America" spiel) that his son did not like gays. Mateen's ex-wife confirmed this, and it seems the father did not much like gays, either. This is a virulent hatred with which his parents did not seek help, and which most likely was learned and encouraged.

If the parents did not establish the hatred in the cauldron of the home, a hatred which would be in keeping with devout Muslim precepts, then at least it was never addressed as a pathology.

Mateen's behaviors sync with those of a self-loathing homosexual: he was abusive to his first wife (who escaped with the help of her family), and he was a regular at the gay nightclub. His sexual orientation was at odds with those sanctioned by his religion. He was closeted, like the Marine father in the film, American Beauty. Repression will out, often in explosive ways.

Another recent shooter who went into his comfortable fishbowl to shoot -- Dylann Root, in Charleston -- had also cased the joint well, and the regulars at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church also welcomed him inside the perimeter.

Press photos of Mr. Root show him in various poses with the Confederate flag and other classic white power paraphernalia. His hatred and fear of blacks overtaking the country was ab origine. He did not have original or strange ideations; he simply parroted what he heard. He took it a step further than most of his ilk who mutter their disdain sotto voce. Dylann Root wanted to be a hero.

So that is how you stop these spectacularly violent events: you rout out hatred and violence. You start at the cradle and you master your own ego before having children, or before joining a church.

Just that. But that is not how Homo sapien is wired, so we go on killing and hating better, enlisting our boundless and unremitting ego and opposable thumbs in the service of our hatred and violence.

At least we could be honest about it, and stop saying, "Gol-ly!" every time  something like this happens. Condoleezza Rice's disingenuous, "No one could have imagined them taking a plane" stance has worn quite thin.

The precedents abound. Imagine it.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Whose Souls Cry Out, and Who Is Awakened?

--Nuclear Future, Paresh Nath (UAE)

The tragedy is not that things are broken.
The tragedy is that things are not mended again 
 --Cry, the Beloved Country,
Alan Paton

The West's post-Holocaust pledge that genocide
would never again be tolerated proved to be hollow,
and for all the fine sentiments inspired
by the memory of Auschwitz,
the problem remains
that denouncing evil is a far cry from doing good 
--We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow
We Will Be Killed with Our Families, 
 Philip Gourevitch
Bellum ominum contra omnes
(a war of all against all)
--Thomas Hobbes 

President Obama recently laid a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in the presence of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. His disingenuous proclamation played well to the crowd, but was so much well-scripted fluff. He said Hiroshima was,

 “the start of our own moral awakening”. We come to mourn the dead. Their souls speak to us, they ask us to look inward, take stock of who we are.”

So let's talk about morals and some dead, of the recent variety. When the United States handed Saddam Hussein over to the new Shia-led government, they set on him like a pack of hyenas, snapping his neck with a rough cow rope in a mosh pit of celebration after an amateur show trial.

The U.S. celebrated in the carnage and joined in the morbid ebullience, despite the fact that Hussein had done nothing to the U.S. to warrant such bloodlust. What had he done that our friends the Saudis or Egyptians do not?

Ditto the grotesque murder of Libyan President Muommar Qaddafi. Our sociopathic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gleefully acknowledged his death-by-mob in the street on commercial television. Her delusions of grandeur were exposed with her petty, "We came, we saw, he died".

And yet life for Libya and its people -- just as for Iraqis post-Saddam -- has grown exponentially worse since Qaddafi was deposed. What, exactly, does  the U.S. have to crow about, and what moral direction can it provide?

But to the Japanese empire circa August, 1945. Hirohito was the divine emperor of an operation in which Koreans were used as labor and sex slaves. U.S. and British Prisoners of War were tortured, murdered and used for bayonet practice. Japanese medical officers used U.S. P.O.W.'s in chemical and biological research. The litany of terror goes on (even ignoring the fact that the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor brought the U.S. into the war.)

The point is: the Emperor was a war criminal of the highest order, and yet the U.S. never bothered to treat him as such. [He reigned until his death in 1989.]

What has changed from 1945 to 2016? Do our recent actions speak of "moral awakening"?

Are we listening to the newly dead which we have created, and what do we see when we "take stock of who we are"?

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