Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Dirty Dancing

This is one of those 'quick bury that previous post' posts. I still have a tiny modicum of modesty left in me.

I'm thinking of Halloween and how, while I was driving home today, I listened, as you may have done, to an author who'd written a book about cannibalism. It was interesting enough that I switched to my handy dandy internet radio so I could hear it over hill and through dale where the old fashioned broadcast signal never reaches.

Now come on, cannibalism?! Even for Halloween that's a little gross.

But the author was eminently qualified, both because her Dad was a chef to stars (OK, yuch for the associations) and she herself has been a chef, but mostly because this was her professional field. Cultural paleontology or something like that. As with all good research, her study had become a prism for all of life and history.

I listened and sure enough she included the Christian "this is my body" stuff along with her discovery that in every case where cannibalism is sanctioned, there are elaborate religious rituals and justifications around the practice. She also pointed out that, just like slavery, cannibalism is still very much with us, ranging in forms from criminal to martial to sexual to primitive.

As a proper scientist she was utterly certain that this is only a cultural taboo, and that we could be normalized to the practice as easily as to any other practice if that were how we got brought up. Fine, no problem here. She was as grossed out as you or I are, and she had plenty of cases from history about how normal it can be, even within shouting memory in mainstream Western civ.

But it does get you thinking. There's a lot about the way we live which is at least as grotesque. Yep, you betcha, I'm going to pound those idiot Republicans again. Not conservatives, if there are any left. I mean the Republicans who seem bent on confusing outsized business with business, and think somehow they should be exempted from being thought to have normal human natures.

These are the ones, remember, who fight for free speech for corporations. Who insist that campaign contributions don't interfere with their judgment. Who accept the undoubtedly incredibly well researched and well written opinions of corporate lobbyists for the positions they themselves are too busy to formulate. And who still love to complain about the so-called Main Stream Media who use the same process to generate the news they produce for us, the consumers, to consume.

This strikes me for all the world as a kind of cannibalism. After all, these massive companies have so much power that they can determine our tastes and our preferences; what we consider to be important to pay attention to, what we're afraid of, who we hate, who we agree with. I'm not immune. How could I be? How else am I going to know what's going on in the world if not via the MSM?

But the process definitely fuels itself. And there is plenty of religious seeming ritual around the choices we're meant to feel are the only ones available to us. That health care has to be expensive. That drugs won't be developed unless greed is harnessed to do it. That without drugs, our lives would be a nightmare of savage living. That we really must not only own cars, but love them too. And care about the fine distinctions among brands.

I just reviewed a set of videos for the Obama administration for the sake of voting up the most effective anti insurance-lobby health-care reform ad to place on TV. I was extremely disappointed. They were all pretty good at hitting at your emotive gut. But nowhere among them was the highly conservative position that it would be darned good for business if they could count on a healthy and educated workforce without putting that burden on their own books as an expense. How the hell else are we to compete with the rest of the "first" world, which is increasingly healthier and better educated than we are on the whole? Shall we all just be slaves to global corporations? That seems the default desire.

Shall we also go back to toll roads run by private companies because the government is so inept? Maybe. I'd just like to think that there is some nourishment to the system which isn't generated by the system's owners.

OK, I'm not trying to defend the Democrats. They seem to be just as embedded, and even my favorite living Pres. is acting as if he has to play the same game the same way if he wants to make any progress at all. I'm sure he does. We don't leave him any choice.

The real trouble is monopoly capitalism - corporatism - and the fact that, like normalized cannibalism, we don't even see it as strange. We still actually do believe that there was no other choice from granting our land to the pathologically lying railroad barrons so that they could bind our lands. My very favorite President ever, Old Honest Abe, was the one who got duped for this.

I'm not saying the railroads were necessarily a bad thing, but we can't even see that they weren't inevitable in the form they took. We still believe that there is only one direction for what gets called progress, and that it will and must go on forever and ever, amen.

Sure, we have pretty well harnessed the greed of the foundational developers, and turned what they wrought into something which works pretty well for all of us. But within very short order, from the twinned foundational efforts of Darwin and Lincoln until now, we've moved from connecting the frontiers to actual danger of boiling away the lifeblood of the entire planet.

And we're still enamored of the most rapacious among us, so long as they turn their efforts to the public good upon late or early retirement. Rockefeller, Carnegie, Gates, Nobel. These are all monsters of monopoly. I'm pretty sure the list could go on and on and on.

If you ask me, you might as well include the Church and its Board of Directors. Tholugh at least they have the decency to call cannibalism by its rightful name. At least we know we're eating that Man we worship.

It is no mistake now that Halloween begins to rival Christmas for the extravagance of decoration and celebration; outdoor lighting and blowup animatronics lawn decor. The main thing is that we can pretend to be what we're not. And that we don't have to escalate our gifting.

My sister reminded me recently of that Halloween dance she'd invited me to crash when we were so much younger. Where my friend Peter and I decided to share an ape costume. Where there were that many more women than men among the nursing graduate students. Where I was the one to arrive dressed as an ape, and put on my very best and uninhibited moves. I think I might have been a really good Saturday Night Date in my mockery of myself.

Then halfway through, we swapped. My sister tells me some girl was disconcerted by this transformation. The guy she'd been coming on to had changed somehow internally. It makes me wistfully sad only in the retelling from some outsider's point of view. By myself, I never would have had the nerve, and the shy me without costume would never be confused for that dancing ape.

So you can point to computers and claim they would never exist nor surely be as ubiquitous as they've become without the Microsoft monopoly. You can point to the massive transportation and communications infrastructure which supports our just-in-time goods and services manufacturing economy, and understand that it never would have come about without the energy devouring orgy of industrial strength oil-fed warfare. And you can call these facts the price of progress.

I see them rather as some mockery of human, some abdication of our need to own up to who we actually are in the face of very local and very personal responsibilities to be decent. No matter how mild the ruse, it's not nice to fool with peoples' hopes and dreams. It's not nice to make them feel that their only real choice is to eat or be eaten.

I'll dance and play the fool myself now, and learn by aping those around me until they think I know some moves. My costume's off for good. It's no real fun to act the monster when the real life powers pull it off so well.

I take no real position on cannibalistic practices; am willing to guess that it can be an act of honor as much as revenge. I do think that our meat eating habits could use some adjusting. That our orgies of speed and life-projection have reached their terminal limits.

I also believe that as unnecessary as have been these rapacious monopolists' victories, they have brought us to this particular brink from which we can, in fact, if we wish to, reclaim humanity from our ash heap.

We can realize that indeed things have come about very much as if it were inevitable. The the singular and unifying language of science, which has made possible all the predatory exploitations of the innocence of masses of people for the sake of serial and parallel incarnations of this or that Attilla the Hun, has also brought us all together to this particular moment in our collective history - and we are still very much all one - from where it's possible, if we want it, to become that fully human.

I am vigilant now. Internally silent. Waiting for the CERN Large Hadron Collider to go looking again for the next so-called particle or boson or scintillating string. I have no particular hopes attached. What I am hoping for and waiting to see is that a few people will have, just in time, awakened to the obvious.

It is not our choosing which determines reality. It is our response. There is infinite regress on the one hand - an endless chase after our own tail toward particles indistinguishable from flitting fancies in our minds. This will always empower our blood lust.

Or there is a stepping back to find that this ape has always been animated by something human. That the accidental and random merging of waves which causes hard reality to condense from merest possibility is always emotionally prefigured.

That conquest is never victory. That pinning down in words or deed the stuff of our dreams can only destroy it by making it far too real. That meaning is minimally dialogic, and that machines and beasts are both excluded from the exercise. I'll not be eating any human flesh, nor even mocking that ghoulish practice.

The stuff I want to realize can only exist in communication - call it communion if you will - between onself and others. There is no imaginable world where that reality can be touched in the flesh. Or reified on some highly instrumented screen.  That chase is terminal, terminated and boring already. It postpones, for glory, a response we already know.

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