A Note on Terrorists

A Note on Terrorists

by James L. Secor & Minna vander Pfaltz

We need to begin speaking truth to the terrorists of today. We need to call them what they are. They are murderers. Mass murderers. To call them anything else is to give them legitimacy. They and their actions prove there is nothing legitimate about them. They are simply conscienceless murderers. People with a great blood lust. They are no more than Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, Kansas’ own cold-hearted killers, made famous in Truman Copote’s In Cold Blood. They are the Papin sisters, a perverted, not too bright pair who battered their patroness to death for no good reason. These so-called terrorists are the Manson Family murderers writ large on the pages of the popular press. To call them terrorists, to call them anything but what they are–murderers–is criminal. It gives their murdering ways legitimacy.

It drives up fear to call them terrorists and their actions terrorist attacks, which our politicians and media adore because they like war and control. To give these murderers legitimacy by calling them terrorists is to give full proof to Rachel Maddow’s thesis in her book Drift. No self-serving, self-incriminating media outlet would dare change the rhetoric from the myth of terrorism to the truth of murder.

But a change is needed. To speak truth puts these people and their perverted religion on the defensive. For, in fact, these murderers, these mass murderers by their own religious doctrine (Quran) are on a fast to track to Hell and sitting at the right hand of Satan (Shaitan).

This is this story we should be telling. The story of murder, of mass murder and the sick clans that purvey it in the name of their Lord. A true using of the Lord’s name in vain.

Following a False Creed

Following a False Creed

by James L. Secor

The Bible. An etched in stone document of collected stories and teachings taken as the statement of Christian values. Invaluable. Incontrovertible. Inviolable. And fake. A predigested by “prelates” conglomeration of pre-Christian doctrine, i.e. excerpts from both the Tanach, and apparent Jesus doctrinal writings and the ancient Greeks, the pre-Socratics like Protagoras. Excerpts that became the accepted codus, the raison d’etre of itself.

The Bible is not infallible because it was codified with malice aforethought over several centuries until the final form was made up in the fourth century. Malice? Most assuredly. It was built up by people who wanted power and control, people who detested the esoteric doctrines by those known today as the Gnostics, that is, the early Christians. Their system having no organized edifice, these doctrines were considered by the organized church–initially, Irenaeus–as heretical. (Many of the beliefs of these and later heresies have made their way into the canon, interestingly enough.) So infused with self-worth and arrogance were these holy men with only the good of mankind in their minds and behavior (rationalized) that they managed, much like modern day communists and fundamentalists, to burn the library at Alexandria and murder the greatest philosopher and intellectual to come about since hallowed ancient Greece, Hipatia, and make it look like the work of a mindless mob. Though perhaps her greatest sin was that she was a woman, a woman better than most men.

The bible is a series of diverse documents that were organized and reorganized–as with John and Revelations–to suit the needs of men but is not a godly or holy book. Many writings were not included because they didn’t fit with these power hungry men’s ideas of what ought to be believed and worshiped. They wished to be edifices and it would seem they have succeeded. Which makes it odd that The Didache was not included, as The Didache is basically a set of step-by-step instructions for the Christian life: how to apply the commandments of God and the sacraments. To have had these rules included would have prevented some of the schisms and spilled blood of later history. Almost all of the ideas of those heretics are now included in the Christian church dogma, gaining ground by coming in through the back door.

The Gnostics, via this codification, were more or less defeated in keeping themselves alive because how can you have an organized edifice for–for lack of a better term– enlightenment? Enlightenment, self-discovery, is personal and may not accord with doctrine or dogma. In fact, it cannot be expected to. Doctrine and dogma are delimiting. Enlightenment goes beyond limits because it knows no barrier to knowledge. But because there is no apparent organization, no structure or how-to in gaining this godly vision, it is inaccessible to Everyman–at least to begin with. But without a step-by-step guide or a preconceived end. . .

So. . .the Bible, understandable by Everyman. The most read book in the world, it seems, at 4 billion copies. Not a book of God. Rather a book of men that everyone calls the book of God because they say it is so. A book that strove not only to fight off the heretics and the Gnostics, but a book driven to establish consistency in belief. The synoptic gospels all have a passion narrative, though without the Gospel of Peter or the Gospel of Thomas. The Gospel of Peter is the only telling of the rise from the dead of Jesus. And he didn’t believe it at the time. How is it, then, that a traitor to the cause became The Rock of the Church and Faith?

The Bible. An amazing 4 billion copies. Of which version? The Western? The Eastern? The Anglican? The Protestant?

The original idea of the codifiers was to limit what people read and heard and, therefore, believed. All for control, for that one idea of Christianity first propounded by Irenaeus. Power and control. And you can bet that anyone who is interested in controlling you is going to lie to you. How did the Bishops lie? By including only those texts they wanted read, texts that fed their idea of what ought to be believed; and by establishing a creed of the right way to think. The organizers put Christianity in a very narrow box.

Heresy? Possibly hearsay.

There are several different versions of Genesis corresponding to self-assessment in the historical record of how the Jews sought to define themselves. But the version accepted by the Bishops and Tertullian, taken from the Masoretic Text of the Jews, is labeled “j.” What of the other versions? Regardless of the many versions, the Bishops chose to use only this one, giving followers one particular beginning. One of the other versions, involving Lilith, would, of course, have been seen as heresy of the worst sort. Somehow or other Lilith has come out into the light. But while everyone else notes this, the Christian hegemon turns a blind eye.

With the canon itself there are, nevertheless, problems, especially noteworthy as Christians take their belief-ancestry from the Jews. Not to be wondered at, as Jesus was a Jew. How many lies are there in that heritage? To begin with, there were never any Jews in slavery to the Egyptians. They were highly thought of for their financial acumen. There were no slaves to build the Pyramids. This historical fact throws a wrench in the belief system of the Literalists who choose to deny it. Halleluiah!

But it gets “worse.” In the first century record there is only one mention of the Jews–by an Egyptian merchant, in passing. Israel is not mentioned at all by Herodotus. Ergo, Israel was not a great nation at all, just a little settlement in southern Palestine with which the Egyptians traded en passant.

Why III Kings is not included in most versions of the Bible is a mystery, as it deals with Elijah’s prophesies while in the Babylonian exile. As if to say, only the Jews were held captive while, in fact, the Babylonians overran the entirety of Palestine (Phoenecia to the Greeks). Whyever would they have taken only the Jews? And the flood story was lifted from a much, much earlier work, now found in the Epic of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian legend of a man searching for the key to life (and immortality) as encrypted in stone during the days of Babylonia. Pity the Jews lifted only the flood. The flood story exists in all other peoples’ cultures too, its universality speaking to something far greater than a cleansing of the Jews, God’s chosen, the Christian ancestral horde (that failed).

Could it be the Bible should be looked at metaphorically? Far more meaningful, since metaphor bespeaks a broad picture and multiple possibilities. Which is a problem for people who want control and power: there must be one story, one belief, one way to think. A horrible problems exists, though, when the church fathers metaphorize The Song of Solomon, a beautiful, evocative love song of sex and arousal: pomegranate breasts metaphor for God’s love? If so, that would mean God is female. Heaven forbid! Which raises the question of why this bit is included in the bible to begin with. Maybe the Bishops found it arousing and could not let it go? Most assuredly they had run into naked breasts and brown skin, no? But sexual arousal as a metaphor for getting to God? I think not, especially as the body was evil and sex was beyond evil.

Which leads to. . .why only this book as a metaphor out of 66 books? (Six is a superstitiously important number, as are three and seven–all found as important in the Bible. A point that raises questions about further superstitions, such as magic and transmogrification.)

Other stories within the Bible that are just not historically, culturally true include Esther. There is absolutely no way that a king would consider a commoner, especially an outcast commoner, as beautiful or worth sleeping with. Esther would have been considered untouchable. Or Jonah. Jonah and his whale is a sham. The story is an excuse for not getting to his destination in time–he never wanted to go to begin with. The story of Jonah is a satire, illustrating how people will believe anything, even heresy, if it’s dressed up enough. Jonah never gets to God’s message, the reason for his journey; but people down through the ages continue believing in his wacky tale. A whale in the Mediterranean? Duh! The book says “a big fish.”

These obfuscations are from the Old Testament. Preaching from the OT is important because of the kind of God therein: a vengeful, angry, punitive, abusive God who is not averse to blackmail: you either do this or I will hurt you. Usually by sending an enemy to annihilate you or bring some kind of natural disaster or plague down on you. In fact, after giving mankind–the chosen mankind, the rest of the world be damned, which has been the way down through Christian history–after giving the Jews (mankind) the Ten Commandments, God proceeds to break all of them, asking his chosen to join in with him in his depredations. God is obsessed with war, rapine and genocide. He even–to beget Christianity–engages in rape to get an offspring, very much in the manner of Zeus, virgins being so naïve and gullible. And probably luscious.

And now we have the New Testament. Why is this “new”? Let’s be literal here: it’s a new testament because the God of Jesus is a loving God. Most certainly a new view of God, considering the OT! The problem for me here is, why is it Christian churches preach from the OT rather than the NT and call themselves Christian? Jesus repudiated this old knowledge base. Any NT quotations are chosen so they seem to support the OT pronouncements.

Thus, for instance, war is good and godly when, in fact, according to Jesus and those writing about him, war is anathema. It might also be that there is so little to choose from given the tiny number of Jesus writings included in the NT when there were innumerable other writings available: did you know there were nine epistles to the churches and people by Paul and two by Peter, along with his Gospel describing Jesus’ rising from the dead and the Secret Gospel of Mark and the Pre-Markian Passion Gospel and The Apocalypse of Peter? All speak to a broader teaching and belief system, one that is more interested in Jesus’ message and teaching than his dying for us (a god-awful guilt to have to carry around). But they are not part of the canon.

Even more to the point, the second coming has already occurred–and it is, as it were, well-documented. Jesus came first via birth and a second time when he rose from the dead. Oops! Modern believers are Doubting Thomases and Peters? The second coming is your own, as in “you must die to yourself.” And Jesus is still waiting for it. Most of the modern born again lot are no such thing: no über-knowledge, no enlightenment, no release from everyday suffering and burden. Only their selves re-framed. Zen Buddhists speak ill of this. So did Jesus in the secret closet metaphor in Matthew–and probably in the Gospel of Thomas or The Signs Gospel (or Q–hinted at in the synoptic gospels but never found) or the Dialogue of the Savior. How illustrative would be a dialogue! Thoughts and images in motion.

But, again, the accepted NT books were chosen because the Bishops did not want to sully their belief system; nor did they like what these other writers had so say; nor did they like esoteric teachings bespeaking both individual knowledge and understanding, and knowledge and understanding beyond doctrine and dogma.

These other texts, Gospels, are known today as Gnostic Gospels. Among them are the Gospel According to Mary (Magdalene), the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Matthias, the Gospel of Perfection, the Gospel of the Seventy, the Dialogue of the Savior, the Gospel of the Twelve, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Nazarenes, the Gospel of Bartholomew, the Secret Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Eve and the Gospel according to Judas (fragmentary).

The Gospel according to Judas is damned. It is not to be read. It is heresy, maybe even a fake (it is not). The Gospel according to Judas, shows Jesus with a sense of humor and a far more far-reaching, cosmic vision than is given in the accepted Gospels. And a much more cynical, realist Jesus. It shows Judas in a much more human light. Judas is chosen because he is the thirteenth Apostle, because he is outcast, because he is the only Apostle who understands. Jesus knew that his death was necessary and he knew Judas was the only one who understood and could be counted on. Judas played his role and then killed himself.

Mary Magdelene was the only one to recognize the risen Christ. It is recorded she saw him first but, because she was woman, she could not be first before a man. So, she was completely written off. The doubters were left in place.

Wait a minute! Judas the thirteenth Apostle? In the painting of the last supper–a supper no different than any before–there are only 12 people, not including Jesus. Where is Judas? Indeed, where is Mary Magdalene? Most notable in the former; to be expected in the latter, as women were not, in that society and time, included in much of anything. Things have changed since then, though many believe that what was considered de rigueur 2000 years ago should still de rigueur today.

Having a belief is good and the Christian ethical base is noteworthy, albeit few truly follow it; but to maintain that a man made, pre-conceived book that purposely did not include writings extolling the entirety of Christian thinking is the holy book is foolish. It is a false creed.

The Unimaginable Unmanageable World

I’ve been listening to Lettice Rowbotham Virtuoso Violinist and in the process, because neither YouTube nor Google can see their way to give you just exactly what you want, I’ve been listening to spin-offs and derivatives who fit nicely into the not-quite-so-good-but-easier-to-deal-with performers and came upon the worst of the lot. It is perhaps not so surprising as the maker of it all was modern Disney Corporate Empire. And the performer? Tyler Davis. With the background music–not counting the roiling sea waves crashing against the rocks–there is only one thing that stands out: it is a rip off of Lettice Rowbotham’s musical versatility, even to sounding like her 2014 Britain’s Got Talent performances. What is this raping of art? The violin cover for some one of The Pirates of the Caribbean movies and sound track. An American virtuoso would sue; Lettice just laughs her ass off because, in the end, what the hell else is this second rate, coat tail rider going to amount to? Disney’s hired nig? They might have the money to buy Lettuce–not Lettice–but they’d never figure out just what the fuck to do with real art. (Once, many years ago at the hand–and mind–of the mustachioed one they would have known and capitalized on it. But today. . .? Let’s look at the bias, the cultural perversion, the common denominator world, the cliché conservative-based values that never ever existed anyway production perpetrated on a mindless–so perceived–mass.)

Right? Well, I searched for the most NASAL SOUNDING INSTRUMENTS and Google got me to “the saddest sounding instruments.” Not only a lack of imagination but a lack of the ability to read and produce understanding. This is called “an inability to comprehend.” I’m very familiar with this psychological syndrome–that the DSM idiot consortium do not recognize–as it is a major component of my migraines: you understand every SINGLE word and not one bit of it all makes the least sense. Hi, Google!

I just watched the most amazing Western with and by Jack Nicholson. 1966. Ride in the Whirlwind. It had no real ending, just the guy riding, riding, riding into the sunset, further and further along and for what? To what? Which is the point. The movie was about people stuck in a situation who have limited options open to them for survival. This was no vehicle for some lame, timely real world situation; no cliché bad vs good or getting richer = less human and more greedy so that money, making money, becomes evil; no perpetuation of a shallow old rundown supposed ethic because “that’s always the way it’s been.” This movie did deal with obsessive behavior and vigilante justice, and the wide generalization and jumping to conclusions that this kind of justice creates and thrives on. The movie was three guys caught in a bad situation and people jumping to conclusions and there being nothing left but to break the law to escape, to get away from an unjust situation. No special effects. Nice to see a movie that is a movie, about people, rather than a movie that’s only raison d’être is as a vehicle for special effects. The movie was about people first and foremost, people reacting in context–with context, of which there is little these days and apparently people were seeing 50 yrs ago. And people who bring things down upon themselves. The stage coach robbers were not violent, they did not steal horses–the sin of sins in the West–and they did not kill anybody. There was no strong box to steal. But vigilante justice labeled them, in their affront to their good person, good name and society, violent killers. Three drifters get caught in the middle of it all; two die. An innocent man is killed solely due to  vigilante justice mentality and narrow conclusion-making. Just to say, if you’re in the vicinity of bad guys, you are bad guys.

The upcoming election is a choice of tyrants. One tyrant is angry and irrational and downright ugly and if you don’t do what he wants you to do, he will kill you. The other tyrant will trap you with pleasant words but is, nevertheless, interested in control and “what I want.” I love the conspiracy over Hillary post collapsing in NYC. No conspiracy at all; but, yes, a double was used, not an unheard-of thing. Centuries old. It was easy to see, even from the distance allotted, that the “new” Hillary was not as age-old, wrinkled or jowled as the real Hillary. There is no way she could have had plastic surgery and had it heal in such a short span of time. And, then, suddenly, the old Hillary appears. This is only upsetting for those considering getting her into office.

The fact that the Houses of Congress are not moving to do the work of government and won’t because of ideological narrow-mindedness is apparently of no account to people who have, it must be admitted, been cut out of the deal, forgetting, it seems, that without people they have nothing. As an old Chinese aphorism has it: People are the root of the country, food is the first necessity of people.

I think it’s no wonder, with the floating propaganda of fear and the socio-cultural demands on behavior and belief–falling into line–that I meet so many narrow minded, shallow, ignorant, fear- and paranoia-filled, ugly people. Lots of psychological projection with absolutely no insight and no ability to make judgments–probably because Americans have no context, not in the world, not in the country, not in their individual lives. Everything is isolated and “this moment.” Lots of self-conceit resulting in assumptions and presumptions that ruin the lives of others. Opinionators. Judgmentalists. Americans are like the vigilante justice riders of Ride in the Whirlwind. . .and they are all derivative and unimaginative and just fucking inhuman. Like our modern day heroes: old heroes who are as violent and destructive as the villains; heroes who must fight amongst themselves to see who is the most best heroic blah-blah-blah. And, so, a nation of people alone, people who do not relate or work with other people. When the country collapses, no one will come in and take it over; there won’t be anything worth taking over. It’ll be a mess. Hell!–manufacturing is already elsewhere, manufacturing and technology. Elsewhere. Who wants a country filled up with ugly people, people who are fighting amongst themselves and have no goal in sight–other than dictating that all do it “this” way. People filled up with propaganda and perverted ethics. Chaos. Anarchy. And when it’s exhausted. . .it’d be nice to believe that something worthwhile will grow out of the mess; but probably not. Not in the long run. When you’ve got a country full of ugly people, how can you “export” anything other than ugliness? We are living in a Twilight Zone world.

I’ve met a bunch of people who don’t read. They can read. They choose not to. And behind their clean faces and pretty voices, they are fucking ugly and stupid. Ignorant: when you choose not to read, you choose ignorance. Not only are we told not to read, that it’s not necessary; we’re flooded with passive news and entertainment telling us “this is the way it is,” whether it is or not. We spend our lives in front of a computer–cellphone/iPhone/tablet/android–to the exclusion of the world we live in, as if all knowledge is there. Well, even if it were, no one would be able to access all of it. Same for a library. Library? What’s a library? Maybe no more than that place with those books that our teachers made us hate. That school made us hate. That society likes us to hate. If we fucking knew anything, we’d be dangerous (to the society-makers).

Fear runs society. All sorts of fears, most all fictions. Ergo, fear is used to control us. Adage: if someone is trying to control you, you can be they’re lying to you. Here’s a good one, the latest: Zika made it all the way to Florida from Brazil without infecting anyone in any country inbetween, nor the airlines personnel. AND it’s “reported” in various states, none of them contiguous, and none of the states inbetween has had any incidence. How is it, too, that so many women are becoming pregnant and getting sucked by mosquitoes that are indistinguishable from any other mosquito and their babies are dying in instants of time? As in. . .I got fucked today, I got pregnant today, I got my blood sucked by a mosquito and my baby microcephalic died yesterday. Oh my god! There’s a mosquito in my room! I’m going to die of Zika virus! And the bird flu that was supposed to be a worldwide pandemic and perhaps 26 people died? WHO neglected to tell the world that that flu was only transmitted between people, not bird to people (to death). And the African Army ants that were rampaging through Mexico to Texas–whatever happened to that fiction? How about the invasion of the body snatchers? The fear of ISIS, a group with no land, no home, no Air Force, nothing but media savvy who, at its greatest, equaled the population of Kansas and controlled a territory almost the size of Pennsylvania. Yup! Those assholes are going to come over here and wipe us out, take over the whole world. The DoD, the Pentagon need more and more threats in order to validate their increased budget and to practice using their new killing machines. And then there’s Alex Jones and conspiracy theories. What kind of drugs is he taking?! It does not help that we are surveilled in every aspect of our lives–and we let it happen. We believe giving up our liberties makes us safer. Yeah. Safer for the rise of tyrants–which includes Mitch McConnell, the penultimate Do-Nothing Machine. He would never be included in Romper Room’s Do-Bee Club. AND. . .when it comes to reality, we deny it.

Oh, lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz. . .

 

 

 

Where No Self-respecting American Would Go–Part 3

The Third Day?–I’ve really lost track of time. . .

The electricity in the house is an afterthought: originally, there was none. Outlets are set on a wooden base that is hammered into the wall, there being only two. Otherwise, extension cords are the wound, old style cord draped everywhere like Christmas tinsel decoration, several plugs coming out of one extension end leading to other extension cord box–ends. Extension cords in China are different from those in the States. The cords are larger and more sturdy and the female end is usually a box with 4+ male connections. More often than not, the cords are white. I’ve added my own, of necessity, so that, when I’m using the rice cooker there’s an electric burn somewhere–I’m not sure which plug-in as I pass three, though the first does not seem to be a problem. Could simply have been because my hands were wettish when I plugged it in and water got down into the connection. Howsomever. . .with the cords draped hither and thither, this is a fire hazard. . .for the West. As this arrangement is not out of order, I begin to see how over-protective we Americans are, paranoid of the smallest thing. We go overboard. Yes, this arrangement can be dangerous and I do kind of shiver as I add more to the mess; but it is not prohibitive. Americans are so über-safety conscious that we almost prohibit ourselves from fully living; we repress ourselves. We are safe and more safe where it is not so very important. At the same time, I think the situation is that the Chinese are aware and, therefore, are more careful, more attentive, though it may not look like it. We Americans are afraid of everything.

Light bulbs hang naked into space, some in rather inaccessible places, some in corners that illuminate naught else but the ceiling and walls. To turn on the bedroom light, I must have the main room lit or I’d never find the cord with the switch: it is halfway along one wall around the side of a storage cabinet, near the old charcoal stove. Then, when it’s glowing, I can’t read in bed because the book is in the shadow as the light is across the room. Even during the daylight hours reading is difficult, as the windows are high up and to the side. I must buy another extension cord, one of the cheaper variety, so I can plug it in and have my bedside lamp. Lord–another plug to fill up a female end!

This type of arrangement is not out of the ordinary, so many people still live in these older houses where there was once no electricity. The extension cord phenomenon is everywhere because of the usual dearth of outlets in a room, even if built when home electricity was available–which was, in the scheme of things, relatively recently. This, I think, is unbelievable for Americans as we have come to expect electric homes and we can only see this, our way, as the acceptable way and that any other way is outré. Well, it may be but, in fact, it may be, as in this case, just everyday. Not only do we find these living conditions outrageous, if we allow ourselves to get so close, we cannot understand why these conditions exist since we avoid knowing of such in America and see any such poverty characteristic that we see in pictures as the problem of the people living in such conditions. The people have a character flaw. A very common characteristic of the classism that marks America. We push aside and deny such limited, backward, dangerous. . .situations and pretend they simply do not exist. Ignore it and it doesn’t exist, yeah?

The breaker box is a breaker and main power source boxes on a board on the wall. The breaker is of the old style: a lever with metal legs connecting into a ceramic holder. Actually, I like this better than the modern, Western variety. I’ve even repaired one, running thicker copper wire inside so that blowouts don’t happen as often, thin wires giving out under any kind of load easier than heavier wire. Easy enough to do; there’s no trouble knowing whether the electricity is on or not–the switch is right in front of your face, connection broken. No fuses. I would say that fuses don’t last as long, don’t tolerate overloadage as well as these old hatchet type devices, which you can make more tolerant by supplying higher gauge copper wire. Would fuses, then, be a means for the electrical industry to make more money in the name of technological advancement? I think returning to this type of breaker box, which is where the name (breaker) comes from (breaking the connection), would be better and less costly–and might make us more independent, less reliant on the electric supply companies. We might take on more responsibility for our own lives, do you think? We would be directly involved in its continuing functioning. But, hey, why would we want to do this when someone else can do it for us, eh? If someone else can do it for us–and there are definite situations where this would be best–we must pay more to live.

If you buy your own home in America, you are responsible for all its workings. If you can troubleshoot some situations, you save yourself money. However, there are so many laws about who can work on what and what can be done that it’s almost impossible to do anything yourself without breaking the law. And the insurance companies think you’re ignorant of any of this, whether you are or not, so they up their rates at the top of an extension ladder that just keeps right on going and going and going.

Because I was raised differently and because I worked electric construction for awhile, I found this set-up rather barbaric and unsettling. But nothing happened and when the lights went out and it wasn’t old bulbs, I was able to fix things. Meiwenti! I kept larger gauge wire on hand; I kept extra light bulbs; I kept candles and matches. Although I did have lighters, I preferred–and still prefer–matches, aside from the fact that they cost less and last longer. Even now, back in the States, I have boxes of safety matches in various rooms about the house, along with candles just in case. Nature and poor quality craftsmanship mess with technology. I have found that 4-5 candles set up on a table where I happen to be writing are good enough to illuminate the page so I can write and read. Granted, I don’t do this very often, but it is romantic! It is difficult to find acceptable candle holders; most are either tacky or over-priced or both. It is fun to improvise. Which means none of the candle holders I have match. . .nor do the candles.

It isn’t just China that is “behind” the US. Most countries in the world are not so invested in technology that imposes reliance. In fact, most of the world utilizes this kind of technology different from America, so much so that it might even be unsettling. But Americans are very narrow in assessing these situations and, like the Brits in the 19th century, are totally incapable of letting go of their lifestyle and culture. I think, with this inability to adapt, that most Americans overseas miss out on much of the culture and identity of the people. We do not let ourselves enjoy.

Far too often have I run into Americans who lambaste the Chinese for things Chinese because they do not come up to American standards, as if America is THE standard for everything great, wonderful and positive. Very many Americans look so far down on Chinese, and are not at all shy about going off openly on these situations and these people in front of “these” people, that I am embarrassed. We Americans are such a fucking judgmental lot!

Perhaps my adjustment was easier because I had lived in Japan 15 or so years before. In Japan, there is no heating in older housing. I lived in older housing–or even country-urban housing. No heat. No AC. Heavens to betsy! I would wake up in the mornings to an iced-over beard and moustache, sit up to turn on the kerosene heater and then lie down until the room warmed up. Electricity was limited, though less anxiety-provoking. And the Japanese are more apt to modernize because they can do it without losing their Japaneseness. Mao has all but wiped out Chinese culture. Mao, a man who had little understanding beyond himself and his opinions.

Eh bien. So it goes.

Now. . .a bit more needs to be said about the kitchen, a subject we may be revisting on and off. Not only are the side walls separating from the main room–there was no interweaving of the bricks, just an abutment with concrete filler–but the floor is moving away from the walls, moving westward. There is no foundation as we know it, so the floor and sometimes its walls in its entirety shift. There is a crack in the foundation, to give the simple bed of concrete laid on top of the ground character–about halfway into the little burrow hole. It stretches from one side to the other, making for a slight rise to the edges of the crack and then a kind of leveling off of the floor. I must remember to pick my feet up or I stumble forward–not enough room to fall to the floor without hitting the sink unless I twist to the side and bounce off the walls. (You can see I’ve done this before.) The floor is wet and sticky with something-or-other as my house slippers stick and slap when walking through. It never dries. Looking back when you’ve exited into the main room, you can see the darker, dampened area. Z. I imagine this is from the grease from cooking: there is no exhaust fan. The broken open window does no good, for there is no circulation of air in the kitchen to begin with.

The cooking corner itself has a different problem, aside from no fan, no outlet for the spattering grease and the steam or, in some cases, smoke. . .as last night when I could not move fast enough to get the chicken–which turned out to be spoiled–into the pan and fried and toasted the garlic. This kind of non-cooking makes for a blackening of the walls and ceiling beams. Remember, the ceiling itself sheds, so there’s a little discoloration up there, too. I imagine this situation is why the double window is forever open, aside from the fact that its hinges are broken. Not that it would help anyway. This little corner is like a den where meat has been roasted, meat gotten on the hunt, and the housewife labors and sweats to provide for her man–and her little ones. Once, little ones; now, one–unless you find a way to cheat. There are not, however, any fat deposits on the floor. The concrete here is dry, miraculously.

Although there was the usual two burner cooker top and some bottled gas, I brought in my own. Well, Fanfan and her father did. Made sure I did. Quite simply, mine worked and was clean. There was not much I could do with the little flimsy cabinet upon which it sat but not use the implements left to grace its dusty shelving.

I think some explanation is in order here. In China you cook with gas. You have a 2-burner cooker. No stove. And–hallelujah!–you cook with gas. Bottled gas that is delivered when needed. Large bottles. You learn how to turn it on and off. It is a must to turn the gas off, for there may be leakage. And, then, BOOM! Unless you are on a rotation with the gas company, the only way you can tell you are getting near replacement is to knock on the side of the bottle. Great empty metal bottles make hollow sounds. I must admit, over the seven years I lived in China, I ran out more than once. Because, although the university supplied the housing, you, the foreign teacher, had to make sure you did not run out of gas. At the university, I did not have to pay; on my own I did. However, there was so much gas left in my tank that I did not need to have it refilled. Fanfan and her father took what was left for their own when I went elsewhere.

I never figured out how people baked, for they do bake. Perhaps in ovens of clay? However, I did see students’ mothers steaming or stewing or whatever in the guo 锅 (wok in Japanese), the guo covered and over low heat. In some cases, the heat was not gas but wood. The wood was delivered or, more often than not, chopped yourself. In winter, the wood-fired stove made the kitchen the warmest place in the house. Indeed, in one especially snowy cold winter I was up in the mountains and, when I went in the kitchen to be with my student’s grandmother, she got up from behind the “stove” and made me sit there, adding more kindling because, well, Americans are not so capable of withstanding the cold. Up to a point, she was right. But anywhere I might have found myself with this woman would have been warm enough for me; however, other members of her family would not allow us to get together. There was a lot of culture involved in this and I learned it but I was none too happy. Neither was she. In fact, she was more “modern” than her children and grandchildren.

She had been a widow for nigh onto 40 yrs. Her husband died young, secondary to the Long March. That he or anyone survived is a miracle, for Mao was selfish, self-centred and manipulative–as long as he won, other people did not matter. According to some sources, Mao did not need to go through the hell he dragged people through; but it was strategically and politically expedient. Mao did not walk, he rode in a litter or rustic palanquin. When it was over, grandma’s husband returned home to farm in the mountains south of Hangzhou, on the south central east coast. This time of my visit was during the big snow of 2008. (I have written elsewhere of this.)

Day Four?

I washed clothes again this morning; I’m almost caught up. But it’s so overcast, so humid today that even after six hours outside the clothes are not dry. No direct sunlight. Breezy, though none really gets down in here, walls and buildings being on all sides. Some trees. I’m sitting in the pathway of the fan in the main room or I’d be sweating like a stuck, roasted pig.

This is where fans come in handy. Old people wave then slowly; younger people faster, more frantically. I’m somewhere in the middle. And everyone carries a fan, whether small or large. I have several, including one small one and one that folds up and fits into a shirt pocket. Mine are not masculine, as judged by American standards; sometimes, grandmother, nainai 奶奶, give me fans–even from stores, no charge. I make a point of going back to those stores for whatever it is. How can one forget such kindness? Such caring? Which is one reason they are so caring: customers return. It is more appropriate to shop in your immediate neighborhood, unless what you need is elsewhere, for this solidifies your relationship with the people. . .and it makes you, the foreigner, appear more normal.

I must admit I was a tad shy about whipping out a fan and fanning myself. But I soon learned. And I learned, too, that my Japanese fans, theatre fans, were too big and, no matter how subdued colorfully, were too much. I amassed several different kinds of fans, even went out of my way to buy some, on the cheap if I could find them. Now, if they are not lying around on tables, they are somehow suspended from the walls.

Fans and tissue, for use in the toilet, are mandatory accoutrements to living. Public toilets don’t have “paper.” Some hotel toilets don’t have paper. Neighborhood restaurants may not have a toilet–they may not have napkins, as we know them, either but, rather, a roll of toilet tissue, as we know it, on the table for wiping your messy mouth–not too many Chinese manage this–or your hands.

Which leads to a discussion of public toilets. This will not be a tasteful discussion.

I am so disgusted by the nearest local public WC that I won’t use it, preferring to suffer through constipation or the possibility of a leakage until such time as an opportunity for a better place happens. I am appalled. It’s almost enough to make you puke. My students would not use it either. The floor was wet, glistening wet, with papers, news and other, strewn about. Some of the squat basins had not been flushed, of anything. The huge plastic vats for pissing in were full. And it was dark in there. No electricity. Small windows placed high up near the ceiling.

The WC cleaners, whom you rarely see during the day time, only empty the piss tubs–except for the older variety where you shit into a pot. No one cleaned the floor, even as little as throwing water about. Then, the night soil men trundle down the street, piss and shit stinking to high heaven and slopping around in their huge vats. With the condition of some of the roads here, it’s a wonder there’s not a trail of waste down the street and spillage on streetside vending places. Everyone but everyone who might be out at all hours of the night gets out of the little truck’s way when the driver shouts he’s coming through.

However, some of the public WCs were no more than latrines, long channels dug into the hard, discolored ground up against one of the walls. Piss or shit, it didn’t matter. Splish splash, take a bath. And most assuredly bring your own paper. Around the corner from one restaurant I frequented, I ran in distress and hunkered down to do my business when the darkness was invaded by several men who did not even bother to pretend: they were there to see if it were true that Americans were so fucking big. Or maybe just to see if an American could do it the proper Chinese way. I could and it was too dark to see my things.

I noticed that the WC doors are not marked 女 or 男. I think there may be a method, with the 女 always being on the left, as you stand contemplating the outlets. I was helped by seeing boys come out of one; no one ever exited the other in my sight. I’m sure it would have been more exciting if I’d gone in the “wrong” one. I’m quite good at playing absolute idiot here. Such behavior is one of the 36 ways to victory found engraved into stone at Yunmeng shan (云梦山) outside Hebi City: act the fool (to gain information).

Yunmeng shan is the first military academy in China. It is on a hill, stony and cave-ridden; perhaps low mountain is a better description. Apparently, Sunzi studied there under the then old founding master. Any more information is not remembered. Yunmeng shan is not on tourist maps, unfortunately, as it is most interesting and, therefore, most unassailed by touristy fixing up. I’d like to go back for another tour. I wonder who I can get to come with me. . .

The wheel ruts in the hard stone of a great war chariot were pointed out. And the platform from which Sunzi was supposed to have jumped, without hurting himself, in order to be allowed to study. Someone said, in the neighborhood of 14′ right onto stone. Sunzi did not injure himself. The entire academy and its myriad buildings is a religious monument where people come to ask for help and, I suppose, meditate. I was not allowed to take pictures. This was considered rude as the people were praying, I was told. I acquiesced.

When I rode by the market last evening, at 5:30, there was no one there. No food vendors. Only grandfathers gathered at the far wall playing majiang (mahjong, to you). So, I rode back to my veggie haunt on Wenhua lu (文化路), Culture Road, only to find the meat places were not open. I bought veggies: 4 RMB (about 50 cents), enough for several meals. Wenhua is only cultural because it is lined with food vendors, fresh, and restaurants and stores/supermarkets. The Chinese like to eat. Alot. I think you could say the loves of the Chinese are sex, eating, drinking and talking. And more eating. No business is ever conducted without eating. . .and drinking.

We foreigners hear this as a story but, in fact, I was once at one of these business meetings, being part of the business enacted and to come. However, I bowed out of drinking as I had a class to teach. My behavior was much approved of, though I had to decline drinking even the polite first sip three times before it was acceptable.

But back to the house. . .

There is a bulging crack in the middle of the main room floor, though not of the split in the kitchen; here, the halves are still connected. I looked behind the curtains of the cabinet and found dishes, pots and pans, kettles and bowls. With the filthy dishes in the kitchen, a population of 20-30 could be fed and watered. Things just do not seem to get thrown away here, like poorer, what used to be known as white trash, neighborhoods in America, where cars and trucks long past use are rusting in the yards along with you-name-it all. . .sinks, water heaters, washers. . . . Happens here, as in everyday, inside and outside the houses. Chinese are pack rats–and yet there is little appreciation of art or antiques. No one fixes up an old house or building; one destroys it and builds a more modern one. Box-like and without character or any redeeming cultural value.

The storage house across the yard was once a lived-in house. It’s front wall of brick extends above roof level. There is a drain there where, in Europe, there would be a gargoyle spouting water. Cross-like openings extend across it. So, probably, there was a way up there, for other houses of a similar bent sport rooftop gardens. It would be nice to get up there, too. Above the rooftops, what could be seen? However, the next building over is at least two storeys high, with a brick balustrade around the roof. Only junk juts up over this. There are no windows on this side. But if I’d climbed up there, everyone and his mother would have seen me invading people’s privacy.

Between the storage house and my neighbor’s concrete block style house–most likely brick beneath the concrete face–is a wall of old bricks stacked up ¾ of the way. Are they hiding something? Are they “just there”? Being saved for some future use? Walls will be made thus. Unused, unwanted windows and doorways are blocked off by stacking old bricks in them, not finishing them off. Sometimes, when they are walls, the wall will gradually dwindle as these bricks find use. And, then again, temporary often becomes permanent. Better, I guess, than leaving them lying in a disorganized pile, as with the rest of the courtyard, at the far end.

The windows to the storage house are gone, all but one panel and ¾ of another. Why bother to fix it? Bicycles and basins don’t freeze. . .though I do wonder what the boy bathes in in the winter–and where. Now, he is in a big tub on the centre concrete slab as his mother pours cold water over him. Probably the public showers where the wind will not get you and the water is hot. In Jinhua (金华), pretty much in the centre of Zhejiang Province where once the elite of society and government officials lived during the Southern Song (南宋; 1127–1279)–and one of my student’s lived without knowing diddly of this history–the water was wood stove heated. Wood heated water feels different: softer and more truly hot. Other places use charcoal. I wonder if any go electric–the bill would be outrageous.

In an hour or so Tony will come by for dinner. He owes me for France’s win the other night. Tonight. . .Germany plays Argentina. I don’t know who the second game is between. Today is 30 June 2006. I start teaching part time on Monday.

Dinner tomorrow night with Carnation and Yuki.

 

Where No Self-respecting American Would Go–Part 2

Quite coincidentally, it rained the night after I moved in, though not very hard: the ground was only dampened. A little bit of thunder, a little bit of lightning, a little breeze. I certainly miss Kansas thunder storms with their black, roiling clouds, Zeus-like lightning and Thor-given thunder; those in this area of China are pretty anemic. Though, while I was out east and a tad south south in Henan at Shangqiu 商丘 over the past weekend, there apparently was a huge storm here in Anyang, evidenced by downed branches and limbs (tree, not human). However, still rather puny compared to the winds in Kansas that would take down great limbs and uproot entire large girth trees. Although it was a relief to be away from such danger, it was also not nearly so exciting.

Opposite #7 sits a grandfather on his little stool holding a fly swatter. Every day. Sometimes he stands up and walks a little way down the street. He smiles and nods to my “Ni hao.”

The people in #6 gather outside their entrance tunnel to watch me pass and comment upon the foreigner. I understand nothing, not so much because they are speaking Chinese, at which I am not especially competent, but because they are speaking Anyanghua, the local dialect, of which I know one word: kebei, which kind of means “okay.” I am very familiar with the word for foreigner, laowai (老外). They do this every day, members of the group changing on occasion.

I’m fairly well inured to the stares of people but Yuki is not, as she commented on it and the “unfriendliness” of the inmates of my living area (the first and larger, more well-developed courtyard) because they became quiet and stared. She’ll get used to it when she goes overseas –well, perhaps not “used to it” but she’ll understand it and why I don’t react so much. Many foreigners, mostly Americans it seems, never get used to stares and forever comment loudly and unkindly about the rudeness of people. They, of course, are not rude. . .and Americans, at home, don’t stare at foreigners. Americans, the ubiquitous “ugly American,” seem to not be able to adjust to a foreign culture or life style, always putting up theirs as the pinnacle of civilization, the superior cultural medium. This is too bad; they miss much, they miss learning people, learning the whys and wherefores of living logic. Seeing the world in a different way, including the prejudicial which ought to teach them something but it doesn’t. When you’re right everyone else is wrong. They return to America the Great with stories of horror, of the unbelievable, of the snidely joking, stories of lies. Americans like fiction, though not the reading of it.

For the most part, the bricked-over first courtyard is intact. For the most part. Beaten, mossy earth abounds; there are a few trees and flowers. It’s a nice, homey area. One resident, an older auntie, was sitting outside in the shade of a tree making jiaozi (dumplings). I commented in passing and the next time I came through, she gave me a bowl for lunch. It was not bad. Not bad. She gave me kuaizi (chopsticks) and I fed Tiger and Tony in my house, like a good grandfather. Standing in the entry room, concrete over brick floor. Because there were not enough chairs.

Wooden door, pretty much square once, low framed and with four window panels–one missing and filled in with a piece of wood–is my front door. Similar to those old country farmhouse doors in the States that do not any more fit their frames. Green peeling paint. Bamboo curtain before the door that must be lifted to enter. When inside, I leave the door open for air and a modicum of light. It’s dark inside, like living in a cave. Years before, when living in basement apartments I’d get depressed. Same kind of darkness. High electric bill. But I get to go out and, when I lift the bamboo curtain I get light. I raise it when it rains–and pay: the floor gets muddy-ish from all the dirt of years “ground” into the floor.

The landlady says I can have this house because she rarely comes here–and it’s obvious, especially in the kitchen, which is kind of like a closet with gas top alcove. It’s built onto the main room and the joining of the two structures is pulling apart. I can see daylight through the cracks. Cracks, hell–crevices! When will it separate and fall off, I wonder. . .

The dishes she left–not using!–are coated with so much dirt and dust and whatever it is that falls from the ceiling that I’m sure they could come clean except at a car wash using steaming, furiously pounding water and hard brushes. The shelves are coated with the same fine signs of life making them unusable–if there were any space. There are only two below the cooktop. I brought over my remaining gas and my gas cooker; hers did not work. If it did, I doubt I’d have used it, it looked to be something out of a Poe or Lovecraft story and very well might have done something other than cook when it lit, if not blow up, at least some creature might emerge from the flames–not a genii.

The sink is a concrete square basin with bare pipe with faucet running into it from above, about chest high, which makes for nice places to hang things–and I cleaned it and do so. But, still, there’s lots around it that is disgusting. The walls flake off. I kept falling against them last night as I hurriedly worked and turned around having consumed considerable vodka. I stopped because it began tasting like hell. Perhaps because I made it cold; warm–room temperature in which you sweat while breathing–was good, smooth, though not nearly of the quality I had in Moscow in 2001.

There is one light bulb in this kitchen area: just inside the entryway, to the right in the cooking alcove; when cooking, your shadow falls over the gas range and food. Well, at least you know what you put in the guo, after washing it, of course. One cannot say it is bright, though it does enlighten the tunnelishness of the kitchen, something a large mole or Hobbit might find just right. The two-panel windows look out on the courtyard, hanging loosely on rusty hinges and supporting themselves, otherwise they would crash to the ground. There is screen in the window. The light it lets in is minimal. Not really enough to make shadows. The smaller one over the sink is pitiful–but there’s enough penetration of Mr. Sun that if I lay frozen meat on the sink rim it will thaw in more than enough time for dinner. Yes! There is a refrigerator with freezer! In the bedroom.

The ceiling is old; I think I can see the original thatching. Lots of. . .things fall from it. I’m afraid to look up for what might catch my eye. So, I went to the fabric shopping centre downtown–marvellous place!–and bought some light colored, printed material and hung it from beam to beam. I had seen this done in a student’s family’s home. In the eyes, in the hair, in the ears, in the mouth–all sorts of falling objects. But the end result was good. Good. Even Yuki thought that was a good idea. No more wondering what’s in my food other than what I put in it.

This front room is full of the landlady’s shit, hers and her daughter’s. On the north, door-facing wall is a bureau with old things on the top; a table that I’ve cleaned off and am using, lots of dusty baskets and boxes beneath; a dressing table loaded with things. My rice cooker is there. In front of this is a pile of round, holey charcoal with a round, folded down table before it, hiding it from view–but only if you stand directly in front of it. The dusty, rusting stove is in the large bedroom through the door on the east wall, a door similar to the front door and which I leave open. Just before the kitchen tunnel and next to the bedroom door is a tall bureau or maybe shiffarobe. Filled on the inside, piled high with dusty things. Behind the open front door, which opens inward, is a device for hanging clothes and towels and such; this also sports a shoe rack with lots of female shoes, virtually all out of fashion. I will wash the rags and towels hanging there, they might come in handy. Beside this, on the wall at the right height for me (short person), is a mirror that I’ve wiped down but is still vague. I’m able to use it because I’m so shiningly handsome that I can still see myself in its depths. There are nails and spikes sticking out of the walls hither and thither; some are usable by me, others are in use and I dare not look into the aged plastic bags; some are rustily bare.

To east (right) and west (left) are the other two rooms, bedrooms. The west room is smaller and concrete floored with white-washed walls. . .except for the west wall of the house which is covered in its middle from one end to the other with tacked up paper and cardboard where the plaster has fallen off and the underbrick is visible. Things fall from it onto the bed that’s there. This is the original single room of the house, the main room being built on and showing separation. The larger bedroom is also showing continental drift. I only use this room for storing my suitcases–one with clothes, one with books–and for the desk, where I sit typing this, looking, occasionally, out the screened window (two-paneled) onto the courtyard and the house across the way (the one with the broken door) and my clothes hanging on the wire “line.” I washed them in a basin in my kitchen sink this morning, about two hours ago.

There is no telling how clean or devoid of soap they are but they are wearable evidence of American handwashed clothing. I think my mother used to wash by hand, for I remember the washing board we ruined by making it an instrument; I know my grandmother, Grandma Secor, washed by hand. I remember our first wash tub, a great white thing with wringer at the back end. Mom would hook it up to the kitchen sink faucet and wash, wring the soapy clothes, drain and refill the tub and rinse the clothes–more than once. I used to like wringing the clothes, watching them come out the other side hard and flat.

Here, I wring by hand.

It’s kind of a muggy day; there’s no telling how long it will take the clothes to dry. It doesn’t matter. I’ve got all day. Tree branches occlude the sky somewhat. Although it’s somewhat cooler than it has been this past month, it’s still humid to the point that you could cut it with a knife. Thinking causes one to become dripping wet. Just riding downtown (to get my front tooth repaired) and back left my shorts and shirt so wet I could very well have climbed out of a swimming pool. Chinese dentistry is quite good–and far more affordable than America’s dentists who are nothing shy of greedy. You can almost see them drooling over what you’re going to give them: one leg, an arm, you next born. In China, everything is human-priced, affordable. And it’s all cash-and-carry. A cash economy is nice. The people at the bank have gotten to know me and have taught me to count in less stilted fashion. We can chat a bit. They love my name and, at this point, I can say it properly. But, then, they know me from before.

I like my Chinese name. It sounds nice. It has meaning. And it is a real Chinese name, not a sound-alike, which is what most foreigners get, if they decide to take one. Yes. It does sound like my name but it is also truly Chinese.  史可, Shĭ Kějiàn, the mirror of history. The jiàn is not your everyday character and I’ve gotten good at telling them how it is drawn. They are so amazed that I know it and know the meaning. I tell my students that my great-great-great grandfather (yéye de yéye de yéye de yéye [爷爷]) is Shi Kefa 史可法, Ming dynasty hero, standing tall before the invading Manchurians that we know as the Qing dynasty emperors.

Contrary to folk history and government propaganda, China has not been ruled by Chinese all these many years. They were invaded many times by the tribes to the north, on the north side of the Great Wall, which originally wasn’t so great or so long. Manchurians, Mongols, Jin, Qin and lots of civil war and minor “invasions” for many years after the Han Dynasty. Even the Uyghurs of Xinjiang got involved and many folktales exist for these people. There is evidence that the people of Xinjiang are descended from the Celts, as a mass grave of redheaded Caucasians has been found on the western border of the province. But, of course, the present government doesn’t want to hear this.

A dove just flew in and perched on the flat roof of the house to the west. This is the house my neighbor lives in. The broken-doored one she uses as her storage shed. Perhaps I should get some bird seed and put it out; I wonder what other denizens of the air would descend upon the little courtyard? I’d hate to see bird shit all over our clothes, mine and the other family’s (a mother and son). Actually, I’m thinking I might take a chair or little stool (called a bench here) and sit outside my house before the gathering darkness and read or just look around. I’d get to know my neighbor. I might very well learn some Chinese while here, though most of it will be Anyanghua, which I’m not interested in learning: it’s useless outside of Anyang.

I cover my computer and printer with a sheet, the self same sheet I used as a curtain in my old campus house. There is no sense in letting whatever-it-is that falls from my ceiling find its way into the rented computer and ruin it. I’d have to pay then. I cover my dishes, glasses, cups and silverware too, making sure, anyway, to turn things upside down (not the silverware which is kuaizi, but the spoons, yes). If I had the money or the inclination, I’d buy more material to hang on the ceiling beams. However, the main room ceiling is far too high for me to reach from a chair. A chair seat is not so high off the ground and nor are my raised arms. It would be nice, though, to not feel things falling on me–or see them falling on the furniture.

The East bedroom is the larger, including larger double bed. There are three cabinets, one a chiffarobe with a storage cabinet above; the aforementioned ancient charcoal stove with new pipe leading out one window, otherwise unusable I should think but, then, where else is the charcoal in the centre room supposed to go; two arm chairs and the refrigerator. The wall around the head of the bed is protected by a cloth, most probably to keep the wall from spilling its surface bits and contents onto the bed, into the sleeper’s mouth and hair, maybe even eyes. The floor is brick, well-worn. Nice. A small window is high up in the east wall looking out over a concrete wall and a bricked up doorway (or window-way, I can’t tell). But I can see sky and tree branches above the wall and the slight breeze is a minor aid to the stuffiness inside. The room is musty and mildewy smelling. Not good for my allergies. Perhaps with the house open much of the day, this will dissipate.

I put my little fan atop the fridge at night to cool me down. Last night I had to turn it off and fetch a blanket it got so cool. Odd for a mid-summer evening in Anyang. This morning was close but by nine or so it began to get comfortable. Now, at 4:30, it’s muggy hot and I’ve brought the fan in here, into the central room. Where else would I be writing this? It would be nice to sit outside and write but there’s no table. Not enough cord for the laptop to go. Clothes from this morning are dry; now my gym things are sending my sweaty odor wafting up over the roof tops, for the wind is blowing.

The ceilings of the rooms are covered with some kind of tar paper to keep the filler between the wood–and whatever else–from falling onto chicken little’s head. Except in the kitchen where the wood–sturdy tree branches spread between little tree trunks–and stuffing is exposed and dropping powder and lord knows what else onto the floor and whatever else may be in its way down. Like the pot. Which is why I want something to cover over the ceiling and into the cooking alcove.

It’s very quiet now. The woman and her son have not returned. A pair of her pants hangs from her line, so they were here over the noon break. The garden to that side is rampant, unattended, cluttered with bricks amidst the weeds. There were once houses here, too. The dog, dirty and not-so-friendly lies in the dirt. In the centre of our courtyard is a concrete slab. Actually, two blocks next to each other. To one side is a spot of concrete, looking like something construction workers left behind. Construction workers often do this, leave shit behind. The steps to our houses are stone blocks, mine more than one. The little boy pees on this central concrete block. Mom says nothing.

Why is it little boys the world over like to take their peters out in public and pee? Awhile ago, I saw, in the park, three boys standing on the edge of the greensward peeing, seeing how far they could make their streams go. I think I was the only one looking, watching.

The unkempt garden is full of weeds with an occasional baby tree, stray stones, jaggèd bricks in a big pile, huge pots and smaller pots, some with flowers, broken vast pots, a bicycle tire and a pile of debris of all sorts along the far east wall. There is a clothes line here; it gets little sun at one end. I think I’ll start using it so my clothes (on the other line) don’t interfere with her getting into her house, as I noticed was the case this evening. Sometimes I’m so fucking thoughtful it makes me sick.

I used the public toilet this morning. Walked up there, about ¼ mile. Inside, the entranceway shows a line-up of huge vats for pissing in; deeper inside the filthy structure are squat toilets, stainless steel, lined up along each wall. No dividers. No privacy–only really a problem for foreigners who can’t evacuate but alone and in silence. The flush mechanism–I was surprised to find one–is a button in the floor. As I learned, to the right of the toilet used. Obvious to me that there’s no light at night–and, to be quite frank, I wouldn’t want to stray in there in the dark anyway. Aside from the very real possibility of slipping in the muddy wetness or on the wet paper dribbled here and there there’s a great possibility that something might materialize out of the slop and filth and jump on me. Frankenturd! No sink to wash hands afterward. Highly unusual.

I was, of course, watched. I think I took a shit like everyone else. I hope my parts were exposed and large enough to be satisfactory, all Americans being big, you know. The guys did not watch from outside to see me go in and use their toilet. No. They came in and either pretended to piss or just stood there staring at me. No attempt to hide their curiosity. How many foreigners do they get to see semi-naked and taking a shit in their pot? This wasn’t the first time by any manner of means. The Japanese, who are just as curious having heard tales, are a tad more polite about checking the foreigner out.

I guess it’s not so far fetched as you might think, for white males are forever sneaking peeks, if they are polite, at black males’ penises which, as we all know, are horse-sized. We do this just to be sure, you know. And if we catch one who’s wanker is normal white-sized and appropriately thin, we’re sure they’re not so fucking superior sexually as we believe they are. If we see one/them well-endowed indeed, we gab about it with our male friends, like old women over the backyard clothes line gossiping, gossiping.

The condition of this toilet–and the entire train station waiting room and WC in Shangqiu 商丘 (very far east in Henan Province and the first capital of the Shang Dynasty which eventually made its home in Anyang, old name Yin or Yinyi 殷邑), which elicited an “It’s dirty” from Guo Lifang, who would not then use it–brought home again to me how filthy this country is. The people are fairly clean but the environment is a mess. Dirt, dust and trash everywhere; people spitting, even in restaurants and hospitals; men pissing against walls, in the bushes, in the showers (I see and smell this at the gym); children shitting and pissing wherever. The people in Hong Kong are most upset at mainlanders because they filthy up the city. The younger generation are complaining but no one is doing anything about it. Mostly, people do not use the trash bins on the streets or in the parks, just tossing their litter on the ground. I was somewhere yesterday where some guy had hawked a lugey in the middle of the entry carpet. I stop class and make a spitting student clean up is wad. He never does it again: acute embarrassment. The girls like this, for they don’t particularly like spitting boys. But spitting is so de rigueur that most all do. They’d get along well in a group of rednecks leaning on a fence stile.

Perhaps my frozen chicken, taken out just awhile ago, will thaw out so I can cook tonight. In any case, I must truck along Dongnanying jie and go to the marketplace at the next cross-roads, hand unwashed and itching for water; no veggies in my fridge. Not much of anything, actually. This turned out to be just another trip to familiarize myself to the neighborhood. Eventually, I’ll become a fixture of only passing worth–a good thing. Well, actually not. Being noticed and accepted and spoken to is comforting. My strangeness at least becomes acceptable. In the end, the old women on their stoops and I became easy speaking companions. I didn’t understand much they said, even though they learned quickly that I did not do Anyanghua, but we got along. I was able to joke some. I found this a welcome ability to have. Most foreigners, it seems to me, are not so easy. You know, we are so much better.

Loud AC/DC at 9:30 PM got the people around me upset. Must be louder outside than in. This house sucks up the sound. Didn’t complain, though, when it was different music. So. . .now I know.

Had a visit earlier this evening from my landlady, as I was fixing dinner. I didn’t turn down the music and only stopped preparation briefly. I detest this kind of thing and wonder if it will happen often. The son looks just like her; the daughter (15?) is beautiful and speaks quite good English after three years of study. The girl emptied my kitchen trash, so I still don’t know where to get rid of it. Forgot a third of the Chinese Yuki taught me yesterday to accomplish this.

Yuki came by last night and we sat in the bedroom talking for hours. I calmly drank half a bottle of vodka. Entertaining guests, as it were, in the bedroom, including sitting on the bed, is de rigueur. I found, later, the reason for this is that the bed was the only sitting/lying structure in the old houses. Always made up. The first time I came upon this, visiting a friend’s grandmother, she patted the bed beside her for me to sit. Kind of flustered and embarrassed I sat. In America, this would have had a different connotation than please sit. Bedrooms are so private in the West.

My girls–well, my students, when they came to my house checked out all the rooms, including my bedroom, which was a mess, as per usual. They just walked right in and looked around to see how the foreigner lived. I don’t know why I just let them. Most of my fellow foreign teachers did not. Indeed, they did not invite their students into their homes.

It turned out this and the time I spent chatting with them or eating in the cafeteria with them and taking an interest in their goings on around campus and elsewhere was a boon. All the students wanted was to be noticed and taken seriously for human and welcomed by the foreigners. Not that the Chinese teachers did any of this. They, the Chinese teachers, are not interested in their students as people, only as bodies sitting at desks sucking up (?) their teachings. Not so likely as Chinese students are prone to doing homework for some other class during other classes. Why bother to pay attention when everything is done not only by the book but in the book, including answers to the exercise questions.

My teaching style was very different and elicited much excitement and, at the same time, much irritation and complaining. In the end, they benefited and were happy when they saw their test scores. Did I teach for the test? No. I taught a skill that could be used–and not just for the English sections. But when it came to the tests, I gave them some tips on how to take tests. Regardless of whether they listened or not, they did better on their important nationally standardized tests.

Where No Self-Respecting American Would Go — part 1

Where No Self-Respecting American Would Go

or

living like most Chinese

 The adventure begins with petty revenge taken over having gotten caught attempting to cheat–or, less politely, extortion. I was the victim. In the end, the present circumstances led to a deeper understanding of China that is otherwise prejudiced by my culture, my learning, my worldview. That is, irritating and fretful as the punitive behavior was, I came out ahead. And I am certainly pleased at having had this adventure into the heart of China, where no self–respecting American would ever go. However, having won was, in the end losing, as evidenced by the circumstances leading to my living down at the bottom of city life. . .where I gained more cultural information.

One year ago, upon leaving Anyang shifan daxue 安阳师范大学 (Anyang Teachers University), there was an attempt to cheat me out of one month’s salary from my first month’s hire of three years. I had been hired in February when the administration of the school was away for Spring Festival, Mao’s ludicrous attempt to rid the language, putonghua, of ancient, royalist oppressive thought supposedly contained in New Year’s that included ridding society of all celebration: everyone was supposed to go home, go to their family home, and sit around and eat and drink, no noise or wild celebrating. Because the school was shut down, there was no way to institute a salary, albeit the unpaid foreign affairs teacher, Zhang Xiangang 张显刚 Robert, had the contract to hand and had brought me in from the RR station. So, no salary until March when the school administration would return. I had the money to live the month that, though a nationwide holiday, was still a paid month as my hire began on 1 February. All things considered, by the time I left to return to the States due to illness, this lost salary was already pocketed, leaders and institutionalized corruption being what they are. Still, it was my money and I wanted it.

The first lesson: do not challenge authority, especially if it is wrong. Expect a huge battle, beginning with denial and ending with administrative pressure on close teaching staff. At this time, three years after beginning at AYTU, the foreign affairs person was not Robert Zhang. The foreign affairs officer was a woman and, so, easily manipulated by her superiors, women really not being equal despite government/Mao’s rhetoric to the contrary. Indeed, people in general are not equal. There is open classism here.

At any rate, there was no admittance of wrong doing or mistake by the College Dean. But I would not be deterred. And I needed the money.

There seemed little change from, say, the Song dynasty and The Outlaws of the Marsh, when rightful petition was denied and aggressively fought against. Like those outlaws and, in fact, the Medieval outlaws of Britain and Europe, I would not relent, something people in power positions (authorities) do not understand, especially this man who seemed to be interested in demonstrating and maintaining power (I noted this in other situations during my 3 years at AYTU—-and not just with him). However, I did not become violent or revengeful, as the Outlaws had. Although I had come across corruption before in Lanzhou, a far more petty and insidious and destructive sort, I’d not been introduced to the corruption of thievery, a much more common corruption. The corruption of getting ahead at any cost, always to the detriment of another, is endemic in China. Endemic to the point of being normal, everyday behavior. Definitely expected of higher ups.

Despite shows of egalitarianism, there is no equality to the new China. Women are still less than men; city or common folk are lower than entrepreneurs, academics and government officials; farmers are dirt. In fact, I learned that my students did not like to admit their families were farmers, if this were true, as they would be looked down on. Foreigners are China’s niggers: we gots rights but who cares? When you wrong, you wrong. No queshuns ast.

Since I did not relent, I was a real bad, out of step sort.

As everyone is supposed to be equal in the face of higher salaries and better treatment of those above, getting ahead is the order of the day. Getting ahead at any cost, in any way, as if to say that having or making more money equates to serving the State better, more assiduously, than others (below you). All employment is working for the State, according to Communist doctrine, so the more work, the more monetary gain, the more status and the more a Worker of the State you are. The more Communist. Rhetoric in practice. In fact, no one wants to be the same as everyone else. Everyone wants to be better, better off than the norm, which is poverty. . .according to Communist Doctrine. Since Deng Xiaoping 邓小平 had revolutionized Mao Zedong’s 毛泽东 policies, such behavior became, if not more pronounced, more possible. Indeed, I was to find in the ensuing years that the behavior in academia of The Red Guards and The Revolutionaries was not dead at all, only simmering and bubbling below the surface like a spot–specific earthquake waiting to happen. This is one way to get ahead. One way to eliminate threats.

As the situation surrounding the regaining of my lost salary elevated, things got out of control. It is generally assumed that I (the foreigner), as I was told, got out of control. However, if truth be told, the Dean of the College–the person under the microscope here–was the one to get out of control. He fought for his life, that is to say, he fought for his ill-got gains. More than likely, he’d already spent the money. Not so very much as I’d taken less than originally agreed upon in order to attain a better situation than that in Lanzhou Jiaotong Daxue.

My last official evening in Anyang, the Janus-faced Foreign Affairs Office Director had relented and was ready to pay up–as was proper; however, the Dean, Mr. Shi–I don’t know his putonghua but this Shi was not the same as my Shi 史–got out of hand and called a friend of mine, a faculty member, Robert Zhang, to get him to convince me that I was wrong, and because I raised my voice–and I do have a large voice when the occasion warrants it–because I went ballistic. I fumed at him and, when the FAO Director entered my house right as this odious phone call was terminated, I shouted at her with all the power and fury I could muster–she left precipitously, eyes wide, frightened and slightly confused and talking into two cell phones at once. She left the door open. Later that evening, the Vice Dean of Foreign Languages dropped by with the FAO Director to smooth things over and give me the rationale for giving me the money to which I was entitled but not entitled: I was not totally blameless, I was told, as if this had anything at all to do with the issue at hand. However, it was calculated to show up the good-heartedess of the Dean in relenting in the face of my ignoble persistance and, thereby, making the school and save face: placating the bad guy, me. Though perhaps buying me off would be a better assessment. That I was owed the money was of no account. Getting rid of an irritant and someone who was exposing corruption (cheating, thievery) was uppermost in Dean Shi’s mind. I was supposed to feel honored at being so generously treated. I did not. It was my due. I won. How embarrassing for the Dean, the school. It was important, then, to understand the error of my ways, my errant behavior that should by all rights have resulted in termination (I refused to teach after two weeks of promises for a new washing machine that never materialized resulting in no clean clothes–I acted out, something I had found the Chinese and hospital nurses responded well to—I had my washer by noon) and, therefore, how nice and good the school was in giving me the money. I was supposed to accept such behavior, put up with such conditions—after all, the Chinese do. I wanted to say something but understood that this rhetoric was necessary to saving face.

That was lesson number two, if you will.

I had, to be honest, learned innumerable lessons of culture during those three years, not all of them pleasant.

One year later, having returned healthy and ready for another wonderful stay in China, academic people notwithstanding, I was to find petty revenge must have its day. I returned to Anyang to visit friends and adopted daughters and rented an old house on campus belonging to a friend of my 干女儿 gan nü er‘s  father.

Now, I must take a little side road here and explain this adoptive situation. A  gan nü er is not a true daughter nor, as we in America understand it, a true adopted daughter. God-daughter does not even come close. There is no expected legal paperwork involved. This situation is old fashioned with the exception, in the modern day, of gan nü er implying that I had adopted the girl and am waiting until she grows up to marry her. The adopting is unofficial but culturally binding.  gan nü er translates as “dry daughter,” meaning not really mine. Moreover, I did not adopt her–or the other two involved in this–she/they adopted me. They wanted to do this as they wanted to take care of me when I got old. Of course, they wanted to take care of me “now,” since I did not know Chinese ways.

These three girls were students; we had become close over the three years I taught at AYTU. They were at my house often; they and their classmates were at my house monthly for a feed-fest, TV and movie watching, and general conversation. Even now, 10 years later, I miss this. With their adoption of me as “father,” I had what I did not have in my own life: family. A family that cared. This particular daughter, Zhang Fan 张帆, was closest to me then. The situation has changed over the years with the more aggressive, protective daughter showing an intolerance that has resulted in her, now, not talking to me; and the youngest of the group, Qin Lixiao Young 秦李小, taking on the role of protective daughter. Young is, in some respects, very much like me in that she goes her own way, has her own ideas and wants and desires, and will be damned not to follow her dream.

At the this time of my life, Young was elsewhere finishing her studies, Zhang Na Anna 张哪 was in Scotland getting her masters and Zhang Fan Yuki (now, due to marriage, Salimah) was the only one left in Anyang. We were the close ones.

I made no bones about this return to Anyang and my living arrangements; I did not hide my living on campus in an old empty house (apartment), abandoned because the original owner had opted to move to the newer teacher housing of the old campus. Why should I? I was guilty of nothing. Had nothing to hide. Expected nothing. I was simply returning to see friends, old students and my daughter.

The Dean of the College, the very same Dean who was bested a year ago, was, however, not pleased. His loss still rankled, apparently, and he considered me a threat when I could have cared less. He was not important any more. He pressured my gan nü er‘s father and his friend, the owner of the house, to get rid of me or else the apartment would be confiscated by the school and there would be further trouble for these teachers, my daughter’s father and his friend. In a week I was expected to vacate the premises. It was hoped, I’m sure, that this would put me out on the streets; definitely, it was to discompose me. I did not understand the why screw others instead of me behavior. Me, the bane of his existence. I still do not. I find it the same as making life difficult for someone for no reason but to make life difficult for them. As with the old Buddhist tale of the two monks travelling down the road in the rain–always in the rain–Dean Shi was still carrying the woman met while I had set her down on the other side of the road, as she wished.

However, I marshalled friends–who found the Dean’s actions to be as incomprehensible as I did–and we managed to find a manageable place. I was focused on not having a job and, therefore, not having money to squander on more or less top-of-the-line accommodations, as a good foreigner ought to seek out. This place I settled into was gotten less than a week after the threat to others had been made. Perhaps the threat, aside from being petty revenge where hurting everyone in your path to get to the one you want is acceptable (à la George Bush II), was also a (further) move to power, of which he had no need. That is, he was the power in the school, what further show of force was necessary? I could have cared less about him. Apparently, though, full dictatorial powers. . .here in a more or less backwater town at a no-name school, means a man who wants it to be known that he is the boss and, like George Bush II, is not going to tolerate any who help the enemy.

Let’s see if we can discover why my presence at AYTU was a threat to this man’s power. . .honor. Hate. Childish petulance. Fear of losing status. Humberto Marriotti might consider this behavior that of an incompetent. Perhaps more akin to Elmer Fudd’s frustration at never being able to bag that siwwy wabbit. Hopping mad. Yuki suggested that, after I moved, I could further frustrate this man by simply showing up on campus–often. Impotent rage. I could just see him turning red, steam pouring out of his ears, “Ooooh!” spouting past his saliva-speckled lips. I thought, yes, but that showing up only 2–3 times a week at rather inconsistent occasions would be better, for he’d keep waiting for the next time, anxious and fearful, ready with a means to put me out of his misery. Which never occurred.

I’ve found a way to put this event into my book (The Constant Shell Game, as yet unpublished, as so many of my writings are not). The absurdity of it all. The parallel will be more than obvious to those in the know. Also, it will restore my sense of humor, which seems to have gotten lost in this particular writing.

Well. . .on to the adventure.

As I said to Yuki as we traversed the back roads and narrow byways to what was to become my new house, I was getting deeper and deeper into China. Certainly no foreigner would have bothered to go as deep into living areas as this; none would even consider actually living in such a place. I saw this as learning some more about China, things that most all foreigners are ignorant of–discounting that they are ignorant of China in the main to begin with. Most foreigners, most especially Americans, only see and wish to know the more prosperous side of life and the tourist attractions, believing these facets of China are “China” and become the experience of a lifetime. I, however, was going to discover what it was like living like the Chinese live. Once, though, for a couple weeks, I had lived in similar circumstances while spending New Year’s with a student’s family in a village outside of Jinhua 金华市, during the Southern Song Dynasty the chosen home of the government elite. So, there was some foreknowledge of what I was getting into. This time, I was not ill, not living through walking pneumonia which was, eventually, what sent me back to the States.

Off the not-so-wide back streets of Anyang there are smaller what might be called paved alleyways, though there were other less wide streets, which we’re not concerned with here. Off Dongnanying jie 东南营街 East South Road, is a smaller roadway, perhaps 2 ½ bicycles wide at its widest. There is an archway-tunnel entrance, under which, in the street, the construction workers slept over the noon break (2–3 hrs, standard). It would be easy, I found out, to run them over. Luckily, I was quick on my bike.

On the east wall of the tunnel is a sign and a further hand-written notice: Linfu jie 林府街, Forest Home Road. No trees. It bends as it goes along, finally ending in a cul de sac; there are a couple of other alleys and streets that are also dead ends leading to larger houses. But Linfu jie was where I was destined to live. This was old central Anyang so, probably, there once was a forest or woods here. “Now” the area was all built up, newer levels obvious via style.

I was both appalled and pleased at discovering this local hutong 胡同. I knew immediately this was real China, not the modern economic wonder most Americans expect, even though Fanfan had been taking me places off the beaten path, as far as foreigners are concerned. If we had any reason to go down these streets, we would only ogle and comment disparagingly. Very much as the British in India and Africa, Americans carried their culture and their attitudes with them wherever we go, never seeing the world of China but through the cultural prejudices of American middle class. We are so insulated, we are unaware of Chinese responses to us, especially those of us who can find nothing positive to say about this new world or its people. As odd as we find Chinese behavior at times, they find our behavior as odd. Even my behavior of getting on with the people and visiting and living in old town.

I got on so well with my students, paying attention to them and their student activities that I was invited into their culture and homes and learned a lot. Not to say I had no biases. I did. I just kept them to myself.

I could not believe that people lived, as a matter of course, in such horrible conditions. I could not understand it, even though I knew of parallel living conditions in America, had lived in poverty, had even squatted in abandoned buildings in order to live. However, since those days–early 20s, college days–I had taken on a more middle-class view of things. Not that I ever was middle-class. At least not above the lower end. Perhaps, though, I was better prepared than most as I’d just spent the prior 10 years involved in disability affairs and, indeed, for part of the time living the throw-away life given to the disabled. Grudgingly given to the disabled.

Along the east (right) wall of Linfu jie, after passing through its tunnelled entryway, were the entrances, through their own little tunnels, to the living areas–more than one house, more than one family, gathered about little courtyards or common areas. There were only one or two double-doored entrances to living areas on the west wall. I lived in #7. Quite a ways down the street. The entryway was paved; where it turned left concrete civilization ended: the ground there was pounded down by use and mossy-ish. Trees and bushes grew all about these houses, so the first courtyard was shady and green. This open courtyard must be passed through to get to the even narrower passageway that led to my courtyard, bounded by three houses. Old houses. Clay tile-roofed, white-washed brick or plastered concreted brick; or, like mine and the one right across the yard, brick with a concrete lower third. There is a large hole in this other small, out building-sized house’s door where the thin plywood type panel had gone missing. Must be cold in the winter. This courtyard was sans trees, seemingly older than the front area and most certainly much less well–cared for.

Once a long time ago, the narrow, between houses passage that led to this back living area was bricked over, cobbled; now it was a tumult of tsunami-tossed bricks sticking up into the non-sunshine, embedded in the hard, hard earth. I thought of staying in when it rains, as, though I do have boots to counter both the running water–a little watercourse rushes not necessarily down the middle–and the mud, it was impossible to hold an umbrella aloft through this back alley entryway. The rain water running down some of the neighborhood streets was less conducive to slopping along. How Chinese of me! Ha! The Chinese did not appear to go out in the rain. I used to tease my students that they were afraid of the rain.

Janus-faced Prejudice

One particular prejudice not often considered, perhaps because it is all too obvious and common, is the prejudice of face. That is, keeping or saving face. Some people might prefer to call this reputation, as if that somehow makes it more acceptable. Be that as it may, it prejudices decisions and excludes people as things dispensable–as all prejudices do.

I worked for an Independent Living Organization (ILO) in a moderately large mid-western city. ILO’s are supposed to be fighting prejudice, specifically prejudice against the disabled that keep us sidelined, out of work and second class citizens. Let us call this ILO The Healthy & Entire Mortal, THEM. Many ILO’s are members of ADAPT, which began as American Disabled for Accessible Public Transit, an organization that is dedicated to active demonstration against entities in society that show great prejudice and little concern for the disabled, such as Greyhound Bus, metropolitan transportation systems, air terminals/air lines, landlords and supermarkets. These protests are nonviolent yet extremely disruptive.

THEM is a member of ADAPT and takes part in demonstrations; however, only in demonstrations that are considered to be safe. That is, that will not result in bad press, which might disturb the delicate balance THEM’s Director has built up with the local business community. Thus, both sides of THEM’s face are saved: they appear to be activists and they appear to be more sensible minded members of the business community.

At THEM I was a certified and Social Security trained Benefits Specialist working to move the disabled on government benefits back into the workplace through the Social Security maze and without losing their medical benefits. I also advocated for my clients whenever problems arose. I was quite good. Several of the networking and information grids I developed were disseminated throughout the West and Midwest. I sat on the Kansas State board of the National Association of the Mentally Ill. I worked tirelessly for mental health parity and for extension of Medicaid benefits to those disabled who managed to find employment–in both Kansas and Missouri.

In dealing with one client, I came upon corruption within the very government organization that was set up to help the disabled: Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). This was in Missouri. My client was systematically being denied her benefits from VR by way of misleading information, sexual harassment, administrative Catch-22’s and lack of sensitivity to her disability. This situation had been going on for several years. In advocating for her and following her case through appeals and a move to legal action, I discovered that the administrative side-stepping and unwillingness to adhere to its own directives went to the top.

When the heat became too great for VR, trumped up malfeasances against me were used to bring pressure on THEM. THEM was told that if I was not fired, VR would cease funding THEM’s medical and assistive living programs. This is extortion, or perhaps bribery. Did THEM support me and thereby my client? No. Though VR was told I wouldn’t be fired, I was conveniently moved to the Kansas side of THEM’s organization, a rather fledgling, undeveloped aspect of the ILO. For THEM, though, this was simply the first of a number of moves to get rid of me while I became my own advocate, discovering that neither the legal branch of the government nor its head (the Governor) would do anything to right the obviously illegal situation.

A hostile environment was developed by THEM utilizing my big, 400 lb bullying supervisor who was, without the official title, assistant to the Director. This man continually gave me false leads as to my new job guidelines, limited my ability to do advocacy, engaged in baiting with disingenuous substandard performance ratings and indulging in administrative procedures that were a neverending labyrinth of incompleteness. Although I brought this to the attention of the Director and even utilized our hired harassment expert, a friend of the Director, it became obvious that this treatment, the hostile environment, emanated from THEM’s Director himself. My only victory was to resign at a highly inappropriate time and before enough information could be constructed to fire me. My big, bullying supervisor was furious. Throughout this entire process, I kept good records. Now, several years later, I still have this documentation (14 typewritten pages).

Why, one wonders, would THEM do this when its mandate is to help the disabled? My client withered and never obtained her legal right to benefits. Because, really, THEM was not dedicated, was not willing to go out on a limb–for either client or employee. THEM could have sought legal action against VR for their strong arm tactics in getting rid of me. THEM could have ridden the iron horse of legal action against VR for denial of appropriate benefits for my client. But, no, THEM folded under pressure in order to save face.

Denial of benefits to quite a number of disabled within the community would have accrued with the withholding of VR’s medical support funding–if made public, this would have had a devastating effect. Employees would have found themselves out of work because their position depended on this VR medical support money. But. . .a major aspect of VR’s wish to have me terminated was that I was disabled and not appropriate for “such a position” of responsibility. Thus, THEM was not only not supporting their employee but again not upholding their mandate to aid the disabled. This allowed THEM to remain a viable, business-friendly ILO that would not rock the boat. This allowed THEM to engage in the same prejudicial behavior that THEM was supposed to be fighting.

And so THEM saved face. At my expense. At one particular client’s expense. And at the greater disabled community’s expense, for THEM will not stand behind either their employees or their clientele. After all, what is important is what one appears to be.

THEM still takes part in safe ADAPT demonstrations and still helps clients who offer no threat to them or the workings of government. I am still in contact with this client, though my e-mail has been blocked by THEM. I still maintain contacts with ILO contacts in other States.

I sought several position in the US, missing most by one day and, eventually, one hour, before signing a contract to teach literature and drama and writing at a university in China. I am a published writer and have 30 years’ experience in theatre, including producing and running my own theatre before doctoral studies. I am presently engaged in academic research. I am engaged in recruitment and PR activities for this college. I am acting in commercials. I am in contact with the fledgling disability rights movement in China. Yet I am too disabled to do the job of helping the disabled; too disabled to hold a position of responsibility.

Although I have succeeded in the face of prejudice, it is sad that this situation exists; that is, that the very organization that is supposed to be helping the disabled is actually disabling them. THEM, though, is not alone.

James L. Secor, Ph.D.

A Comfortable Doctrine

 by Minna vander Pfaltz

I have a friend who fancies herself a Buddhist. She knows I am a Buddhist well-founded on history and writings, which modern American Buddhists shun, believing that reading is not practice. This, despite the writing of the sutras, which they hold in such awe that they see them, Mahayana, as a school of Buddhism. It is not. It is a mass, most untranslated, of esoteric and exegetical writings that all schools of Buddhism read and utilize in their practice. Another way of putting it is that Mahayana “is neither a Vinaya tradition or a doctrinal school. It is rather a vision or aspiration, and an understanding of what the final concern should be for all Buddhists (Paul Williams, Buddhist Thought, pp. 112-113) [There are only five schools of Buddhism: Sarvastivada or Vaibhasika; Sautrantika; Theraveda; and Pudgalavada. I am a Pudgalavadan.]

Anyway, this woman invited me to a meeting of her group of Buddhists to chant. That is what they do, chant. Or so they call it. I found it to be shouting out a memorized bit from the Lotus Sutra–and in none too cohesive, unanimous or rhythmic a manner. They do this three times for very short periods, perhaps 2-3 minutes. This, to me, is not chanting. Chanting is a means to an end, the end being meditation, the proper mind for meditation. They, in fact, do not meditate.

This group, a tight knit, small group, calls itself Nichiren Buddhist. It is, in fact, something else.

Nichiren Buddhism is not given much shrift by other Buddhists. To begin with, Nichiren and his followers were violently aggressive. This is not part of the canon of Buddhism. Worse, perhaps, is that Nichiren Buddhism is the only sect of Buddhism that is named after an individual. How egotistical. How egomanic. How egocentric. And how very un-Buddhist. One of the major tenets of Buddhism, as translated in the 19th century, is no-self. Well, no self, no life. No self means death. A better, more accurate translation would be no-ego, for it is the ego that brings on suffering via its illusion of what you are, the illusion of your self, often enough of a Dunning-Kruger sort: an unrealistic vision of your self. It is this illusion that creates suffering and must be bypassed. Ergo, Nichiren had not attained any clear understanding of Buddhism nor had he managed to rid himself of his ego. How can he lead a sect of Buddhism when he has not managed to gain mastery over his ego, his illusion of reality, his illusion of his self?

A second problem is that Nichiren Buddhism teaches only one sutra, the Lotus Sutra. As if there is no other sutra or interpretation of the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. There are hundreds translated and thousands untranslated. To only see one exegetical teaching is not only philosophically vacuous, it is as limiting as people who burn books.

So, one is able to maintain that Nichiren Buddhism is not, in fact, Buddhism. It is illusion. This is beyond comprehension to Nichiren’s followers, for their practice makes them feel happy. This, happiness, is taught as the major effect of proper practice. This is not the happiness that any other Buddhist school teaches; this is the happiness of ego, as in “I feel happy and good when I do something for someone else.” (One of these people actually said this to me as if this were the end all and be all of Buddhist goodness and virtue.) Oh puke! That’s not giving or doing for anyone but yourself.

Buddhist happiness begins in mind and it surpasses the sensual. Nichiren’s followers like to feel good, feel good about themselves; this makes them happy. So, I ask you, what have they gained or learned? Happiness for Buddhists is the arising of the Awakened Ones; it is the gaining of wisdom; it is not doing evil. You can only attain happiness by following The Eightfold Path and being mindful of The Four Noble Truths.

When I sat in with this group, I asked about The Noble Eightfold Path. No one knew–and, indeed, blew it off. Far too difficult a thing to deal with. This is the fourth of the Four Noble Truths, which no one knew of. In fact, they told me that since Nichiren had studied for 20 years there is no need for them to study as he and his followers were teaching them his learning. There will never be enlightenment of any kind, here because imitation is not knowledge. Certainly not self-knowledge, which is one of the things that meditation gets you. But they don’t meditate.

However, there is a cultural element to “20 years” that Westerners completely miss. Amazingly, every Buddhist teacher in Japan studied in China for 20 years. I know of only one for whom this is historically accurate and documented (Kūkai). For everyone else, “20 years” means “for a long time” or “for the appropriate length of time” and can imply gaining insight and understanding. From this, there is nothing “20 years” about Nichiren. The fact that his followers are not interested in learning anything other than his egomanic dogma is a sign of. . .I’m not sure of the word—delusion?

Things get worse in the history these people are fed. In its partial truth, it is no more than propaganda. Somewhere around the beginning of WWII hostilities in Japan (1937 with the invasion of China), Nichiren Buddhism split and a new wing was established, Sōka Gakkai. Sōka Gakkai is not Buddhism. But Sōka Gakkai utilizes Buddhism, Nichiren Buddhism, to gain its ends–or, rather, to hide ever so transparently its true path. Sōka Gakkai is political. Sōka Gakkai is not well-liked by the people because of its political aspirations; they remember the State religion that led to the atrocities of WWII. As well they should. Any state religion is tyrannical and intolerant and prone to atrocities. It is the natural outcome of fascist organizations and thinking, given that any organization that maintains “my way is the only way” is fascist. This is, indeed, what Fascism teaches: my way is the only way, my way is the right way, my way is the best way. That means, everything else is wrong and what is wrong and heretical must be gotten rid of.

Even more telling is that the leader of Sōka Gakkai is called its President. He is, in fact, a businessman, as his predecessors were. A very rich businessman who flies around the world in his private jet. He knows nothing of Buddhism. He has had no training in Buddhism. Ergo, Sōka Gakkai is fake Buddhism.

When this is pointed out to followers, they deny it. They say it isn’t true. They say it doesn’t matter. They say they are happy. What could be more better? Well, even in the degradation of the West, even in the decadence of the West, it is known that happiness is fleeting; that happiness is not an end to be sought for it begets only unhappiness (suffering). As in, what if you don’t gain happiness no matter what you do? As in, once you’ve got it what’s left for you? This happiness is illusion. It is ego blowing its own horn. How long can you blow? You can never stop or you are no longer happy.

And, so, I remain appalled by these people and wish I could get my friend away from this crowd. She—and they—have no idea of the propaganda because they have bought it lock, stock and barrel. They have study sessions and inspirational speakers (not; they’re actually pretty boring, simply repeating, repeating, repeating the happiness mantra) just like cells or cults so that they know what is right and that what is right is feeling good about themselves, feeling happy. As if to say, no matter what happens as long as I am happy everything’s cool. This makes me shiver.

The proverbial garden path.

The Trouble with Lawrence Kansas

When the good idea of a free state, a place for nigs to become humans, Lawrence put itself up as that place, even after the oft-remembered Quantrill Raid and Burning. But this is no more. One of the notable things about now-adays Lawrence, KS, is its modern racism, which includes Injuns and wetbacks or, more appropriately, spics, as well as blacks. I say “more appropriately,” because the illegal immigrants that make sure we get the wonderful things that keep the American Dream alive cannot pronounce a long e, as in “speak.” There are some Chinese, too, but as they feed us, they are okay. As it were.

But this is not the most notable element of disgust these days. No. The more notable thing about Lawrence, KS, capital of arrogance and Dunning-Kruger, has to do with the medical profession. To wit:- the medical profession in Lawrence, KS has lost all sense of itself as a service to Mankind and any ethical imperative that might obtain from the Hippocratic Oath, which has become more akin to the Hypcritic Oath. Here as elsewhere.

The first abrogation of ethics and dedication comes via the Business Model of Medicine, which is not about medicine at all but about money. And it cost me my doctor of 30 years who suddenly did not have time to hear my stories. Now, this may sound rather petty but my stories are context and history. I am what is known as a good historian when it comes to diseases and disorders. In order to make an appropriate diagnosis context is important. The more so as, in my case, reaction to medications is so variant to the PR of Big PHRMA. And yet, with the wholesale adoption of the Business Model of Medicine by the entire practice, this physician who was once held to be perhaps the best in Lawrence and most certainly the best diagnostician suddenly threw in the towel on her Calling, as she once told me doctoring was for her; she threw that, her soul, into the waste heap.

Apparently what is important to her and all other doctors who have adopted the Business Model of Medicine is getting home on time, at a reasonable hour. Yet with the mandated 15 minutes per patient, it has not dawned on her and the others that they are working more than they did before. Yes. We complained about the long wait in the office before being seen; but we could not ever complain about the care we got. Personal.

Now, with the Business Model of Mecicine it’s screw the personal, screw the patient: what is important for the Business Model of Medicine is profit; that is to say, money, money, money because money makes the world go round, it makes the world go round, that clinking clanking sound.

She does not like the Business Model of Medicine but she is whole-heartedly bound by it. And, so, I do not see her any more.

This has been a great loss to me. As it has been to others who do not like and will not tolerate so many of Lawrence’s physicians, now almost totally owned, more or less, by the private local hospital, Lawrence Memorial Hospital, a monopoly that is rated by a branding business as one of the nation’s top 100 hospitals. If it is, god help the hospitals of the country. A branding business like Truven charges a fee for a “brand,” a catchy phrase, a one-liner that is guaranteed to generate income. Easy in Lawrence as the hospital is a monopoly. What choice do we have? Especially the poor, who are not wanted in Brownbackistan.

Let me explain. The Kansas governor is Sam Dale Brownback, a man who is bought and paid for and is, thus, very heavily invested in privatization. So much so that he has stolen from the public education budget to finance his own agenda, that is, the investiture of the much worse education produced by the privatization of schooling. He also has privatized, to great State debt, the Medicaid program. This allows doctors to “opt out” of one or the other of the three private companies that require money to run, money on top of what the feds pay; that is, the State of Kansas must pay the company to operate its Medicaid coverage program. Thus, a great debt incurred by the State.

The fact that practices and doctors get to “opt out” of one or the other of the three companies, means not only that ethical imperatives have been thrown to the wolves often for the most petty of reasons, but also means that some people are left without medical coverage. Poor people. Poor people, to Brownback, aren’t deserving. They have not done any pulling of themselves up by the bootstraps. A great American social myth, mind you, but a good cliché to hide behind for the inhuman. For Brownback, as with the Tea Partiers and the Libertarians, the poor should be damned to nonexistence because “if you can’t afford to pay, you deserve to die.” This is highly ironic, for these kinds of American Patriots scream and yell about the horrors of socialism (which they do not understand at all) and communism (which is all about an ages old prejudice) yet their stance is Marxist, though Marx is much more human about being inhuman; to wit:- if you do not work, you do not deserve to eat.

This is the question I have for the Business Model of Medicine: how can you appropriately diagnose a person’s disorder or disease in 15 minutes when you don’t have time for the personal or the contextual? This is, of course, a rhetorical question, for you can’t. People react differently to medication, Big PHRMA be damned, and the prescribing of medicine solely because Big PHRMA has said whatever is good is a prescription for trouble. But, really, who cares? For the trouble will take the poor fucker or the old fucker to the ER at the local monopolistic hospital which will wreak an amazing profit.

For me, who has had such trouble with medication side-effects, this is courting death. Indeed, I came close via an overdose of Lithium, though this is more to do with the Business Model of Medicine’s directive that all records of 10 yrs or older be set aside. Why did I suffer so? The necessary information that would have bypassed my toxic reaction and its attendant encephalopathy was 15 years old.

How many unavoidable problems and deaths could be avoided by having access to these records?

So it goes.

But this is not all. Concièrge Medicine has begun to seep, like a fast leaking faucet, into Lawrence medicine. Concièrge Medicine has no ethical base at all. It is even more money oriented that the Business Model of Medicine. Concièrge Medicine accepts no insurance, not even private. You pay a certain amount a month for coverage and access to the doctor. There are, of course, different programs all the way up to the, shall we say, Cadillac Program where you pay a high price for treatment. Concièrge Medicine is touted as medicine for all. However, with the least amount of coverage being around $40/mo, this touting is an outright lie. There are many people, all of them poor, who cannot afford such a fee. Oh, well, you know, they deserve to die, they can’t afford to pay.

There is a horrible capitalist mentality to this. Not that capitalism itself is a bad thing. But the mentality of money before anything else and develop, develop, develop is, somehow perversely associated with the American Dream, what led to The Dust Bowl and the present “drought” in California. Note: The Dust Bowl was called, for most of its existence, a drought. Interestingly, most of the Okies who made it to California were, in fact, Kansans.

These people, the doctors of Concièrge Medicine need to begin reading and paying attention to history, for not only are they willing disease and death on people for the Almighty Dollar, they are driving the end of the line, Crazed Caseys. The lies necessary to gain access to the American Dream eventually fall apart, as they did for Gatsby. And, as with every tragedy, the innocent are brought down as well. 

As Twain quipped, those who don’t read are more dangerous than those who can’t read.

So, in Lawrence, KS, the capital of the Free State, I am looking for a new doctor. Which, according to my immunologist, is what half of Lawrence is doing. I already ditched my long time doctor and I have ditched the doctor who practices by norms and averages and the graphs in her textbooks and whatever the hell Big PHRMA tells her and am now getting rid of one of the best doctors in Lawrence due to the petty refusal of one of the three private Medicaid companies, which could not happen under the Federal system. Am I having an easy time? No. Not at all.

No. I am not going to die. I will simply continue to cost the City and the State tons of money as it costs more than $800 just to pass through the doors of the private monopoly of Lawrence Memorial Hospital staffed by doctors who are more interested in saving their asses than in treating the admitted. . .and then come charges for the doctor, the drugs the tests and. . .whatever.

This, the medical deterioration of medicine into the pit of money hell, is the major problem besetting Lawrence, KS.

Changing over

Those familiar with labelleotero are now here. Talesofthefloatingworld comes about from problems that would not fix.This is the fix for the lovely, incomparable and very numinous Minna vander Pfaltz, whom Jimsecor might call a Familiar. I occasionally let him mount essays and whatnot here and he tells me there will soon be an update on the ludicrous happenings in Lawrence, a town that fits Dunning-Kruger to a T. Truly an oddity considering KS’s governor, Sam Dale Brownback, a nobody til he married publishing money, played toady to Bush II and got hysterical over a mole on his back and apparently saw God. Not quite like seeing the Fairy King over a mushroom hood but certainly of the same fantastical nature. Jimsecor is extremely cynical and disgusted over Brownback’s harrowing encounter with death via mole, as he himself bled out in 1999. He does not talk about this much, only to say he got no enlightenment, which may be a kind of enlightenment nonetheless. I have followed Jimsecor since we first met across the country and into Europe and Russia, and thence to the Far East: Japan, China, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong (which many Americans believe is China; it is not, though China’s governors want it to be for good capitalist reasons).

Along with this new blog site comes a new apt, albeit not really ours yet. Nevertheless, the promise is there and the money is rolling in, kind of like Sisyphus pushing his stone up the hill. It is on the first floor, given there is a ground floor, for which we are not totally thrilled as our wheelchaired friends cannot visit and I fret over his falling down the stairs (Jimsecor is a fall risk, managing 2-3 episodes/yr). But it is larger than the present dormitory type room and much more open and bright. Jimsecor will be able to set his office aside, in the second bedroom; I prefer to write on the kitchen table so I can yell at the cat for strewing my papers hither and yon as he scrambles over the polished oak surface in chase of. . .whatever it is cats see. We will have to line the balcony with something to keep the little g-kids from falling off.

Speaking of g-kids. . .Aurora, now 2, was born on Jimsecor’s birthday. As he has no family, she and her brothers and sisters have been a boon to him. Me, too, when he lets me get in the mix. There is a picture of her taking a bath. She cannot say her name, managing only “Rora.” Very headstrong, full of “No” and, though indulged, not spoiled by her grandpa. But we do not get to see them often enough. Isn’t that the way it is?

Jimsecor will be undergoing TMS, transcranial magnetic stimulation, in an attempt to gain some kind of control over his treatment resistant depression. Without such control, he is tossed about like a rat in a cage as his moods swing into and about his person. Before returning to the States in 2010, from China via a stop in Liverpool, his Bipolar I was not so disruptive. Since returning, he has spent half the time not writing, the publications coming right at the beginning of the 2 1/2 yr dry period. This is the last resort. Please, gods and goddesses, let it be successful! I will not abandon him as family, friends and lovers have; but living with an out of control Bipolar I is not rosy. I think, though, I handle it better than Zelda did F. Scott’s; however, Jimsecor’s not a raging alcoholic. If there is no resolution, we will be going to live in a “populated area,” either here in KS or in China, where he does have family: adopted girls. And students he is still in contact with.

“Populated area”: a ghost town has no people in it. A populated area has some. Very some. Matfield Green, KS has 49, a cowboy bar and a grocery, along with an artist’s retreat and a couple ranches on the National Historical Register. Linghu, Zhejiang, China has a main road of 1/2 mile and is the hometown of one of his students; her parents own THE grocery store. There is an old town along the polluted canal and out a ways from the “town” centre is Gu Jia Michelle’s grandparents’ house, where she was raised. Jimsecor would like to have indoor plumbing put in and move in; Gu Jia is somewhat resistant to the idea, believing he won’t be able to manage on his own with his (and my) slim Chinese ability. I wonder because Linghu is 45 minutes by furious bus over both paved and unpaved road from Huzhou, the nearest big town. I think the nearest town period. We both would like to move to Whorehouse Meadows, OR but it is not a town, just a beautiful spot of greenery in an otherwise arid area where, once, whores were housed in tents to keep the RR workers content.

And that’s about where we are at the moment, with me taking care of the mundanities of life and the editing and other business concerns, all of which frustrate the hell out of Jimsecor. I don’t mind. Jimsecor is my populated area.

The dishes await.