Warm and Cuddly Fascism

James L. Secor, Minna vander Pfaltz & Liu Bushi

Bertram Goff called this pleasant slow growth sociopolitical organization Friendly Fascism because it feels good. It feels comfortable. It feels like a protective mother or aunt. All power and understanding are concentrated in her lap as she tells us we need to take a more assertive role in our own interests, for The Public is faceless and faceless things are frightening–and dangerous. There is evil behind that mask. Evil is always there ready to steal our lives, our safety. We must do something about it. We must watch for it and listen for it. Because evil will sneak up on you. Evil can masquerade as good and benevolent. It takes a specialist to uncover it. In this way, we control it, manipulate it, corral it and herd it through loading chutes and into waiting box cars to be whisked away and done away with. We must protect ourselves against it.

Auntie–or mommy–does this for us. Auntie–or mommy–gives us rules to live by. And we feel comfortable and protected because they know best. They would not steer us wrong. They never have. Auntie–or mommy–has our best interests at heart.  So that by the time the masquerading evil’s intrusion into our lives becomes apparent, it’s too late. All of the watching and listening, all the surveilling to save us, was a lie. It was to control us. We were tricked.

Fascism. Now, who do you trust?

As faceless fear grows up around us, more and more withholding laws and watchdogs must be put into place until we have what Karl Popper called a closed society. A closed society, walled-in by propriety, laws and behaviors is a safe place to be. Wrongs and woes and bad people are kept at bay because they are easily apprehended. Don’t you feel better already? Safer? All those policing services and listening devices and surveillance cameras keep us safe, we’re told. Nobody in. Nobody out. You can never be too vigilant. And then one day you realize it’s you who are being surveilled for acceptance. It’s you who have been seen as probably evil. Doesn’t it make you feel dirty? Can you see your way out of the swamp? But, maybe you’re wrong. The fascism felt so good and comforting. Nothing could be so twofaced. Right? Forget that evil often masquerades as good. Life is so much easier to live with this denial. Denial helps keep the closed society closed.

Although keeping the bad and disruptive influences out is important, isolating–insulating–ourselves from the big bad wolves, it is the enemy within that is more insidious and, therefore, more demanding of control. What are the standards for that muzzling? The rule of law, law after law, which subsumes everything under its paw. Disgust. Opinion. Dislike. Urban myth. Whatever it is makes you feel uncomfortable, it’ll be made law. There are so many of these, the law(s) becomes entrapping. It’s difficult to journey through the forest, the elemental forest where nothing is what it seems and everything is not quite formed, though it all hides its face behind these as-needed laws. But, of course, there is no need to worry, for only the bad sort become entwined with the law’s brambles. It is amazing that the bad people inflict such horror on us via our fear and paranoia and obsessive drive to build a safe haven world in which nothing changes despite Brave New World. Oh! I forgot. You’ve been told (come to believe) that reading is, at best, useless.

All these laws and guidelines, all these walls, have become our teddy bears. And, so, life is good. Even when we suddenly realize that it’s all a lie. We must deny reality. Deny reality as we have all along. Denial is good stuff. It is comforting. There is no argument for “no it’s not.” And so. . .

What is fascism?

The closest you’ve come to fascism is your beloved religion: this way is the only way. All of you other people, you other-believers are going to hell. George Bush’s you’re either with us or against us is the manner of fascism. That was his religion: ME! I am right. In the end, all religion is fascist: me and fuck the rest of you. And if you question, you are dead.

Fascism is paranoia. It must always keep an eye out for the detractor. Inside and out. Fascism’s raison d’être is to remain in power. Eventually it sees enemies where there are no enemies. We know what happens to enemies of the State. With the increasing of policing organizations, you can be sure the enemy will be found out and eliminated in the name of purity. It’s already underway. How long before you are fingered? I hear you thinking evil thoughts.

Fascism is dictatorship.

Fascism is a society whose members act according to the rules of a fictitious world. The more extreme, the more fertile the ground for terrorism. Paranoia. Into your life it creeps.

Fascism is about destruction of the State for its own good.

Fascism is one party rule, which the US has now. It calls itself Red State America. There are only three other Red States in the world: Communist Russia, Communist China, Communist North Korea. That ought to be frightening to Americans but it is not. Damn fools!

Fascism is above the law. It has to be. It is only interested in itself. It must have freedom to be. Laws hold it back.

Fascism is a totalitarianism, for it can do nothing but become a totalitarian system in its move to destroy the institution of the State–make it small and keep it out of our lives. A State for itself. All in the hands of someone to keep the clankity old machinery going. That someone is a watchdog who has his own best interests at heart. His best interests are the country’s best interests. Auntie–and mommy–tell us so. Else he wouldn’t be the leader.

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Books I’ve Been Reading…or not

Books I’ve Been Reading. . .or not

by Jimsecor

Machiavelli’s Discourses. Lo-ooong and very informative introduction. But a little dry for my taste at the moment. He again notes that the person not to lead is one who reacts the same way to every problem, every crisis–as he noted in The Prince. Maybe notable in Trump but most certainly with the new director of Midland PACE Lawrence: she has one behavior–get rid of ’em! In three months, she canned seven people, three were “participants.” In any case, the end product with these people in charge is total destruction. More of PACE Lawrence’s behavior is in. . .

Hannah Arendt’s On the Origins of Totalitarianism. Amazing! I’m not finished yet; just getting into the last section of the last section/chapter, on totalitarianism. Communism/totalitarianism is for the East; Fascism is for the West. Germany, part of France, Italy, Spain. Fascism was noteworthy in the US in the 1920s; but especially now as one party rule is the opening gambit. This is, however, falling apart, despite the Republicans’ bent for doing nothing, because the Democrats now see the opening to regain power. However, it ought to be noted that the Democrats voted right along with the Republicans since George II. However, Arendt notes that the name of the game of politics is power. Trump fits the Fascist leader to a T; Putin seems to be supplying the propaganda.

I’m rereading–to help with a story of my own–Penelope Doob’s Nebuchadnezzar’s Children, Conventions of madness in Middle English literature. Once again, fascinating; though very slow going reading Middle English. What I did not expect to find was the reiteration today of the ideas of madness/insanity/mental illness from the Middle Ages. The run on mass shootings in schools is nothing new, as it were. In both ages, people do not ask just what it is that pushes people over the edge, either temporarily or permanently, personally or socially destructive. In the Middle Ages, the Church held sway, so the deduction was you were mad. Today, there is so much confusion in diagnosis of “mental illness” due to the greed of Big PHRMA and psychiatrists that damn near every slightly off behavior, including just plain normal “being a child,” is an insanity. There is a pitch for what is normal, here; in the Middle Ages, it was more akin to “not that way.”

Steven Levingston’s Little Demon in the City of Light.  I do not know why this was shelved in Fiction–it is not. It is a long and highly detailed reporting of the murder of Toussaint-Augustin Gouffé by Gabrielle Bompard and Michel Eyraud. Hypnotism played a role in this murder trial, there is a great deal of information context here, especially including Charcot. I’m not finished yet. Not quite up to the trial. It’s a good read, well-written. I’m surprised I’m getting on with it as I was not in this kind of mood.

Cornelia Steketee Hulst’s Perseus and the Gorgon. A hard read. Very academic (1946). Concerning the why and history of the myth of Perseus and the Gorgon. Egyptian history. Greek history. The Goddess Isis, though not much in the way of following upon my reading of the history of Hatshepsut. I made it all the way through, only to find the Greek’s were derivative and that I needed a rest from over-exertion.

Melville’s Typee. Must be in 3-pt font. I had forgotten how intensely, even obsessively he paid attention to detail. Even when something exciting happened, it was slowed down so every wrinkle in the shirts of the protagonists was discussed. But what came out of this was through the forced psychiatric evaluation at the behest of the above-mentioned PACE director-dictator. (Took the wind out of her sails.) For one Rorschach blot I noted it looked like a couple of witches brewing something up or cannibals stewing their dinner. Although we spent more time talking about the witches, I knew he’d pick up on the cannibals. He did. The cannibals came from Typee. (The witches came from a mystery type story I’m writing.) Even so, his analysis was correct. (I have the eval.)

Abe Kobo’s The Ruined Map. This book wraps itself around itself until it is what it’s about. Abe’s writing is about identity, identity within society. The Ruined Map is a detective story. I kept seeing the neighborhood I lived in in Kanazawa-ken. How do you keep your/keep up your identity? Especially when there are several intersecting points. It reaches a point where you just have to go with it and, in this case, escape. You already have the map.

Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere. I got bored half way through. I’m having a garage sale in early May–the entire neighborhood, in fact.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Angel’s Game. I think I ought to finish this one but can’t bring myself to pick it up again. . .yet. A gothic mystery, I’m led to believe.

Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho. An occasional read, so not finished yet.

William Eamon, The Professor of Secrets. Not finished. Interrupted by my move.

Michael Ennis, The Malice of Fortune. Interrupted by my move. Novel treatment (pun intended) of Machiavelli, da Vinci, the Borgias and Damiata the whore. Most interesting because of the sociopolitical context.

Vincent Wing Chung Chan, The Divine Victim. MA thesis, Asian Studies. He never read my dissertation. He knows nothing of kabuki, especially in the late 18th century, and nothing of the playwright, Tsuruya Namboku IV. His focus on religion in the play is his own. The Kwannon imagery at the end, when The Scarlet Princess rehabilitates herself is solely there to satisfy the censors and not at all religious or a parody thereof. However, there were notes on relationships between characters that were interesting. The Asian Studies division at BC should be ashamed of themselves for letting this pass. This play, The Scarlet Princess of Edo, is a good example of the rot and corruption and lack of any ethics of our own 21st century government, the Princess as symbol and example of said Tokugawa government. Being of royal blood, she sinks into whoredom, including with a Buddhist Priest, murder, including of her own child, thievery. . .yadda yadda yadda. All around her are two-faced retainers. She begins by just wanting to run away from her responsibilities. Other than the general rot of religion, there is no religious parody in the play because the religion was tied tightly to the rule of government. All of Vincent’s own making. It is, nevertheless, a well-written thesis.

Poe’s The Lighthouse. I don’t know why this is said to be unfinished. It’s written in the first person; the character can’t tell of his death. And he quite clearly says he’s stopped writing in his journal. Knowing that Poe wrote on more than one level and did not much care for the aristocracy, there is an element of just what he thinks of them, especially when taken out of their milieu. The doctor who sent “I” here, for money, wasn’t of the most wonderful personality. But, then, he was curing an aristocrat of a problem, using him as a guinea pig, for money. May be. . .Poe did not like doctors either.

 

 

The Dive Into Tyranny

The Dive into Tyranny

by James L. Secor &

Minna vander Pfaltz with

柳不是 (Liu Bushi)

While everybody, especially the newscasters, are busy fact checking Trump and going on about his language, his verbiage and his mental faculties, no one is bothering to look at just what is happening to the US. All are to blame for what’s coming, for they did not hinder the inevitable–because even with Trump gone, his replacement is of the same mind. No. It will not be Pence; he’s far too involved, if only because of his lying. Better that he be a ventriloquist’s dummy, for then the lies would be someone else’s. But they are his and he’s raising money for his legal defense.

So. . .who’s next in line? Seriously, folks? You don’t know?

Well. . .it’s Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, an ideologue who sees no responsibility for his actions other than the money he begets on his handlers, the already-rich and über-saving. What is over-saving? This is superfluous wealth belonging to the permanently idle that sits still and produces nothing at all. “The owners of superfluous capital. . .want profits without fulfilling some real social function. . . .” (Hannah Arendt, On The Origins of Totalitarianism, p. 150; also p. 149, for more discussion–the entire chapter, though, is about imperialism, which is applicable to the present situation as much as it was 2-300 years ago: money making money overseas.) Arendt considers these people menaces to society. Why? They take their money and send it overseas thus denying their own country the benefits of their wealth. In today’s world, they take their money and put it in off-shore tax havens and then spend it elsewhere: money making money and nothing else for nobody but “me.” At the same time, they use the country’s resources and don’t pay for them. The general run of the people and especially the middle class pay their way. With fewer and fewer jobs and less and less taxable income, there is nothing else to happen but collapse, destruction. Ergo, the superfluous money holders, the über-savings people, are menaces.

Falling in line with this ultimate destruction is the tunnel-visioned ideologue Paul Ryan who is no better than Mao who, despite his rhetoric, was government for government’s sake. Everyone works for the government–everyone has to work for the government. AKA slavery. Mao’s idealism killed about 45 million people to begin with (another 30 million or so later on). He destroyed his country. For present-day America, that would be around 7.5% of the population. Children are not excluded in the death toll. He will begin this march to despair later this year by slicing and dicing Medicare (want to bet he’s not going to want to support his parents and grandparents?) and Medicaid (he has a Malthusian belief that the bodies of the poor pave the way to success for the upper crust) and Social Security.

Obama made it possible for Social Security to be hacked at. Oh, no, no! Not such a good man! When you people whined about the mandated 14% FICA tax that fed Social Security and kept it in its own bag, if you will, he cut your payment by 2%. Y’all cheered. Ya-aaay? But. . .the 14% is mandated. That means the government has to make up the 2% you didn’t pay and that money is a government expenditure and that puts part of Social Security in the budget and, therefore, it can be manipulated, snip-snip, to help balance the horror the Republicans passed under the rubric of “tax cut.”

Tell me, were you looking forward to retirement? Don’t. And don’t gamble with the market, as Wall Street wants you to. Wall Street and “financial services” benefit from your gambling your savings, your Social Security, away. Las Vegas ain’t got nothin’ on the Wall Street fixers!

Y’all are responsible, whining aside. Y’all are responsible because you didn’t bother to pay attention to your government, your life, your well-being and just let some elected officials do. . .whatever. That is, fuck you for their benefit.

Surely you understand simple math: put less in, get less back.

Wasn’t it some time in the 1960s that high school social studies became passé? Of course, any such course was taught by uninterested, uninteresting teachers so you got 50 minutes of boredom and, in some cases, incorrect information. (Jimsecor didn’t take such a course but his social activism and disability work carried him over; Minna has dual citizenship and was in Holland during high school; Bushi is Chinese–she it was who saw the incorrect information, e.g. all good and all change comes from the government, which she says is Communist doctrine.)

Communist doctrine? Here in the US? Look. . .the Republicans call “their” America–they say this is “your” America–Red State America. The only other Red States in the world are the USSR/Russia and China. (There are other Communist countries but only these two call themselves Red State.) Uncanny, no? But there’s more!

When it comes to Paul Ryan, it is known that in 2012 when he was involved in aiding Republicans in winning elections in Florida, he became involved with the early Russian invasion. It is an open question as to whether he is the mole, the insider feeding information on our electoral system to the Russians, for it is impossible that they could have such an intimate and nuanced understanding by remaining on the outside. That is to say, is Paul Ryan the engineer? Here is where you can wonder about Trump’s intellectual abilities: he has no idea he’s being played.

Once the population is won over or subjugated, the people are of little interest to the government. Which raises a question Marx was never able to answer. He didn’t have the highest regard for people but people had to rule the land. How do you get better people than people? (Cf. Norman Geras, Marx and Human Nature.)

But the world, the country Ryan and Trump are trying to establish, is of a different sort. It is a dictatorship, perhaps a tyranny. It is the end product of Marx’s utopia. To get there, as H.G. Wells and George Orwell wrote, it doesn’t matter what is said. It’s not important that it’s not the truth. What’s important is that it’s out there in public and people are paying attention to it. What’s important is that no one is countering his verbiage, his lies and truth-bending because they are too involved in proving him wrong and making fun of him. People are too invested with proving him demented–and Wolf, a sleazy slimy man if ever there were one, only muddies the water with gamey rumor mongering that not even Hedda Hopper would engage in, in order to deflect the public and the media from the issue itself.

Trump’s mind is unimportant. It’s what he’s doing when he says what he says, often enough doing without any relation to what he says. He lets his minions, his lesser helpers, the people we already hate, do things. They take responsibility, not him, and then he fires them if their actions don’t turn out right. Damn incompetent people!

While the news reporters and the pundits and political historians cash in on just how many Secretarial posts are not filled, no one at all is looking at what this means. If there is no appointee, then Trump is the decider. He is the boss. He is, in effect, the dictator. Who’s to stand in his way? That’s right. Trump owns the running–or not–of the country. No Justice Department? No problem. Trump makes the law whatever he wants it to be.

Trump keeps firing people who get in his way. He replaces them with ass lickers. . .if he replaces them. In either case, he owns the country. Nobody can stand up to him, especially with the media telling him what to do; e.g., if he wants to fire Mueller, says the news media, he must get rid of Rod Rosenstein because Rod Rosenstein is Mueller’s boss. Guess what? Next thing you know, Rod Rosenstein is under pressure.

Obstruction of justice? Yes, you bet. How many more times can he engage in obstruction? Will it out? Nah. Like Lady Macbeth’s bloody hands, it’s a permanent spreading stain. The House of Representatives is ideologically Republican, come hell or high water. Any call for Impeachment goes before the House of Representatives. What are the chances, eh?

These secret phone calls to Putin. . .are they instructions to Trump? How long do you think Trump will last when he comes out on top of the same heap God gave Job? For Putin, Trump is an incompetent, a fall guy. Will Putin come here? Not a chance in hell. He doesn’t need to. His agents know better than to fuck up. Cold as it is in Siberia, it’s colder still in the grave.

But we’ll be living in a dictatorship nonetheless, Trump or not. And we are responsible, for we saw it happening, beginning with massive round-ups before even ICE became involved. We saw it with the new racism (victimization–you have to have someone to play scapegoat). We saw this in the violence and brutality of policing protests. We saw this in the caging of the First Amendment. We saw this with the targeted assassination program put into law by Obama, including of US citizens (none in the US yet); and allowing the CIA to spy on its citizens in violation of its mandate, again given us by Obama.

The many non-Trumpians who are leaving office are only hastening the process as, being gone, they cannot stand in the way of Trump’s destruction of the country. Every little bump in the Trumpian road is a success. But these deserters are more interested in themselves than the country, as Karl Jaspers noted in his The Question of German Guilt. He includes himself and all others who ran for their lives as guilty. Not everyone can be a hero, it is true, but even fewer reach the status of martyr, as did Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Fewer still are any people who have a belief they’d be willing to stand up for. For Christians, it’s God’s will for whatever the hell happens. For Muslims, Allah be praised. For Jews, I told you the world was a shit place. For Buddhists, it’s your karma (read “your fault”). Actually, it’s just not paying attention. It’s not reading and knowing your history. It’s not acting. It’s delegating your responsibility to narcissists. But we should be able to trust these people; we’re paying them increasingly exorbitant salaries, yeah? Machiavelli, the ultimate cynical, practical politician, would say “should” has no place in the discussion.

So, what are we going to do about it? Might I suggest Chalmers Johnson’s Revolution and the Social System (first edition) followed by action?

In the meantime, Minna has a second home, she’ll probably go there for awhile; Jimsecor is over 70, he’ll probably go elsewhere to finish out his days; Liu Bushi is in a bind, being an immigrant and not wanting to return to Xi’s China. She has, though, pushed for all of us going to some isolated island to live and die in peace. We, none of us, are heroes.

But, then, with all the recent volcanic activity and Yellowstone’s blowing steam when it oughtn’t maybe there will be a major world catastrophe that will change the course of history. Nah! Can’t count on that.

The Wall

The Wall

by James L. Secor & Minna vander Pfaltz

Buck limped across the street, calling out, “Hellecchino! Hellecchino!”

It was a bright sunny day, as per usual in Chokepointe Piste, or anywhere in the Brazos River Basin, where the rain rarely came tumbling down to cleanse the air and the land. Acid rain here was disallowed. It had been comfortably moved northward to Dallas and Houston and southward to San Antonio and Mexico. This very point allowed the PR firm of Yabu & Son–there was no son but it sounded good and made for an increase in business, for it dripped respectability–to sell tourists on the “sun all year round”-ness of the country and the temperate climate conducive to tan and wind and open range freedom. The pitch hadn’t caught on yet but what’s time when profits are involved?

So. . .Buck was perspiring by the time he reached the boardwalk on the other side of the street from The Lone Star Inn & Bordello and began stumping–rump-TUMP, rump-TUMP–along the loose boards until he turned into The Hotel, where he raised his breathless voice again, “Hellecchino! Hellecchino!”

The desk clerk dumbly watched him. Anything was a welcome break from routine. Buck peeked into the lounge. No Hellecchino. Buck peeked into the restaurant. No Hellecchino. Buck peeked into the bar-salon. No Hellecchino. Each time, he called out, “Hellecchino! Hellecchino!”

Buck ran–ker-PLUNK, ker-PLUNK–up the stairs and knocked injudiciously on the door to Hellecchino’s room. No answer.

Buck descended the stairs and stood before the front desk catching his breath. Finally, he said, “Where’s Hellecchino?”

And the desk clerk answered, in all truthfulness, “He ain’t here.”

Buck nodded and stumped out of the hotel. He looked both ways before he stepped out onto the boardwalk. It was difficult to decide which way to go, right or left. So, he turned right and continued plunking down the boardwalk toward Fancy Dan’s where he knew Hellecchino liked to indulge in lip-smackin’, finger-lickin’, chin-dribblin’ bovine costae with generous dabs of Arthur Bryant’s Masterpiece Barbeque sauce shipped direct from wild and wooly Kansas City via Yabu Transport and thus an extravagant item. Import duties made sure that any competition to the famous Yabu Cactus Barbeque Sauce remained beyond the capabilities of the common man while the ribs themselves were cheap at half the price.

And sure enough, that’s where Buck found Hellecchino, face covered in a clown-like smile of reddish-brown sauce dripping from his chinny-chin-chin down onto a checkered bib, supplied by Fancy Dan’s as part of the dinner packet. After all, rib juice and barbeque sauce stained, and stains would limit Fancy Dan’s business drastically. But, he covered his ass, Daniel Bunesci did, by also owning and operating the Italian Ristorante a la Mexicali and the Chinese laundry that conveniently did a big business removing spaghetti sauce evidence. Wives and mothers were eternally grateful. So was Daniel Bunesci.

“Hellecchino! Hellecchino!” yelled Buck, clunking up to Hellecchino’s table and plopping himself down in the chair opposite his mentor and hero.

“What’s up, Bucko?” inquired Hellecchino, smacking his lips and showering Buck with little pinpoint splatters of sauce. “Better get a napkin,” suggested Hellecchino. “Oh, boy! Another napkin, please.” He snapped his fingers, sending a shower of sauce and juice into the air.

The napkin was brought. Buck wiped his face.

“So. What’s up, Buck?”

Buck wiped his face again. “Yabu’s back in town.”

“His town. No news there.”

“No. We got trouble.”

“We’s alahs gots trouble, Bucko. It’s de name o’ de game. It’s what brings me to dis part of the world.”

Buck wiped his face. “But he’s just back from seeing his guru.”

“You mean Master Hiram Evananda?”

“You know about him?”

“Shore do, Bucko. Ain’t nothin’ I don’t know ’bout. I’m a hero, y’know.”

“An’ yore magic,” chortled Buck, wiping his face yet again.

“Oh, boy!” and Hellecchino snapped his thickly wet fingers again, again spraying reddish sauce hither and yon. “I’m finished. Bring me the handiwipes and take this stuff away.” When the boy had done his bidding, Hellecchino said, “Put it on my bill. Now. . . what is it that couldn’t wait until I finished my noonday repast?”

“Well, Yabu’s returned from Big Chief Buttons Compound out on Merengue Montaña. An’ he’s shoutin’ and carryin’ on about bein’ enlightened.”

“What so new about that? So damned many people return from Peyote Pete’s Big Rock Candy Mountain claiming the same thing.”

“Ain’t none o’ them Gyorgy Yabu.”

“Well, now. There you have a point. What’s he on about this time?”

“It’s reported–”

“Who’s reporting this?”

“McTortle. He keeps a keen eye on these kinds of things.”

“Hmm. . .always some kind of shell game, eh?”

“That’s exactly right. How’dja know?”

“I’m a hero. I keep tellin’ ya, Buck. Don’tcha ever listen?”

“Huh?”

“What did McTortle have to say?”

“Yabu’s enlightenment is about separatin’ good from bad.”

“Wowzer! He’s got a way to tell the difference?”

“Seems so. He’s gonna build a wall to keep the bad out.”

“Oh, my. . .that’ll cost a bit.”

“Not so, Hellecchino. Master Hiram Evananda has ties to the asphalt and concrete business down the road at Ocee and he owns the grease and oil business out on Country Road 317 on the way to Old McGregor’s Farm.”

“I see. . .”

“So, we got a problem, Hellecchino. Let’s get to work and save mankind.”

“I think you’re being a bit hasty, Buck. What if mankind don’t wanna be saved?”

“Yore shittin’ me!”

“No. I’m not. We gotta wait til people start complainin’ and seein’ the error of Yabu’s ways. Y’know, if’n it ain’t in yore backyard, it ain’t worth doin’ nothin’ about. It’s the rules o’ the game.”

“Ain’t Chokepointe Piste yore backyard?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes. But people tend to shrink the term ‘backyard’ to personal, private dimensions. Let me tell you a little story–”

“We got time for stories?”

“There’s always time for a story, Buck. It’s in stories that knowledge is passed along, as Wredgranny says.”

“Who’s Wredgranny?”

“An old Indian woman. An elder. A storyteller.”

“She fat?”

“Buck, I’m surprised at you!”

“Why? Ain’t all Indian old women fat?”

“You ever seen an old Indian woman?”

“Hell no. They ain’t allowed in Chokepointe Piste.”

“So, what do you base your opinion on?”

“The pitchers in hist’ry books.”

“Well. . .let me tell you, Buck. Those books are written by white men who don’t like Indians and so the pictures are what they want you to believe is the truth.”

“Go-awlly!”

“Right down the road there is the Educational Research Analysts, led by Mel Gabler, Hedda’s distant relative. Deborah L. Brezina rents the building out of which Gabler and the Educational Analysts regurgitate history. Y’see, Buck. All you know of fat old Indian women is what this organization tells you. They stereotype the Indians. Fat old women are not welcome in this part of the country, no?”

“Well, I’ll be hornswaggled!”

“That’s right, Buck. You’re the victim of political propaganda.”

“Old Indian women aren’t fat?’

“No. Not necessarily. The only thing that all old Indian women are is wrinkled.”

“Well, hell! That comes with age.”

“Indians are people.”

“Well, sure. But. . .ain’t they all got big noses?”

“You mean like Italians and Polish?”

“Sure. Like that.”

“Stereotype.”

“Ain’t stereotype something that comes outa two sides?”

“Buck. . .let me tell you a story.” Hellecchino pushed his chair back and crossed his hands over his flat belly. “To stereotype is to fix in lasting form.”

“Kinda like sculpture?”

“In a manner of speaking, stereotypes are writ in stone. Howsomever. . .a stereotype is also something constantly repeated without change–”

“Like a prayer!”

“Will you just let me get to the bottom of this?” Buck subsided, hung his head. “Alright. As I was saying. . .stereotypes come in phrases and X and factoids. . .”

“Factoid?”

“A factoid, etymologically, is ‘something like a fact.’ ”

“So a stereotype is something like a fact but it ain’t.”

“Exactly.” Hellecchino leaned back, looked up at the ceiling and began his story. “The blowback on stereotypes is that some people begin to believe ’em. That is, if you’re told something enough times, you begin to believe it. Like a fox. Foxes been told they’re cunning tricksters for centuries and they believe it now. But the trap is. . .it ain’t necessarily true. Now, somehow or other, Fox got his fellow woodsy denizens to work for him harvesting his fields. Fox, of course, was wily enough to get out of most of the hard work. But, along about mid-morning, Rabbit got a thistle stuck in his paw. He started hoppin’ and jumpin’ around and shoutin’ enough to wake the dead. You know how over-excited rabbits get. Anyway. . .Fox came trottin’ down the row Rabbit was workin’ and saw the thistle. ‘Well,’ he says, ‘go on over t’ the well and put some cool, clear water on it. But don’t be gone too long, y’hear?’ Rabbit didn’t say nothin’, just hip-hopped outa the patch and through the woods to the well. Well, when he got there, he found that the water was way down in there. He dropped a pebble into the well an’ it took some time to find bottom, as it were. There were a couple buckets sittin’ on the edge o’ the well, so Rabbit figured he’d just ride one down to the water, dip his paw in the water, take a little drink, it bein’ a hot day an’ all, and then ride right back up. So, he jumped in a bucket and fell downward, landin’ kerplop in the water. It was pretty cool down there but Rabbit knew he’d better get back to the vegetable patch before Fox came a-lookin’ for him. But when we pulled on the rope, the bucket up top lodged against the pulley and. . .Rabbit was stuck down the well. ‘Holy cow paddies,’ he said to himself. ‘I’m in for it now.’ There wasn’t anything he could do but wait for Fox to come stormin’ after him. An’, sure enough, Fox appeared at the top of the well. He knew all along that Rabbit was jus’ tryin’ to git outa work. ‘Hey! What you doin’ down there?” Fox shouted. ‘I’m fishin’,’ answered Rabbit. ‘Some fine fishin’ down here.’ ‘Really?’ ‘Really. Come on down ‘fore they’s all gone. Easy pickin’s,’ Rabbit encouraged Fox. How stupid of Rabbit, thought Fox, ‘to let me go down there an’ git all the fish while he’s up here starvin’. Okay,’ he said. ‘Just jump in that there bucket,’ suggested Rabbit. Fox did and he flew to the bottom, passin’ Rabbit on the way up. Rabbit waved at Fox, smilin’ kinda big, like a Cheshire cat. ‘I’ll come back later, when the farmin’s done,’ shouted Rabbit and hopped merrily along. Well, o’ course Rabbit didn’t come back an’ there was wily ol’ Fox stuck in the bottom of the well. Didn’t take him long to figure out who outfoxed who, let me tell you.”

Hellecchino paused.

“That all?” asked Buck, sitting up in his chair.

“Yep. Old wily Fox got himself stuck thinking he was outfoxing Rabbit.”

“Did he ever git outa that well?”

“Sure did. A thirsty hunter came by and hauled up a bucket full of water–only he got a bucket full of Fox. Well, Fox lit on outa there before he got a behind fulla buckshot.”

“Didn’t git no fish neither.”

“You ever heard of fish in a well?”

“No.”

“Pretty dumb Fox, eh?”

“An’ foxes are s’posed t’be so cunnin’.”

“Yep. Fox believed all that hype about foxes being cunning and got himself trapped.”

“So that’s how a stereotype works! An’ I was right to begin with–a stereotype is somethin’ that’s got two sides. There was two buckets there at that well. Boy! Yore ingenious, Hellecchino!”

They sat quietly at the table for some time, each thinking his own thoughts. Finally, Hellecchino got up.

“Okay. I’m digested. Let’s go out into the sunshine and see what Yabu’s up to.”

“There you are!” shouted McTortle from down the street. “I been looking for you.”

Along with McTortle was a young woman, tall and willowy with long, flowing black hair, black eyes and thin but ruddy lips. She was dressed in calico. Her hips jerked right and left as she hurried after McTortle.

“Lookie there! There’s my sister.”

“You got a sister?”

“Shore. Ain’t only Mexicans got sisters, y’know.”

“She always chase after McTortle like that?”

“Nah. McTortle’s married. Harriet’s her name.”

“Might pretty lady, your sister.”

“Yep. I s’pose so. Y’want I should interduce ya?”

“Don’t think you’ll have much choice.”

The sprinting couple came to a panting halt but a few inches from Hellecchino and Buck. They leaned over, hands on knees, trying to catch their breaths. Both spit into the dry, dry road dust. Both held up their hands, as if to speak. . .and then subsided into heavy breathing once more. Finally, McTortle straightened up. “Yabu’s done done it this time,” he said. “Don’t know how much longer I can put up with this.”

“How much longer have you put up with it so far?” asked Hellecchino.

“Oh, hell. I don’t know. Perhaps 10-12 years.”

“Where would you go if you actually ever decided to got?” Hellecchino seemed genuinely interested in McTortle’s dilemma, leaning in and peering at McTortle’s reddened face.

“Don’t rightly know. Haven’t given it much thought. My home is here. I’m kinda settled in. . .if y’know what I mean.”

“How are you, Miss Harriet? I’m Hellecchino, local hero,” smiled Hellecchino as he smiled down on the diminutive lady and held out his hand.

Harriet gripped his hand rather more forcefully than he expected and said, “You don’t look much like a hero.”

“Appearances are deceiving.”

“I’ll say.”

“Harriet!”

“Buck. . .what the hell you know? You’re drunk half the time.”

“No, I ain’t. More like two thirds’ the time.”

“And you’re braggin’?”

“Cain’t brag ’bout my leg, yknow.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t wanna talk bout it, alright? How many times I gotta tell ya, huh?”

“How come you chose Buck to be your sidekick, Mr. Hellecchino?” Harriet asked sardonically.

“He asked.” A bald-faced truth.

“Well. . .I guess that explains it.”

“Explains what?”

“Huh?”

“Have I got a piece of land for you!”

“I thought you was a hero.”

“I am.”

“So, what you goin’ about sellin’ land for?”

“Seemed like a good thing to do with Yabu’s wall going up.”

“You know about that?” startled McTortle chortled.

“Yep.”

“How could you? We haven’t told you yet.” Harriet creased her brow, one line between her eyebrows, and tilted her head off to the right.

“Harriet. . .I’m a hero.”

“I’ll be damned!”

“I doubt it. You’re too pretty. Care to take a walk?”

“Where to?”

“Does it matter?”

“I suppose not, all things considering. . .”

“You’ll take care of McTortle, right Buck?”

“Shore thang.”

“What about Yabu’s wall?!”

“What about it?”

“He’s gonna build it through town keepin’ out all the bad tings. The things he don’t like.”

“Just things?”

“No. People too, more’n likely.”

“I ‘spect so. But, tell me. . .is it built yet?”

“No.”

“Well, then. No worries.”

“But we gotta keep it from bein’ built, damn it! It ain’t right.”

“Why ain’t it right, McTortle? He was given the task by his guru, Dr. Hiram Evananda, Master of the race. Surely, Yabu believes in whatever he’s told.”

“But it ain’t right, shuttin’ good people out.”

“No, I s’pose you’re right. But Yabu doesn’t consider them good people and that’s what’s important.”

“Yeah?”

“Well, people don’t have to buy into it. If he thinks it’s important, let him build it. He’ll stop sure enough if nobody else thinks it’s important. I think what y’all oughta do it take up a collection to help him finance the building of his wall. He’s precious protective of his own money, y’know. Getting someone else’s to do the job would be mighty pleasing, don’t you think?”

“Ain’t that self-defeatin’?”

“Nope. If you donate to the building of the wall, you get to know where the wall’s going before it’s gone there and so you can organize yourselves. After all, sooner or later he’s going to need supplies, right?”

“Yeah. I ‘spec’ so.”

“Well. . .here’s a stack of money,” and Hellecchino dipped into his back pocket. “I want you to go on over to the real estate office and buy up a strip of land just outside of town. . .like right where the Chisholm Trail bends round to come into town. You buy up the land so it crosses that road. A half mile on either side and 100 yards wide. When you got title, come and find me.”

“Whatcha gonna do with a piddlin’ piece o’ land like that? Can’t hardly build a house on it.”

“Why you gotta keep throwin’ up blockades to success, Buck? We don’t have no need of a devil’s advocate here,” scolded Harriet, putting her hands on her shapely hips.

“I’m only tryin’–”

“You stop tryin’. You’re tryin’ to second guess a hero here. You can’t know what he’s thinkin’.”

“Yeah, but I wanna. Any harm in that?”

“I’ll tell, ya, Buck,” said Hellecchino, putting his hand on Harriet’s left hip hand, “if I tell ya what it is I’m up to, you’ll know too much. If you don’t know why I want a stupid strip of land for, so much the better. But it’s your land, Buck. And you’re already known for being kinda mindless, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, the agent will just put it down to another stupid Buck move and think nothin’ of selling you a useless bit o’ land ’cause his goal is to make money.”

“Y’mean. . .what I don’t know won’t hurt me?”

“In this case, yes. Though it might be more to the point to say what you don’t know won’t hurt me and alot of other folk.”

“Damn! I never knew ignorance could be so useful!”

“Y’don’t know everything, Buck.”

“Goddamn it, Harriet! Why th’ hell you always comin’ down on me?!”

“Come on, Miss Harriet, let’s go for our walk. I’d like to see the cemetery.”

“Which one?”

“There’s more than one?”

“Sure. One for us and one for Yabu’s men and one for the Yabu family.”

“Whatchu wanna go to the cemetery for on yore first date, Hellecchino?”

“‘Cause it’s quiet.”

And with that, Hellecchino steered Harriet down the street and around the corner, despite her quiet insistence that they needed to go the other way. Hellecchino told her, soto voce too, that there was more than one road to take to get somewhere and there was no more arguing. Buck when on to the real estate office, another DIY operation, while McTortle was left in the middle of the street spluttering and turning in circles over nothing getting done to solve the problem of the wall. Finally, he scratched his head and went on home, thinking that some heroes are really weird. . . and perhaps not worth their weight in salt.

Hellecchino, meanwhile, was banking on history. And psychology. How many walls have been built down through history to keep certain kinds of people out? Hadrian’s Wall. Didn’t keep the Picts out. The Great Wall of China. Didn’t keep the Xiangnu and other northern barbarians out. Flodden Wall. Didn’t keep the Brits out. Jericho’s walls. They came tumbling down. The Berlin Wall. This one came tumbling down, too. The Israeli Roadmap to Peace Wall. It was difficult to tell whether this was keeping its own in or out. Prison Wall. Nope. No good. Prisoners still got in. The Southern Border Wall, really a huge electrified barbed wire concentration camp type affair keeping Texans in and Texans out. It weren’t no good neither. So, what was one more wall? Certainly couldn’t be no worse than Frost’s Fence!

Well, Hellecchino had a plan. As all heroes do. It had to do with logistics.

Here are some questions to consider:

1) How’s Yabu going to get his wall built?

2) What’s Hellecchino going to do with Buck’s piece of land?

3) What if Yabu makes a mistake?

4) Does it really matter?

Well. . .a few days later, Buck found Hellecchino and Harriet sitting under a tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g. And he was waving a piece of paper.

“Hellecchino? Hellecchino?”

“What is it, Buck? Can’t you see I’m busy cementing social relationships?”

“But I got the land. Here’s the title.”

“Good boy. Now go build on it.”

“Build what?”

“A block house. Cinder blocks. A door and two windows.”

“One on either side of the door?”

“Yes. So it looks like a mouth and two eyes.”

“And then what?”

“Move in.”

“But I got a house.”

“This is more than a house, Buck. This is a business. When you’re done with the house, you build a little three foot high pedestal alongside of the road, one on either side of the road, and you get a pole made that’ll fit into the slots you made in the tops of the pedestals. But you don’t use it yet. You keep it behind your house, where the ladder to the top of the house is.”

“What I need a ladder to the top of my house for?”

“Because up there you’re going to build a little garden with a little table and a couple three chairs. Maybe even an umbrella or something.”

“You want me to do all this?”

“Yep. I ‘spect there’ll be lotsa people wanna help a crip do himself up good.”

“I guess so. But. . .I don’t like pretendin’ and whinin’ an’ such.”

“The hell you don’t! Just gowan out’n do what you’re told for once in your life!”

“Now, Harriet, don’t be so hard on the guy,” soothed Hellecchino. “Look,” he turned to Buck, “you want to build this yourself?”

“No.”

“Well, then. . .play on your disability to get all those people who don’t really care about you to help you.”

“You think they will?”

“Anything to get you outa their hair. Besides. They’ll consider it fulfilling a debt to society.”

“Right!”

Buck hobbled off into town.

“What have you got up your sleeve, Hellecchino?”

“Buck owns that strip of land and the road running through it. He’s going to have to control traffic if he’s going to live a quiet life. So. . .once Yabu starts building his wall, Buck sets up a traffic gate and charges toll to get past.”

“So not only does he create a problem for Yabu, he makes a livin’ on his own.” Harriet smiled broadly and then kissed her hero. “My! You’re amazing, Hellecchino. Why didn’t I think of that?”

“Because you were looking at the wall as a problem for you when, in fact, it’s a problem for Yabu. When people are the centre of attraction, they tend not to be paying attention to the periphery of life.”

“So, what happens next?”

“I think we outa get outa this heat and into some place more private and. . . comfortable.”

Some days later, there was a town meeting held out in the worker’s part of town. To be exact, in the minority meeting hall. Buck and McTortle organized it. Hellecchino was the featured speaker. It was all kind of hush-hush but that really didn’t matter as Yabu and his men stayed out of this section of town. It was considered not a good section of town. Especially not one to get into at night. Even the law stayed out. Although most people saw this as a slap in the face by a big three-fingered prejudiced hand, it was actually a very empowering situation. Hellecchino had a plan.

“Because certain people don’t like you and look down on you and could care less about you, you have power,” Hellecchino began. He was shouted and hooted but he held his place, held up his hand in time and continued on. “Y’all can organize. Y’see. . .these certain kinds of people don’t do the work themselves.” Murmurings of agreement on that, for sure. And then Hellecchino laid out the plan. It was very simple.

First, they hired themselves out, the unemployed or under-employed, which was close to 25% of these kinds of people, to build the wall. Being as there were always rabble rousers and unruly teenagers who liked to destroy things, they were to be enlisted in dismantling part of the wall every night, carefully restacking the blocks and whatnot alongside the wall. This way, it would take literally forever to finish the job. Yabu’d be terribly frustrated and would turn his energies to stopping the delinquency while the workers would be employed and making some kind of living, albeit, if everything when as per usual, not much of a one. But, then, something is better than nothing. . .and there was more to come. When the heat got up, the devilish social reprobate teenagers would cool it down and leave the wall building alone until vigilance became relaxed in the face of no threat and calm–and then they’d strike again. Only this time, they’d dismantle the beginning of the wall. There’d be enough work for everybody.

The next move was to move the shopkeepers’ families up to of their shops if their shops were going to be on the good side of the fence. This would force Yabu into rerouting his wall to exclude those particular shops–or buy them. In this latter instance, the shopkeepers were to bargain for the best price possible and then take the money and run, never to work in that shop again.

A few of the old boys began chuckling over this.

“Soon,” one of them said, “he gonna be needin’ what we got.”

“Exactly,” said Hellecchino. “If you’re on the wrong side of the wall, he isn’t going to get what he wants–”

“Or he gonna hafta rebuild his wall,” said another worker.

“An’ we ain’t gotta work if’n we been bought out,” said another faceless worker.

“An’ he ain’t got no bizniss sense,” shouted out a worker woman in the back of the hall.

“Shit! He kin jest import it,” countered another.

“Buck’s got a tollgate out on the Chisholm Trail. He owns a great stretch of land that the road runs through,” offered Hellecchino.

“Damn man! We set.”

There was a chorus of approval at this point and the evening was brought to an end.

Sometimes, all a hero’s got to do is kind of look at things a little askew.

Social Studies 3

 

Social Studies 3

“Good morning, class.”

“Good morning, teacher,” appropriately answered the class in unison.

“My name is Mr. Kruztashun.” He fiddled with some papers on the little lectern on the table. He did not sit. “Mr. Drumpfelstilzchin is away on business.”

A hand went up in the back. Mr. Kruztashun nodded in its direction and pointed.

“Where’s our usual substitute teacher?”

“Mr. Braunesel has better things to do.” Mr. Kruztashun set his hands firmly on the papers on the lectern. “Today we are–”

“We hate this class,” said a little boy in the far corner. The rest of the class snickered.

“That’s exactly what we’re going to talk about! Hate.” Suddenly the class was quiet, so quiet the windows rattled with the breathing of the students. “This is Social Studies 3, is it not?”

“Yes!” answered the class in unison.

“Well, then! There’s nothing better to talk about in relation to social studies than hate.” Mr. Kruztashun put a hand on his left hip, bent forward from the waist and pointed out over the heads of the students, a good teacherly thing to do, for it kind of included everyone. “What do you hate?”

A great intake of breath in the classroom. They’d never been asked about this before. They’d been told that hate was bad and not to be disseminated out in public–and surely not toward parents, the greatest thing in the world to hate.

“I hate niggers.”

“I hate spicks.”

“I hate camel jockeys.”

“I hate girls.”

“I hate rich people.”

“I hate poor people.”

“I hate smarty pants.”

“I hate chinks.”

“And gooks.”

“And nips.”

“Injuns!”

“I. . .hate. . .parents!”

The class erupted into tremors of chaos. Girls and boys were shouting and laughing and generally whooping it up. Mr. Kruztashun did nothing to quell the uprising. After all, getting people, even little people, enthusiastic and involved was part of teaching. Only when you’ve got them on your side, as it were, interested in what you were teaching, could you succeed in teaching them the right stuff.

When the class settled down somewhat, Mr. Kruztashun put up his hand. “Wow! We’re doing so good! You hate a lot.”

The same hand that shot up at the beginning of class shot up again. Mr. Kruztashun nodded in its direction again.

“Hate is good?”

“You betcha. Before you can do anything about it, you have to get it out in the open. Then you can do something with it.”

“Like what?” asked a tow-headed little girl in the front row.

“Well. . .what happens when you hate?”

“You get left alone?”

“Right. And what’s the big word for being left alone?”

“We don’t know any big words, Mr. Kruztashun.”

“Well! Would you like to learn one?”

“Yes!” from the now enthusiastic class.

“Okay. Here it is. . .isolation.”

“Isolation,” the good students parroted.

“Right. Isolation. You hate it when people don’t leave you alone, don’t you?”

“Yes!”

These kids were good, Mr. Kruztashun thought. “So, that hate makes them leave you alone, right?”

“Yeah. We get sent to our rooms.” Lots of murmuring agreement.

“And you hate that, right?”

“But,” Mr. Kruztashun held up a knotty knuckled index finger, “when that happens and you are isolated, there are no more hateful people with you. They are all outside. Right?”

“Yes!”

“You are isolated.” Mr. Kruztashun leaned over the lectern. “And inside.”

“Yes!”

“What do you do when you’re left alone?”

“Masturbate,” said a little boy at the far end of the front row.

Everyone else snickered and giggled and held their breaths. To say such a thing in public! To say it in the classroom! What was Johnny thinking?

“Exactly!’ Shouted Mr. Kruztashun. “You win the prize.”

“What prize is that?” A smiley face? A star? A gold sunburst?

“You get to feel good!” Quiet reigned. “You do feel good when you masturbate, don’t you?”

Half-hearted assent.

“Sir?” a little blonde girl put her hand up. “You mean it’s okay to feel good when you. . .masturbate?”

“Of course it’s okay.” Mr. Kruztashun leaned over the lectern. “You do feel good when you masturbate, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Well, then. How can that be bad?”

Lots of mumbling and rumbling and giggling.

“So!” Mr. Kruztashun brought the class round to him. “When you hate, you are isolated, right?”

“Yes.”

“And that’s a good thing, right?”

“Yes!”

“And it makes you feel good that all that you hate is outside, right?”

“Yes!”

“So, now you can hate all you want in your isolation, right?”

“Yes!”

“What better kind of place could you live in?”

“None!”

Yes!” Mr. Kruztashun wiped the wetness from his lips. “Now. You’re left alone.”

“Yes.”

“And you can hate to your heart’s content.”

“Yes.”

“That’s like masturbating til your hand hurts.”

“And you’re all sticky!”

“Ee-yew, Johnny! You’re dizgusting.” shouted a group of girls in the middle of things.

“What do you care?”

“Yeah!” shouted another antagonistic boy. “What happens when you tickle your moose?”

The class erupted in joyous laughter and taunting.

“I bet you wet your pants,” said a shy little boy.

“I want to watch.”

“Well!” said Mr. Kruztashun, clearing his throat. “When you’re isolated, you can watch because everyone’s masturbating.”

“Cool beans, Mr. Kruztashun,” said Johnny. “You’re the best teacher ever.”

“Oh, thank you, Johnny!” Mr. Kruztashun tried hard to blush but only got his eye lashes to flash up and down. He had short eye lashes, too. “Well! So. You’re isolated. What else can you say about it?”

“Nobody bothers you.”

“Right.”

“You don’t have to pay attention to what anybody else says.”

“Right. You don’t have to share.”

“Yeah. And you don’t have to do things like other people do.”

“Right.”

“You don’t have to share!”

“Exactly! You’re your own boss. You don’t have to trade with those others.”

“Trade?”

“Yup. Like, I’ll give you this and you give me that.”

“Does that mean, Mr. Kruztashun, that, like, I can, uhhm, wear things that are mine?”

“You mean, like things that are only made by you?”

“Yeah.”

“Yes. Only things made by you, for you.”

“Like. . .no Chinese stuff?”

“Right.”

“No Japanese stuff.”

“No German stuff.”

“No Mexican stuff.”

“And no African stuff.”

“That’s right. Only American stuff.”

“Then we’ll know it’s good, right?”

“Right.” Mr. Kruztashun rubbed his hands together. “Boy! You guys are great.”

“Yeah!” shouted one girl. “We can do what we want! We can do for ourselves. And we can keep it all for ourselves.”

“Masturba-aaation!” shouted little Johnny. “Uhn! Uhn! Uhn!”

“Yes. And. . .what happens when you’re isolated and everything is for you and by your and you don’t want or need anyone else and your masturbating to your heart’s content?”

The bell rang just as the kids raised their hands, clamoring to be the one with the answer.

“Oops! Looks like we’ll have to wait for next time to talk about stagnation.”

“What’s stagnation?”

“Time’s up. We’ll talk about that next time.” Mr. Kruztashun opened the door and held it for everyone. “See you next time, guys,” he said as all the students filed out. “You’re the greatest.”

“Hate!” said one boy, giving Mr. Kruztashun a high five.

“Isolation!” said another.

“Masturbation!”

“We’re the best!”

“It’s my land.”

“Right. Hey! See you next time.”

 

© James L. Secor, 2017

Justice Matters My Ass

Justice Matters My Ass

by James L. Secor, Ph.D. & Minna vander Pfaltz

“If we consider the purity of the Christian religion, the sanctity of its moral precepts, and the innocent as well as austere lives of the greater number of those who during the first ages embraced the faith of the Gospel, we should naturally suppose that so benevolent a doctrine” would have filled and comforted us with due reverence and that its works would shine, strengthening the imperative of justice, thus making a city where such justice “rolls down like a mighty river”–and what better place than the arrogant little town of Lawrence, Kansas, albeit in the name of the world.[1]

And so it is that Justice Matters, a conglomerate of myriad Christian denominations purporting psychological knowledge, has set about solving the mental health crisis in, first, Lawrence and Douglas County, and then purportedly the nation. Justice Matters believes that the Christian way knows the right way to solve psychological suffering. Indeed, Christianity believes it has the answer to every sort of suffering. A befitting arrogance, as Justice Matters considers itself a Nehemiah action.

Nehemiah was a builder–a re-builder. It is believed that he rebuilt the walls of Israel but, in fact, he only rebuilt the walls of the southern Hebrew kingdom of Judea (capital at Jerusalem). Apparently, the northern kingdom of Israel was somehow not worthy of consideration.

A great man? Perhaps. But he was arrogant and boastful: “I beseech thee, O Lord, let thy ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant. . .and give him mercy. . . .” The Book of Nehemias I:ii. “The hand of my god was good with me,” II:18. “Remember me, O my God, for good according to all I have done for this people,” III:19. “Remember me, O my God. . .and wipe not out my kindnesses, which I have done. . .,” XIII:14.[2]

The more so arrogant because he was eunochus and not oinochoos (cup-bearer). A later re-interpretation saw eunuch as not so highly thought of? Within the text itself we have proof he was, though: 1) he appeared in the presence of the Queen, not to be done if he’d been a “real” man; and 2) he would not, without great rationalizations–especially to his heroic status–cross over the temple threshold which, as eunuch, he could not cross over. A taboo that even the possibility of death could not override.

Ergo, the Justice Matters leaders fit their Nehemiah namesake for arrogance: religious leaders expecting God to praise them for their doings. But Justice Matters’ arrogance is worse, for while Nehemiah knew what he was doing, Justice Matters is pretending to knowledge it does not have. The religious organizers know not the psychology of mental illness but pretend to. And they pretend to help while they are not the least interested in admitting to their number, much less listening to, the mentally ill or the social activist. Why? Justice Matters knows better, that’s why. Über-arrogance.

But the situation is considerably more tarnished and twisted. For this, the Justice Matters people are in denial, denial of their Janus-faced behavior, in denial that they do not know psychiatry and mental illness and organic brain disease and in denial that the mentally ill are not helpless and do not know themselves. The Justice Matters people believe they have the answer while propagating the old and conventional belief in hospitalization, belief in isolation and separation–and medication. They even use the nomenclature of incurable illness that is, in fact, old hat and, in the rest of the western world, has been found to be inappropriate.

This attitude is unsupported by science and empirical evidence, unsupported by the Hearing Voices Networks and the alternative methods so popular and successful in Europe; unsupported by the personal testimony of the “sufferers” themselves. “Sufferers”? Only in that psychiatry and society has made them suffer in their ignorance, for neither listen.

Justice Matters is correct–by jumping on the bandwagon–that jail/prison is not the best or appropriate place for the mentally aberrant; aside from lack of knowledge and treatment, criminalizing “mental illness” equals no treatment outside of abuse. Something more and better is, indeed, needed.

Otherwise, Justice Matters is not the least bit interested in making their professed belief in what needs to be done happen. There is no plan of action. For, with their very successful fundraising drives, nothing has been done with the money raised. Nothing at all. As the money raised by donation to a religious organization, there is no accounting. No taxation. Where is it going? Certainly not to the realization of their vision.

“We’d like to get concrete expectations on where we’re moving,” says Ben MacConnell, an organizer for Justice Matters. Doesn’t he already know? This is akin to a general going into battle without any plans to fight.

“Our scriptures speak of a powerful, loving God when matters of justice arise. So, let us go upstream–as one body–and trust in God to help along the way” (Justice Matters website). So, they really have no plan, only God. And. . .if God’s away on business? Then what? “St. Peter don’t call me ’cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store”?

There seems to be no innocence of motive here. Moral precepts are sidelined in the push to appear great in the eyes of their God and the world. Look at me! Look at me! So very Nehemiahan: remember me and bless me for I am good, full of good intention. Halleluiah! The humanity necessary to support and succor the poor and homeless, the disabled and mentally ill has all but been squeezed out of existence leaving an empty, rotting shell.

You miss the garden,
because you want a small fig from a random tree.
You don’t meet the beautiful woman.
You’re joking with an old crone.
It makes me want to cry how she detains you,
stinking mouthed, with a hundred talons,
putting her head over the roof edge to call down,
tasteless fig, fold over fold, empty
as dry-rotten garlic.
She has you right by the belt,
even though there’s no flower and no milk
inside her body.
Death will open your eyes
to what her face is: leather spine
of a black lizard. No more advice.

Let yourself be silently drawn
by the stronger pull of what you really love.[3]

There is no more purity and benevolence left in religion. The truth of this assertion billows into a black and boggy Garden of clinging choking vines nursed by Christians’ practice of intolerance and hatred and a love of war and their demand to discriminate and refuse to serve those who don’t fit their brand of righteousness, of their social Darwinian precepts. So much cruelty and violence–abuse–is meted out these days, rationalized by citation to the holy book, rationalizations that are, in fact, not there. The Christians are lying to themselves as they lie about the world and lie to the world in order to get. . .what? What is the pay-off? Simply to get ahead? To earn indulgences so to sit on the right hand of God? Nehemiah arrogance to be sure.

Theocracies are ever of this ilk.

In an abusive society, no one is truly interested in helping (Cf. R.D. Laing). Abusers have lost all sense of proportion and all innocence; there is no austerity to their lives, which would give them some sort of compassion. As others in need are found wanting, so the religionists themselves are wanting. Better to talk and paint exquisite pictures than to engage in practicing the espoused higher virtue of their way, The Way, while they wonder, loudly, how it is the world has become such a horrible, gruesome place; for with people of such worthiness as themselves abounding, it is inconceivable that we are living in the end times.

Since Christians are doing nothing and, of course, since nothing is happening, everyone must pray. A pray festival–with donation–is the answer, a vital need. Cry out unto the Lord!

Praying is too slow. And Portugal is too small and too far away. . .and not American.

Justice no longer means or involves transformation. It is now all about feelings of satisfaction of a job well done. Nothing profound. No transcendence. Just me and my ideas. Me and my survival. Legally, any more, justice means vengeance with laws built around someone’s disgust and shaming. It is also about hiding facets of civilization that are disturbing to have around for their evidence of society’s inhumanity to man.

Before continuing let us remember a few things:

  1. He who can name the way does not know the way; and
  2. Beware the do-gooder; and perhaps
  3. The way to success is to correct oneself.

One could, at this point, add, “alas and alack.” For wisdom does not seem to be part of the Christian canon. Not to be wondered at as none of the wisdom writings of Christianity were included in their New Testament. None. That is to say, they–the Wisdom Writings–are non-existent but in the Old Testament where we find a warning of the self-proclaimed wise: “Let us therefore wait for the just, because he is not for our turn, and he is contrary to our doings, and upbraideth us with transgressions of the law, and devulgeth against us the sins of our way of life” (Wisdom II:xii, in which the self-proclaimed wise are upbraided). And “He boasteth that he hath knowledge” (Wisdom II:xiii). Ignorance is vain reckoning. And yet again, “He that rejecteth wisdom. . .their hope is vain, and their labours without fruit, and their works unprofitable” (Wisdom III:ii, in which the truly wise are extolled).

Other than “become not unwise” (Ephesians V:xvii), look to the Nag Hammadi and you shall see the wisdom books, considerably more “books” (45) than make up the New Testament.

“Desire without knowledge is not good. . .to have desire is fine; but to have desire and act upon that desire without knowledge about it is ignorance” (Proverbs XIX:2) because “I would not have you ignorant” (Romans I:xiii). Perhaps Justice Matters should heed the question put to Job: “Who is this that wrappeth up sentences in unskillful words?” (Job XXXVIII:ii).

Why do I say Justice Matters is ignorant? Again, they do not wish the so-called mentally ill in their organization; nor do they read anything other than the accepted status quo diagnoses and treatments and, therefore, have no knowledge that hospitalization and drugging are not the best or most productive of treatment methods. Justice Matters is stuck in 19th century mode. Perhaps they should read history and the horrors of 20th century hospitals. Perhaps they should heed the words of the knowledgeable, the “mentally ill.” Willful ignorance is a sin against God.

Romans I:xiii, “We would not have you ignorant.”

Thus it is that these people with a belief system and their leaders with degrees in Divinity–a devilish conundrum–have no knowledge of psychology or of mental illness yet believe they do because God is on their side and they have a desire to do good. I wonder. . .does this mean their belief is that people are mentally ill due to disbelief in their creed? And that, as of old, the heathen, pagan disbelievers who are (obviously) mentally ill must be isolated from the rest of Mankind and drugged into the oblivion all non-Christians are deserving of for fear of contamination?

Most telling–and without damning commentary–is Justice Matters’ lack of knowledge of modern, more humane approaches being applied outside the US, including a non-illness approach; after all, the organic brain disease approach was a diagnosis of Emil Kraepelin, from the late 19th century; and it is known that a major component of mental illness is socio-cultural: quite simply, if you take away the anxieties, you ameliorate many of the symptoms. Then, one must deal with handling the problem, which is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Peer-to-peer gives more applicable and useful options. Perhaps, though, reading is not a thing the Justice Matters ministers do, despite their religion’s reliance on humanity and human rights.

These more humane and more successful means of treating “the mentally ill” are not obscure or hard to find. In fact, as research goes, discovering this information is all but effortless: it’s on the Internet, to begin with.

The oldest involves the people of Geel, Belgium, from the Middle Ages where the mentally ill were given a home and work and the mental illness symptomology decreased, even disappeared.

There is the vast–except in the US–Hearing Voices Network, one of several peer-run approaches that are accepted in the health insurance industry of other countries. Peers: no doctors, no nurses, no social workers, no family or friends. By, for and of the people who hear voices. Or, for that, matter any other “mental illness” sufferer–including those who have liberated themselves from the system to find a real life. How many artists have ended their lives secondary to in-hospital treatment, especially that horror known as ECT (Electro-convulsive Therapy, aka Electro-shock Therapy). For more on artists see Kaye Redfield Jamison’s Touched With Fire.

But, again, reading about mental illness does not appear to be high on the list of Justice Matters’ things to do. Perhaps I ask too much (Cf. Romans I-xiii). “We” In this moment means the mentally ill. To not listen to these people is to continue the practice of modern-day psychiatrists who also do not listen, just hand out drugs like good pushers. “God damn the pusherman,” sings a popular rock band. Why? Because the pusherman doesn’t give a damn what the drugs do to you, as long as he gets his money. Are not these psychiatrists akin to the money changers in the temple? The temple of the mind.

The Norwegian approach that does not use drugs–unless the individual wants–and then at the level each person finds comfortable. (Cf. Robert Whitaker, The Door to a Revolution in Psychiatry Cracks Open.) This self-assessment is important, for the Big PHRMA-set therapeutic levels are often enough inappropriate. Often, the side-effects to anti-psychotics and anti-depressants are passed off as “just what you have to put up with.” Drooling, involuntary mouth and tongue movements, problems swallowing, dull affect, inability to think or speak, agitation that never abates and has, itself, a diagnosis (akathisia). And the therapeutic level can itself be an overdose, as with Lithium (LiCO3). Overdose of Lithium results in behavior and symptoms similar to those of a stroke, called encephalopathy–and occurs at “therapeutic level” in some people. The sooner caught and treated–cessation of Lithium–the better. Sometimes, these people go on to suffer TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack; colloquially, a small stroke). If a less than “therapeutic level” works to control symptoms, it’s good, Big-PHRMA be damned. But psychiatrists prefer the dogma.

Look, too, to the Finnish.

How much better if doctors listened to patients who say, “Oh, yes. This is enough.” But US psychiatrists–and Justice Matters, as already noted–don’t listen to the mentally ill; they simply administer drugs and then damn as non-compliant the imposed-upon individual who won’t take the drugs due to effects and/or side-effects. Some of these nut cases are told it’s all in their head. (Oh, the irony!) And hospitalization, wanted or not. This is the wrong way to deal with the problem. This is hiding it and attempting to make it go away, as with the homeless people, as embarrassment to the abuses of modern civilization.

Imposing isolation and drugs on people is unconstitutional: it is a restriction of freedom.[4] In the House of Representatives, there is a man who has attempted over several years to have a bill passed into law that would require forced hospitalization, drugging and other treatments for anyone with a mental illness diagnosis. His name is Murphy. The House has passed his bills; the Senate, the lawmakers, has not. If passed, there would be no artists of any kind on the streets, on the stage, in the movies. Truly a Murphy’s Law.[5] What a dull, second-rate society we’d live in. . .and one mirroring a Fascist state: utilitarian and intolerant.

Justice Matters utilizes diagnoses found in the DSM-V, a diagnosis by committee booklet that medicalizes everything that is not considered normal–even women who cannot achieve orgasm are mentally ill, according to this book. This book is the only way to get symptoms covered by the health insurance industry. It is extremely unpopular amongst practitioners: “In recent years, clinicians and researchers have started to question the very diagnostic paradigm that once gave them so much hope. Mounting scientific evidence has indicated that DSM– and ICD-based categories do not reflect patterns of mental distress found in both clinical and general populations.” Indeed, it is generally thought that there are “built-in assumptions of homogeneity within diagnoses, purported to occur as a singular, one-size-fits-all process [that] leave[s] no room for the heterogeneous reality of mental health experiences” and result in “the pathologizing of sociopolitical deviance.” This is what the DSM-V is all about.[6] (Aside from money.) The health insurance industry in the US is, “If you can’t afford it, you deserve to die” and mental illness is all but dis-included as unworthy even of the limited coverage given to the physically ill, despite the ties the mind has to the body.

Who, then, it seems to be right to ask, is the true mentally ill person?

The mental set of Justice Matters is old hat and not fully accepted within the psychiatric field. Justice Matters approaches the situation from one of disease, indeed, incurable disease. This is just not so, for there are times–often years–when symptoms are not present. The disease model sees this as “remission”; the human (humane?) model sees it as normalcy because the symptoms of mental illness are not continuous forever and ever diseases, aka organic brain disorders, or permanent and irreversible chemical imbalances. Nothing in the brain is static. Indeed, the mind, the mentality affect of the brain, is not the brain. Science doesn’t know where it is, much less what it is. Which would make mental illness an undefined unknown.

Mental hospitals were done away with because of their ineffectiveness, abuse and even worsening of the mental situation. The replacement was supposed to be local acute care clinics. Not one state in the US bothered to institute such clinics. The “mentally ill” were left to wander the streets; to be arrested and jailed. Though Justice Matters notes it is interested in acute care clinics, the organization has done nothing to help bring this about, despite the money collected in one fund raiser after another. Ergo, Justice Matters isn’t interested at all in the mentally ill other than as a means of enriching its “leaders” and making its constituents feel good about themselves for becoming involved in some kind of human interest do-gooding.

Why?

If Justice Matters were serious about what it says it wants to do and if Justice Matters was in touch with what’s going on in the city, they’d know there is a place for establishment of an acute care clinic. But Justice Matters is out of touch with reality and more interested in face and money. That is, they chose a social action that turned out not to be easily attained nor easily understood. Justice Matters entered the fray in ignorance and has continued in ignorance, perhaps believing their God-given desire is all that’s necessary. Yet, Proverbs XIX:iii has it that “Desire without knowledge is not good. . .to have desire is fine; but to have desire and act upon that desire without knowledge about it is ignorance.”

[1] Quotes are from Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and the Justice Matters website.

[2] The Holy Bible, John Murry & Co., publisher, 1891.

[3] The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks.

[4] Cf. the Fourth Amendment. Quarantine is a different matter.

[5] Manic-depression occurs eight times as often in artists than in the general population. Indeed, it was once known as “the artist’s disease.” And it has a genetic component. Nowadays, under the rubric of Bipolar I or II, it is a diagnosis for anyone who has mood problems, including those with severe anxiety problems and borderline personality people, genetics be damned. But the confusion is good for the psychiatric pocket book.

[6] Although the quotes from this article, “Psychologists Push Back on Psychiatric Diagnostic Manual” can be found variously on the Internet, it first appeared in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology and alongside another article looking at alternatives in The Journal of Humanistic Psychology.

The Boy Who Would Be Hero

The Boy Who Would Be Hero

by James L. Secor

“Stevie-boy!” called Donald the Dragon Killer.

And like magic, as if he’d known beforehand, Stevie-boy was there, in the room, just inside the door. His hulking frame, his head cocked to one side, blocked much of the light. Donald had not yet opened or had opened for him his shuttered windows, whence the two streaks of light that tore across the floor and up the opposite walls.

“Saddle my horse. I’m going out and I’m going farther than before.”

“Whatever for, Sir Donald?”

“A hero’s job is never done, Stevie-boy.”

“Yes, sir. And what of breakfast?”

“I’m a hero, Stevie-boy.”

“As you say, sir. But even heroes must eat.”

“Oh, alright. Have me a tankard of ale and a loaf of black bread sent in. That’ll do me.”

“As you say, sir.” And Stevie-boy suddenly disappeared.

For the umpteenth time, Donald wondered how Stevie-boy did these appearing and disappearing things but it was no use trying to figure it out–the workings of these lower-downs was really quite beyond him.

Candy-girl brought Donald his breakfast and stood demurely against the wall til he had finished. Then, she took the plate and tankard away. Donald belched and rose from his table. His stomach rumbled a little and he was reminded of how long it had been since he’d had a decent meal. He liked black bread and ale but the sameness of the routine bothered him. It was, in truth, wearing on is nerves. As was the idleness–or, rather, the lack of encountering heroic situations. Surely it was not possible to have swept the world clean.

Sir Donald strode out into the bare courtyard, where even the grass refused to grow. He had his mighty bow and quiver full of arrows. Sean-boy stood by his horse’s head with his trusty golden lance, never broken during battle. But it did not gleam in the pale sunlight. Donald looked up into the washed out bluish sky with its straggly, used up clouds and wondered again at what had happened to the world.

Sean-boy watched from bland eyes as his master mounted his golden gelding. He handed Sir Donald his lance and stepped back. The horse groaned a bit under Donald’s weight but stood its ground. It took Donald several kicks in the animal’s side to get the beast moving. Off they went at a leisurely walk. Although Donald grimaced slightly, perhaps this pace was better until he’d passed through his demesne.

Once again, as he had for uncountable mornings, Sir Donald The Dragon Killer rode tall through fields of emptiness. Stubble there was and an occasional sorry stalk of some grain or other, but otherwise nothing. Not even vermin or insects roamed the dry earth. The trees scattered around, dotting the hazy horizon here and there, showed dull, dusted green leaves on branches that sagged earthward.

How long had the world around him been barren? Donald could not recall. A long time, that was for sure. Why it was this way was a conundrum the hero could not get his mind around. He consoled himself by telling himself that it was his job to do, not to think. That is what a hero did. A hero acted. He killed problems and since he had to eat, he killed his food as well. When there had been game, he’d been good at it. Unsurpassed. For his aim was unerring. After all, he was a hero. Sometimes he used his hunting as an excuse to keep his skills sharp. Sir Donald The Dragon Killer was proud of himself. His abilities never atrophied.

Yes. All in all, despite the lack of game, Donald had a good life, he thought.

It wasn’t til after passing through the once fecund now fallen fallow cropland that his horse began to canter. Donald felt better at this pace and so was not bothered so much by the lack of a view. But he did pull his steed up short upon spying a forest up ahead. This was a sure sign he’d gone farther than he’d ever gone before. It was a lush green forest with tall-standing trees and dancing foliage, for there was a breeze. That brought his head around: a breeze! He could feel the breeze. He could smell the air. He felt invigorated. Surely there was life here and he’d eat well tonight. Sir Donald’s mouth watered. He kicked his trusty charger into a gallop. Unlike earlier in the morning, this did not take much effort.

The forest was much farther away than it appeared and by the time they entered its cool shade, the horse was sweating and snorting and foaming at the mouth. Horse and rider slowed to a walk, savoring the smell and the feel. Donald’s exceptional hearing picked up the sounds of stirrings amongst the trees and in the underbrush. He knew, though, that it was small stuff so he didn’t bother to look. He was after bigger game.

It would be nice, too, if there were a stream or a well.

The time passed almost unnoticed and then Donald spotted a clearing ahead. And in that clearing, his keen eyesight espied a fowl. A partridge. A very fat partridge. He moved a little closer, steadied his mount and took aim. His arrow flew silently and swiftly through the fresh air and sank itself into its target. The bird keeled over without a sound. But as Donald was cantering in to gather up his kill, a keening cleft the air.

When Donald broke into the clearing, a skinny old lady dressed in rags stood over the fallen fowl howling her grief, hands raised in the air, a look of horror on her gnarled and crinkled face. The door to her lean-to stood open and her spinning wheel lay spilled on the ground, thread sprawled everywhere. She looked up at Donald’s approach.

“You bastard!” she cursed. “Look what you’ve done.”

Donald looked. “Yes! I’ve just shot my dinner. Excellent marksmanship, don’t you think?”

“It was my only laying hen you shot!”

Donald dismounted. He looked closely at the dead bird.

“Yes. You’re right. It is a hen,” he said.

“Damn right I’m right. What are you going to do about it?”

“Do? I’m going to take it home and eat it.” And Donald reached for the dead thing.

The old woman sprang between him and his goal. “Over my dead body!”

“Surely you jest. I’m a hero. I always get what I want.”

“Not this time, buster.”

“Who the hell are you to challenge me?”

“I’m the old lady of the woods and this is my bird.”

“Life’s tough, honey. Tell me about it.”

“You want to take my hen and leave me to starve to death. Is that it?”

“That’s it.”

“Well, that isn’t it. . .unless you pay me first.”

“Pay you? With what?”

“You haven’t got anything on you?”

“What good’s money when you’re out hunting?”

“You haven’t got anything on you?”

“What good’s money out here in the woods?”

“Well, then. You have to kill me to get the bird.” She pulled her scrawny self up to her full height, perhaps her head came up to Sir Donald’s nose, so she was not too terribly intimidating.

“Okay,” shrugged Donald The Dragon Killer and he drew his sword and cut off her head in one fell swoop. “Evil old lady,” he muttered as her head plopped onto the ground and rolled around, staining the spun thread red. “Dinner and one less witch in the world,” Sir Donald The Dragon Killer said to himself. He was quite satisfied. It had been a good day.

Sir Donald carried the arrowed trophy-hen proudly over his shoulder.

“Zippity-doo-dah, zippity-ay,” he sang.

He turned to look back at the forest before the long journey home. The color was not so green and the leaves did not rustle. Somehow, the woods had sunk in on itself, it wasn’t so big any more. Like all the life had been taken out of it.

Sir Donald the hero wondered why it is this happened wherever he went. He shook his head. And then he turned round and headed home.

“My, oh my, what a wonderful day,” he sang.

(c) James L. Secor, 2017

Old Country Baggage

Old Country Baggage, or The Making of America

by James L. Secor

We all know vampires suck the blood of the living to continue living, even though they are dead. The living dead. A curse.

We don’t know where vampires come from. They just suddenly appear in folklore. The most famous being European. Central Europe, to be exact. Though the Chinese had vampires, too, they did not travel to the West with their fabled RR builders and laundry entrepreneurs.

European vampires had not migrated to Britain before the 19th century, else they would surely have made their appearance at Salem, if not Jamestown or Roanoke Island, the Lost Colony. As it was, America had to wait for a later mass migration of Europeans.

George Calvin Brown and family and friends are prime examples of vampire baggage carriers. As always, the opening of the carpet bag was innocent, however traumatic. Very like Pandora’s box.

Ephemera Gladys Brown, George Calvin’s loving wife, died of tuberculosis one day. George and the children were crestfallen, as one would expect. Losing a caring, loving, thoughtful mother was not expected or wanted. While the family mausoleum was being built and readied, the family mourned. Mother Brown was en-coffined and discretely kept in a corner of the Ice House, which the Brown family owned and operated. With all but the carving of the alabaster monument completed, public mourning ensued with the requisite religious broodings and blessings.

And then life went on, albeit with Leonard Gardener Brown coughing a wee bit more than usual. The grocery store side of the business suffered as Leonard’s coughing increased in frequency and intensity. In fact, Leonard was excluded from both the grocery and the Ice House. Left alone, his coughing and whitish pallor led to a drinking habit that wormed its way into the family’s profits. Eventually, he, too, succumbed to the wasting away disease and was laid to rest alongside his mother. Another name was chiseled into the alabaster and life more or less went on.

Lena Mercy Brown was so distraught and beside herself and so very fearful of the future, specifically her future, that she became a frequent visitor to the grave site. Early in the morning just before dawn and late at night well past the waning moon, Lena Mercy could be found at the cemetery. So regular and spectral was she, she was spoken of as a ghost. Lena Mercy haunted the graveyard with an unhealthy obsession. So said the town doctor. But Lena Mercy would not desist, even as her pallor paled and her eyes reddened. And then she died. She told her father, one day, that she didn’t feel so good, coughed once into her white, white hands and died.

The doctor said that Lena Mercy Brown also died of tuberculosis, no history of coughing notwithstanding.

What kind of curse was this laid upon the Browns?

Surely, some townies said, this was the result of a prior life-sin. Others pooh-poohed such a superstition. Still others believed that the family was particularly susceptible to invasion by minute, even unseen animalcules. Animalcules being animalcules, this was difficult to deny. Invisible things forever manifest themselves into life. People breathe air, don’t they? And they dig in the dirt. And wash and bathe in the water. Everyone does. Some few were more susceptible than others to invasion by animalcules.

George sold the grocery business. People were wary of infection. As long as he ceased operating the Ice House, he was able to hold onto the business. The income was enough to keep him and his youngest, Edwin Prentiss. They could find no one to help around the house, though.

But tragedy again struck.

This new wrinkle to the family horror came via the cemetery grounds-keeper. This elderly gentleman began seeing the ghost of Lena Mercy wandering through the cemetery to end up hovering around the family vault, raising her hands and looking upward as if mourning her mother’s and her brother’s and her own demise or calling upon God. All in utter silence, of course, as ghosts make no noise, though their mouth holes be open. The old night watchman also reported the silence of the cemetery. That is, no scurryings of night denizens and no owl hootings. Not that owls tended to be very communicative to begin with or while hunting. The oldster’s repetitive sightings brought out the ghost hunters, ghost busters and ghost curious. The crowding of the cemetery brought about less Lena Mercy walking. This phenomenon led to a generalized exodus but for the curious, who tend to be quite persevering. Their nightly vigils paid off. Sightings were reported and substantiated. Though not by an outside, objective, uninterested individual.

Much to the discomfiture of the remainder of the Brown family, this ghostly appearance of Lena Mercy became a hot topic in the district. Curiosity seekers began visiting the Brown house. The worst of the lot were the various newspapermen. Rude and invasive, if they got no story they made one up.

Eventually, George and Edwin shut themselves up in their house. Groceries and sundries were delivered, ordered by messenger. Eventually, interest flagged somewhat. At which time the true tragedy struck.

It was here that the European old world baggage was opened and spilled out its contents all over the ground. The soil was fertile. The horror grew like kudzu, choking the hell out of reason.

How could this happen?

The mind’s job, as it were, is to make sense of things. Make sense of the world. Make sense of chaos. Make sense of the senseless. For this purpose, pre-laid pathways in the neural network of the brain are activated, for your brain forgets nothing. This is how we can remember how to walk without thinking about it. The baggage that sometimes ought not to be carried with us is opened like this; that is, habit of mind. We are creatures of habit. Habit helps us cope with the world. Habit helps us find meaning. Some of these habits are deep-seated and enduring, enduring like fairy tales, folktales, folklore.

How the mind does this is by putting various happenings together and coming up with an answer. It is this solution that is most often influenced by deep cultural memories. Memories of explication. Memories that are connected to an answer and a solution. Habits of mind. Short cuts for thinking.

First were the deaths of the Brown family. Three out of five.

Second was the ghostly sightings by all and sundry of Lena Mercy.

Third was the haunting of George by Lena Mercy. She became a nightly occurrence, dancing around George in bed, George at the kitchen table. Lena Mercy was insistent. According to George, she harassed him. Eventually night and day.

Fourth was Edwin Prentiss’s illness. The same as his mother’s and his brother’s and his sister’s, Lena Mercy not having suffered the coughing. Edwin began his coughing and increasingly wan coloring within two weeks of Lena Mercy’s haunting the house.

Surely there was a connection here.

Ghosts are not known to be benevolent.

George sought solace, sought answers with consultations of the town elders, the doctor, the various ministers and the travelling Chautauqua professors. Though not all were in agreement, those obsessed with their old baggage, those in the majority, convinced George that Lena Mercy’s hauntings and Edwin Prentiss’s advancing illness were connected. That is, Lena Mercy was responsible.

Something needed to be done. Proof was needed.

So it was that the Brown family tomb was opened. Of the three coffined bodies, only Lena Mercy’s was not decomposed.

A great cry rose up and it was decided Lena Mercy was a vampire.

What other reason could there be? Only vampires feed on the living. Edwin was declining while Lena Mercy was not. Not dying. So?

There could be but one conclusion.

The townies cut out Lena Mercy’s heart. They burned it, cringing somewhat as it sizzled. They made Edwin drink a concoction of ash of heart and red wine.

All was well. No more hauntings. No more coughing.

Edwin Prentiss died in silence two weeks later.

How could this be? Lena Mercy the vampire had been appropriately done in. Maybe Edwin Prentiss was too far gone by then. Maybe more needed to be done.

So, Edwin Prentiss’s heart had a Palo Santo wood stake hammered through it. Both the heart and the stake were burned. The remains were buried. Holy water was cast upon the ground.

Everyone waited, fretting. For lifetimes they fretted and worried.

Would it ever, really end?

Vigilance could not be relaxed.

And so it was.

(c) James L. Secor, 2016

 

Getting a Mouthful

Getting a Mouthful

by James L. Secor

People are isolated and isolated from themselves. They are alienated, from themselves and others. There is no knowing anything of anybody.

With this unbridgeable gap between me and you, commitment centres on me and what I want whenever. Life happens to me and I go with it. That’s all any of us have. So, what’s important is now because I only exist in the now. I don’t exist in the past tense. And, of course, I can’t exist in the future because it’s not here yet. I only exist here and now. I only feel things in the eternal now. One thing after another. Me and you. Separate but going along the road. On and on. Wherever it takes us. Just me bob-bob-bobbing along. Me. Because I have no idea about you and I have no idea where this  road of life is taking me.

Since I know nothing and am not an agent of anything in particular, I cannot be held responsible. Life affects me and I react: I have no choice. I can only go with what I’m given. Now. Events are not future. Events are now. We are all at the mercy of events. The nowness of life. Events happen to you and me but there is no connection between the events and no connection between us and we have no choice but to go along with it. Events are the stampede makers of life. Like grasshoppers or lemmings.

Take the case of Johan de Witt.

I, of course, did not know him. Personally. How could I, being of humble origin? But I knew of him. I had seen him in his numerous processions through town, through the province, though he progressed through more than just mine. The whole country, in fact. He was a handsome man with long dark locks, a thin moustache at his thin upper lip and no beard, though perhaps there was some peach fuzz right along the chin; heavy eyebrows and a long, thin nose. Aquiline? I don’t know. I don’t know what an aquiline nose is. Nor have I found it necessary to find out. What is important is that he smiled at us as he passed. He smiled and waved. Once, his eyes made contact with mine and I knew he was human. Acquired aristocracy be damned.

He was everybody’s hero.

But this was not to stand him in good stead. For who knows what will stand you in good stead since you don’t know where you’re going or what road you’re on.

Is there more than one road?

Isn’t it more like a delta where the river splits into myriad channels that inevitably lead to the ocean? And at the ocean what does it amount to?

Johan de Witt. A Republican, a man who believed in the people and the Republic of Holland and not a supporter of Holland as the aristocracy’s playground. The True Freedom.

Imagine that! A you-and-me type of person coming to rule the country. Stranger things do not happen.

Johan de Witt brought great prosperity to the land and, therefore, everyone loved him. He brought overseas trade–other than with Britain and the other European nations–though we knew these others were barbarians, barely human. But what does this matter when we should never have to meet them? Living off of their labor was no problem at all. We introduced them to civilization. We brought them need and the need for satisfaction. Which we held the key to. In the name of free trade. And the country became rich. And the people therein. More ours than theirs, as would be expected. Advanced countries need more, eh?

Could a born aristocrat have done as much? I dare say not, since an aristocrat would be interested solely in himself. That is, in fact, the definition of an aristocrat: self-interested. The rest of the world be damned. It’s the way of the world. And nobody likes it.

Johan de Witt was a breath of fresh air. New blood. And so his end is the more telling. Some would say, it says more about the people, the yous and mes, than it does about him. But he’s just like you and me. Just another human thrust along the event path. Just because he made something of himself doesn’t mean anything. Certainly not that he’s different than you and me. You and me aren’t what’s important. We are what makes the world go round. You and me. I. It takes a lot of I to keep the gears working. So many that we are faceless. All the more reason to celebrate Johan de Witt.

You might say, success went to our heads.

Johan de Witt cut quite a figure at the head of the armies. He wore the minimum of armor passing through town and countryside since the battle was down the road a piece. Thank goodness. I would not want to have it here. Me and you, we have lives to live. We are not soldiers. It is not our profession to fight. Though I think more come home than die. It doesn’t seem like it, all attention being lavished on the dead and wounded. But there it is.

In establishing the Republic, the Free Hollander Johan de Witt led us into wars to repel the greedy European powers that drooled over our riches. We would not be slaves to their appetite. A road we’d been on far too long. Mostly, we fought against the English and the French. The French had long belabored us and were petulant over losing their colony. The English were greedy barbarians who believed killing their rulers solved problems and proved their strength and worth. A land of slobs and rogues.

There were many wars against these English upstarts. Johan de Witt and his brother Cornelius were successful, though we lost New Holland during the second war. No great loss. Not much in the way of trade. Not really. We, in turn, sailed up the Thames River to London and demolished the English. No one had ever done this before. What a coup! In the end, we became richer and stronger until finally we Dutch could strut a bit.

Revenge. Justice. Judgment. It’s all the same. Control yourself? Where’s the rule of thumb? Where’s the standard? Where’s the proof that control orders anything? Things happen. First this, then that. Move on. Life’s like that. No telling what’s up next. So, what’s this control business? Controlling yourself does not control the world. And who are you to tell me, eh? You don’t know me. Can’t know me. I don’t know you. We are all separate individuals.

What happened to Johan de Witt was sad, though. I’d like to say no one deserves such an end, but who am I to make such a judgment? And what is it to say that it was due to the disaffected? We’re all disaffected. Isolated. Alone. Stumbling along as best we can. We are not responsible for what life hands us. If it says to go this way, we only go that way. Go with it.

One day Cornelius de Witt was arrested. No one knows why. Some malfeasance or other. Johan de Witt went to see his brother in prison. When he came out, standing a moment to suck in the fresh air, people attacked him, beating him with clubs and pipes and knotted rope. They kicked him. People flailed away, frenzied beasts. When Johan de Witt fell silent, his body was dragged to the square where hangings and other punishments were accomplished. Fires were built and set alight. We hacked Johan de Witt to pieces and roasted his parts. Several of the inns rolled kegs of beer before their doors so we could drink as we ate and carouse the night away. There was not enough of Johan de Witt to go around.

(c) James L. Secor, 2016

Some Arrogant Things in This World

Some Arrogant Things in This World by Minna and Jim

Religions. All religions. Especially the Chosen People religions. Why? Whatchayall done? The rest of us are shits? God has more than one Chosen People? And they all hate each other? Pretty damned whimsical God, no? Pretty damn awful Chosen People, no? And then all those Chosen People start arguing and fighting and killing amongst themselves–and since that’s not satisfying enough, they begin arguing and fighting and killing everybody. The banner of war is always the same: I GOT THE ANSWER! Follow me! Follow me or die! Arrogant it is to maintain you’re the best when you murder, mutilate, rape and commit genocide. And. . .their God approves of this.

That the Earth and Earthlings are so very important, the only important one in the entire fucking universe for aliens to visit–and, according to some, direct our development. Well, you sure can’t say that any help given has led anything other than utter disaster. At least, they’re not gods, these aliens; though I understand some folks think so. Kinda fits: what’s unexplainable is either God’s doing or the Aliens’ doing, for humans are really dumb fucks. Sounds like a sounder of Luddites. Why can’t it be that we just don’t know it all yet?

Donald Trump.

America is the Greatest Country in the World. Shall we count all of the prior greatest countries–who were great–before America’s self-proclaimed pre-eminence? Great Britain? The Spanish? The Normans? The Nation of Islam? The Persians? The Romans? The Greeks? The Babylonians? The Mycenaean’s? The Egyptians? The Chinese? The Japanese? Actually, the only “greatest” are perhaps the Sumerians who seem to have started it all, in the West (Middle East). Just about everything else that we have comes from the Greeks and the writers and philosophers whom the Roman rulers disapproved of and the science the Muslims gave us. Nah. America is arrogant in its self-assessment.

The consortium that created the DSM V. After coming to the decision that everything about human behavior is a mental illness, they forgot to include themselves.

Literary agents. Literary agents also happen to be the lowest form of life on Earth. They make their money from the hard work of others. They not only charge the artists for their “representation,” they charge them for office expenses that are then deducted from their tax liability as a “business expense.” And then they charge the publishers for getting them manuscripts of no depth and moderate literary ability. Any wonder people don’t read any more?

Budweiser.

Me when I’m manic. . .or very, very defensive.

Steven Pinker, arrogant stupidity. Not a linguist by degree. America’s greatest pseudo-intellectual. He is so knowledgeable and wonderful that not one international linguistics researcher or journal mentions his name, not even to show how ludicrous some “thinking” is.

The owner of Youtube who believes her desire for money is more important than the product she offers. Thus it is we have adverts in the middle movies, videos, documentaries and music, sometimes more frequently than found on TV. There is no pleasure for us in this arrogant greed of hers that interrupts music and documentaries and movie action in the middle–even recorded live performances. How arrogant of her to impose her greed and ill-judgment on us.

Pinterest. Imagine. . .someone’s idea of knowledge–or actual knowledge–and someone’s collection of whatever being so priceless as to not be accessible except to those within the clique. La!

Utopias and their makers. Akin to religions who teach “My way or no way.” In the modern world, this would be Marx’s Communism: a perfect place. Utopias ride on the idea of they’ve got it all and, so, no change is necessary. No change. Change upsets the balance. Which is a violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (that most do not understand). If there is no change, if nothing is going on, if there is perfect balance, there is death. The “chaos” that entropy leads to is total balance: no change, no development, nothing. If our bodies, if organic life, got to this point, we are dead. In death, the only change is from the outside. See Chance and Necessity by Jacques Monod. Balancing, like a seesaw, is constantly going on: 2H + O2 = H2O is not a done deal. Chemistry puts a double arrow going both ways  in there because the reaction is constantly going back and forth and includes various other combinations, like H2O2, HO, H3O, H, H2, O, H3 and they’re all in flux. If it stops, you gots nut’n. A seesaw perfectly balanced (without no one on it), is dead, there is no life, there is no potentiality. Unchangingness = no life. But don’t tell that to Utopians. Utopians not only believe they are right, they believe they know it all.