Saturday, August 13, 2011

Flash Mobs

Is it anger when individuals resolve by twitter organization to let loose anomic angst? Is it the resolve of a nation-state when cyber-attacks come in as though launched some superstar conspiracy-director qua Putin?

(Flag wavers need no direction, no do the money-makers)

Has it ever made sense to tie nations together with a currency, the Euro-busters ask. Is it really politely helpful to know my shopping habits and offer discounts for my direction? Who's directing whom here? Price is not my only modifier, I'd like to tell someone.

I anxiously await the screaming match which surely must erupt between Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman, and I assure you that this represents no libidinous displacement on my part. Plastic pneumatic toys do not attract me.

One does have to wonder how Ken dolls Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman stay civil in a room together. I suppose that's latent sexism to wonder. Well, they belong to the same club, the way that Bush and Kerry were both Skull and Bones. Women just don't have such long histories in the paneled corridors leading to the halls of power.

I learned today that selfish genes don't always rule: unrelated wasp queen wannabeeeezzzz can lay in wait to take over an entire colony when its queen dies. No anti-rejection injections required for this tissue transplant!

Reminds me of a joke I like to tell about Albert Kinsey, ideal types and WASPS. "It seems there was this paragon of high-salary one-of-a-kind leadership, who discovered that all of his speeches and memos - internal and external missives - were governed by such easily discoverable rhetorical constraints that a machine could have and probably should have written them. . ."

We pay our highest tributes, in salary or position, to those who can, somehow, channel what it is that's expected of them while still somehow managing the illusion of humanity. Look what's happened to Obama! His degrees of rhetorical freedom have been reduced until there's nothing much to separate him from a corporate CEO, a general's general, or for that matter his idiot predecessor.

I was warned not to fall for him, and it makes me really sad that I was too callow: too enamored of the sometimes great notion that there could be a leader . . .

We have resolved now - those of us who still make the trek to the public arena - into opposing teams. Our certainties have no more depth than do the thumbs up thumbs down of those once playfully and now deadly certain that the home team really should rule and death to the infidels (or was it the Christians?). I suppose that's because there is no way anymore to get to the bottom of any argument and so we go with something like our guts.

* * *

I am nearing the end of an extremely tiring summer. I have been straining to follow lively and highly nuanced  conversations in Chinese. This while I am struggling to master the political landscape of a university that's new to me.

And I do a good enough job that it's almost as if it's no big deal, what I've accomplished. I'm not talking about getting done the job I'm paid for, which has been plenty difficult. I mean that the trouble with being able to speak Chinese is that sometimes you're also expected to know the rules for drinking, for instance, which I don't. So you get measure by what you didn't do, or so the silence seems to tell you.

(Sometimes you run into someone for whom the university make sense, and you wonder how they could have so little sense of irony.)

Chinese drinking rules, it turns out, are incredibly simple. They can be taught with a few sentences as they were to me finally by a lovely young woman who could do it without insult.  Still, I feel vindicated that I hadn't been able to internalize the rules since in Chinese, I learned, they call their habits "drinking culture." Something barbarians like me might have a hard time with.

You might think "culture" would be reserved to describe more exalted activities, by you know the poets drank.In Chinese anyhow.

Strict rules for drinking are mostly observed by business-people for whom showing respect relates directly to deals accomplished. So, the kind of "culture" I'd like to internalize should be rather more nuanced, where rank ordering can shift depending on the honor claimed or bestowed or rebuffed and diffidently returned.

* * *

To hell with rules. But we have boundary issues all over the place now; 50 years after the crumbling of the Berlin Wall there are late discoveries that it also did us lots of good.

But the big bogus boundary is the one which we think keeps our mind within the confines of our head. Somehow - and honestly I can't find the reason - we think that the mind is contained within the brain within the skull. We think that we could freeze the brain, for instance, and then thaw it to find the mind intact.

The mind is composed, of course, of the innerings of various outerances from people all around us. Not just language-dependent, but language-constructed. Written tongues expand the scope, but the principle remains: there is no mind without its partaking communicatively, with myriad others. Which makes its bounding rather more difficult if not harder than the skull.

You know I struggle for compos mentis as much in English as I do in Chinese. Well, of course you know that! And I don't get the privilege in English to be supposed to know more than I reveal that I do in Chinese. In Chinese it's patently obvious that the language isn't harmonizing, quite, with the thought (whatever a thought can possibly be without the language of its expression).

As far as I can tell, I'm of at least two minds about most things. I know people who have more separation than I do between or among their various minds. Twins who split a mind between them also, conversely. And, as I indicted above, corporate leaders whose similarity one from the other might make you think they're clones.

Our striving still for authenticity or originality is misguided and perpetually will be for so long as we mistake self-contained for authentic. We must, of course, relinquish Western archetypes for God. Or at least we must not suppose God is quite apart from us.

We are not angered nearly so much by the thwarting of our will as by the violation of the archetype we inhabit. Neither God.

But, you know, serfer dude [sic] that I am now here in SoCal, I cannot impose by will that archetype on the universe around me. It will rather invest me with something that might become me. Willful people all look the same to me. Can you picture Mitt Romney surfing? Barbie and Ken only flex so far and then it's all dress-up over something which wears fundamentally the same face over the same rhetoric trying very very hard to win you over.

Verizon, amazingly, doesn't answer service calls on the weekends. That must be the best time to start a flash mob. To try for sense beyond sensation. When whatever once was called individuality is felt crushed out by impositions from faceless though differently branded archetypes, what is there to do but give oneself over to the wisdom of the crowd.

Or is it lunacy? Full moon. Full stop.