Friday, November 24, 2017

LOVE AMONG THE VOLES

A vole

Why do we love someone?  I guess it depends upon what you think love is.  Lately researchers have been concentrating on voles.  “Vole” is an anagram for Love the way “Dog” is backwards of God.  These days we trust animals a lot more than the supernatural.  For some people, love is a human version of domestication and for them, voles are encouraging, but only “prairie voles.”  The mountain version is a Don Juan.  Once the scientists noticed this, they went after the DNA of voles to figure out which genes made the difference.


“ . . . After an extended courtship – about a day – the first sexual tryst between male and female will generally excite a lasting bond, with the pair settling down to raise a rapidly growing family until death do they part – which admittedly, given the perils of prairie life, usually occurs within a year or two.

“Give a male vole an alcoholic drink, however, and the animal’s natural inclination to monogamous love and commitment evaporates like dew on a mid-western plain under the hot morning sun.

“This finding comes courtesy of research by neuroscientists Andre Walcott and Andrey Ryabinin of Oregon Health and Science University in the US, who plied otherwise content vole couples with booze and then pimped a second female into the equation to observe the response. When the couple both drank, they continued to cuddle up together; when only the male drank, his ardour for his partner waned.”

There’s an alternative approach to domestication when the animal can talk, with some folks enjoying the priming and others exploring the slow-lingering embers.   Aeon “magazine” is English-based, very literate but not pornographic (whatever that is), sort of BBC-like where the love generally includes some talk about money.


If you think love is chemical, molecular and based on blood-distended tissues, then voles might be your guide.  If you think it’s about pretty words and big ideas, then clearly you should follow Aeon, even though they’ve started to charge fees now, which is what always happens when something is a big success.  (Ask a sex-worker.)

But there are still far more mysterious reasons why people fall in love, enough to justify the idea of fate or some other supernatural intervention.  For instance, people can fall in love because of their sameness, but also because of their difference.  Sometimes because the love object is so very inscrutable that those who love them can spend a lifetime unraveling the mysteries.  Others love the transparent, the consistent, the no-effort ease of just being aware of them.

Wise men say that love happens when the conditions come closest to the first love one has known, the arms and face of the maker, feeder, and comforter — the ones who kept you warm and never dropped you.  BUT if that first caretaker was prone to abandoning, occasionally got cross and yelled or even slapped, then no other love throughout life will ever feel complete unless that later object duplicates the experience complete with the negatives.  

In fact, some feel that those who love only when there is abuse, terror, and spaces of emptiness are helped by molecular intervention but some are comforted never at all.  Some think this is where artists come from.  No one has figured out how to test a vole for the molecular imprint of infant neglect and abuse, but I expect they will.

The problem with these animal experiments is that so much about love comes from the culture and culture, though incremental up through the more complex animals until we get to the primates, is not so powerful until we get to humans.  But we should remember that primates are not our precursors, but our fellow evolvers coming alongside us, and Jane Goodall found they were quite cultured, though not literate.  And makers more than hoarders.  They seem to love their mothers and it is returned generously.

But if we see love as domestication, in the sense of sharing domiciles and preferences for sleep and food and equipment, then the love of pets becomes a better example.  Dogs who love will love unconditionally.  There are dogs imprinted with fear and the need to defend and they are dangerous, though there are always folks who love the challenge of bringing them into the circle of embrace.  Those folks enjoy cats, who often enjoy teasing: today I love you, tomorrow I nip you.  Love strategy.  Intrigue.

For control freaks dogs are a better choice but the object and means of that control will matter.  A helper for someone in a wheelchair is different from a bird dog eager to splash into a lake.  And a dog lover who is willing to risk the death of a dog, say for law enforcement, is not a good choice if you don’t want to be in a human relationship where the lover is willing to . . .  you can imagine.

Love doesn’t even feel the same for different people.  Some need a hand to hold, others are happy for a relationship in which they only hold a pen.  A keyboard is not quite the same, but it will do for those who live in words.
There used to be toys that were shrunk down to dots, there is tea that is compressed into knots, and both in water will grow into fabulous objects from giraffes to chrysanthemums.  That’s how love on the page can be.  Not even necessarily sonnets but maybe as simple as “be sure to wear dry socks.”

So now I’ve talked myself into a vision of a vole wife whose husband is about to go find whatever it is that voles eat (I think they’re vegetarian but might enjoy a grasshopper or two) and bring it home for the babies and she has knitted him some new dry socks, which he admires as he steps along.


But under that is the memory of sliding a sleep-warmed hand over the smooth hip of someone who has turned his back on me.  And loving his back as much as his front.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

RESORTING TO WESTERNS DIDN'T WORK


Every morning I get up and go to the computer in hopes of the news that Trump is at last indicted and marched outta Mar-a-Lago still clutching a drumstick.  And every morning there’s another indictment of someone with an unpronounceable name, more discovery and documentation to analyze.  I keep thinking of the aftermath of 9/11 when the “lady media” kept saying,  “Oh, migod, they’ve been here all along, so many of them, so powerful, so organized, just waiting . . .”

Old stories, repetitious because they were learned by old men from their own WWII and Cold War experiences.  Now renewed because the young men want new stories, new clothes, and mostly they’ve got them.  But everything has gone twisty and embarrassing.  While young men were attending hook-up bars, the old power-play men were inviting little girls over to be impressed when the male sophisticates stand next to the swimming pool in an open robe with their dicks dangling.   It’s not that they can’t afford Viagra— their docs won’t let them take the stuff, because of their bad hearts..  Women aren’t what they used to be.  Hefner is dead.  The culture has come around the dial to “repressive” again and these guys never were Rainbow Family anyway.

The young men?  I can’t shake the memory of a recent twitter from a baffled innocent male forlornly asking,  “Do women even have orgasms?  Or it is something they just make up?”  Did Masters and Johnson do all that work half-a-century ago for nothing?  Or can’t this kid read?  (Probably.)

So I thought a good Western would be a relief.  

“Longmire” has ended.  In my early Western-viewing I had a theory that the more heroic the hero was, the tighter his pants would be.  But there’s an endpoint, of course, and then the seats begin to split.  Sheriff Longmire is not in danger of that.  The inseams of his britches are too long so his pantlegs are sort of rumpled up.  Now it’s the women who are wearing pants so tight you could count their pubic hairs if they didn’t shave them.

Many vid stories in series are about two communities: the one of the invented characters in the story and the one that’s the people who make the stories.  In the case of “Longmire”, the “Indians” are real because of the cast.  Not exactly enrolled in every case, they are connected and aware of the larger NA community.  

I did not realize until I googled for this piece that Zahn McClarnon (Mathias) has Browning connections.  The father of one of my students in Heart Butte acted in movies and had a “casting catalogue” that the student brought to school to show me.  She said she could get me a date with Graham Greene, whom I admire very much.  That set of Canadian-trained actors is aging out, but they’ve changed the nature of Westerns for the better.

http://www.auditionsfree.com/tag/native-american-actors/  announces casting calls.   http://www.nativecelebs.com  lists the actors themselves.  Google to find more.

I’m sorry to say that “Godless” is “otherwise”,  book-based in a world that can’t make up its mind about books. Or Indians.  Or powerful men.  Or violence.  Or whether anyone ever really falls in love.  No one gets drafted anymore.  Life is full of choices and the big consideration is the debts you might incur.  It’s all ambiguity and the rules keep changing.  The world is not just “god less,” it’s without order or predictability.  All is “women, cards and whiskey” they claim in the series to be the three causes of war in the West.  NOT.  It’s simply survival.  Always.

The eerie familiarity of all the death scenes in “Godless” comes from our constant exposure to news of Afghanistan et al, scene after scene of corpses in small ruined towns of adobe instead of green sawn wood.  Maybe the attraction for the screenwriter/director was that it’s an historical continuity and therefore less than an atrocity because it always happens.  I suppose I’m tiresome to think that.  But a lot of real life is tiresome.  And altogether too inevitable.  

Like, it just had to happen that “Longmire” ended with a full-out nude love episode between sheriff and deputy — the fans demanded it.  But for me it was jarring — I mean it was sort of like your parents going to bed together, if you’re old enough that Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty were part of your growing up.  I guess these two post-sexual-revolution modern lovers did okay — we all watch and judge even though we KNOW they are just pretending with the camera lens a foot from their faces.  But they didn’t decide to get married.  That hearts-and-flowers stuff is for pillowy deputies.  It doesn’t look like this is “forever love,” anyway.  Maybe now there’s no such thing except for dogs.

Anyway, as powerful and principled as Miss Kitty was, she was no “Vic” who echoes warriors and sci-fi bionics.  I want to note that Sackhoff grew up in St. Helens which is in the downwind shadow of the Hanford Atomic Research Center.  I’m sure her thyroid cancer is a direct result of that.  I hope she is as tough as she acts, with her thrust-out duck lips and defiantly stuck-out butt.  Her image of the raw-boned Scandinavian warrior is re-echoed by Gwendoline Christie’s “Brienne of Tarth.”  And we have examples around here.  They run businesses.

The casting of “Godless” is a little more problematic.  I was never convinced by Michelle Dockery, esp. when standing next to Tantoo Cardinal.  It took me a while to connect Scoot McNairy to his previous role in “Halt and Catch Fire,” though it was good casting to put him in a classic role:  the incompetent or greenhorn who manages to save the day.  (“The Virginian,” “When a Man’s a Man.”)  How is it that Sam Waterston wandered in only to be blasted?  What the heck are all those naked women doing wandering around?  Or is it just one German naturist?  And I've never heard of anyone persuading horses to lie down

The story ambles along with insertions of marginally relevant bits like lesbian/whore love and buffalo soldiers looking remarkably fit after their dehumanizing war campaigns and acting like the M├ętis descendants of fur-trappers, complete with fiddles and intent to farm.  I liked that skinny sapling kid.  I liked Mary Agnes.  Is the buckskin the near-sighted sheriff rides just like the one Matt Dillon used to ride?  And how about that all-out shoot-out  (I was gonna say "balls out" but half the combatants didn't have 'em, didn't need 'em.)

The cinematography is fabulous as Westerns always are, but much helped by drones, I suspect.  One long sequence is a little concerto of flying water when a posse of horses crosses a river.  Flecks of light dance everywhere, almost obscuring the action.  But there’s distance in it — not participation.


Maybe distance is what we want now.  Maybe the Western has moved to Australia.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

BINGEING ON WESTERNS


No real post.  I finished " Longmire".  Now I'm watching "Godless."  I'll watch anything that has Tantoo Cardinal in it.

Tomorrow I'll write.  


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

A NICKEL'S WORTH OF BIOGRAPHY



Because a human being is a process that explores environment and generates responses to it, then a human being is different from one day to the next, depending on where he or she is, as well as who else is in the room.  The problem of “biography” is that “bio” by definition does not stay the same while you go find your pencil so you can write it down.  And no two people will see the same phenomenal being because no two observers are the same. 

Then there is the problem of education and motive.  Educated people want sources, confirmation, context, and a “measured” interpretation.  Those who barely read want tabloid sensation, blood and sex, the hell with the truth.  The latter sells.  The former might win a prize if you know the right people.

When I wrote the bio of Bob Scriver, I just threw in all the facts and stories I knew and organized it by the steps of bronze casting because when I came through his life, we built a foundry.  I wanted to capture the temperature of plaster setting up (it gets hot when it gets hard — if that makes a good metaphor, it was already there) and the ticking of the poured molten bronze cooling in the mold.  I wanted to put in all the basic things a person would want to know in order to understand Bob’s body of work.  And maybe a little about his body as well, since I loved it.

But they told me I was doing it all wrong — it should be short, conform to other artist bios, and be celebratory enough to increase sales.  Then when it was published that also happened all wrong.  The academic press — and many of them seem to be like this — was in turmoil over money and prestige.  The editor was mostly interested in publishing his own work about his phoney relationship to what in Canada are called “aborigines” or “First Nations.”  Nevertheless the bio of Bob itself exists and has enough info in it to be useful for scholars and aficionados.  That’s one valid reason for writing a biography.

Other reasons include:
  1. The importance of the person 
  2. The interest of the writer
  3. Public concern about the person
  4. Voyeurism
  5. Love of the person by many
  6. The subject is likely to sell
  7. Wish to do mischief
  8. Wish to explain and save someone misunderstood
  9. Hope that impact on the culture will be progressive

Reasons NOT to write a biography
  1. The person is alive and objects
  2. Consequences to the person might not be good
  3. The potential author may endanger a valued relationship with the subject
  4. The author just may not be a good enough writer
  5. There will be legal consequences
  6. Other people are connected to the subject and they will be hurt
  7. The author may have evil motives and the bio will boomerang
  8. Confirms old stereotypes
  9. Makes the author look good at the expense of the subject
Reasons people write biographies even when they shouldn’t
  1. Showing off
  2. Can’t help it
  3. Just don’t get it
  4. Other people egg them on
  5. Obsession
  6. Need the money
Irrelevant considerations  (at least they shouldn’t matter)
  1. Publishing
  2. Your Mama wouldn’t approve
  3. You won’t live that long anyway
  4. Better things to do
  5. Money — I realize I’m way out of step with this opinion.  This is a culture where money rules, which is a good reason to write against money.
Writing a biography that will never be published vs. writing a biography that WILL be published vs. writing a biography that keeps morphing.  

In the last case I’m thinking of a friend in Calgary, Ray Djuff, who must make his living not-writing, but continues to produce books anyway.  His specialty is Glacier National Park/Waterton Peace Park, which are contiguous. He started out with the idea of writing about Two Guns Whitecalf, the Blackfoot alleged to be the model for the American “buffalo nickel.”  The profile is on one side and the buffalo (bison) is on the other.  NO one calls it a “bison nickel,” but some call it an “Indian Head” nickel even though “Indian” is now politically incorrect.  The sculptor himself, James Earle Fraser, has said that he used a composite of models.  No one pays attention to that.  They love the early 20th Century idea of the “Indian chief” and people here love Two Guns.  (Also buffs, as long as they’re not standing in the front yard.)

So Ray was looking for the “real” story, which seemed like a good hook for a book, except that it kept morphing.  For instance, facts about the life of Two Guns are scarce but opinions and some facts about the Whitecalf family abound, notably about Jim Whitecalf Sr. who was still living recently and has been written about by several people.  But in the process of researching, the author met other descendants and pretty soon his book was about the whole Whitecalf family.  

Even more interestingly, Ray began to understand that he was unconsciously carrying many 19th century ideas about what an “Indian” IS and also realized how different the experience of the Canadian indigenous people has been from that of the American indigenous folks, though both histories are packed with suffering and injustice.  A lot of story for one little coin, even though it can be worth hundreds of dollars.  Much more than any single book.  BUT the community of indigenous people is no longer naive nor powerless and their opinion of the enterprise will affect publicity and sales.

The reasons for using a publishing house are that they provide venture capital for the manufacture of a paper-and- binding book, they can supply experienced editors, and they have a network for distribution and sales.  At one time they also had a network of reviewers.  This has changed due to the Internet.  A person can easily publish their own book if they are willing and able to do all these things.  Bob Scriver did exactly that and Adolf Hungry Wolf did it for decades in a low-key homemade way.  The good part is that the books exist, and the bad part is that not enough people know about them.  A factor in between is the glorious used-book market keeping volumes alive that would otherwise be pulped.  But the inevitable drawback is that the money doesn’t go to the author.

Through advertising, publishers have managed to convince the public that being published is like a college degree — a guarantee of quality.  The truth is that neither a degree nor being published by a "house" means much now.

When an author or a worthy subject are approaching the end of life, the question of biography becomes sharp for both sides.  My solution is to just write it, whether the subject or the reader ever sees it or not.  I also accept the idea of the archive as a form of biography.  But most of all it is the daily work that makes me happy.  If it turns out not to be published, not to be the definitive version, not to be timely, then that’s irrelevant.  It is what it is, which is a joy.

Monday, November 20, 2017

SEROTONIN BASED MORALITY


Acknowledging that all animals are complex processes who move through the world by taking in sensations and processing them electrochemically, which tells us what to do, then it’s only logical to find out which part of the process works towards the good and the happy.  Serotonin is one of the important players.   A shortage makes you “depressed.”  Enough makes you pleased and amorous.  Too much?  Trouble.  Outside homeostasis.

I’m basing this post on the New York Academy of Sciences article at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3817523/

This "pop" website might be more suited to other readers.  It’ll keep you busy but be warned.  They misspell a lot of words, which means either that they don’t proof or they are not readers.  Still, who can object to eating sunflower seeds?  You’ll need your credit card — these folks are selling.

I was first prompted to be curious about serotonin when I read “Urban Aboriginals: A Celebration of Leather Sexuality.” by Geoff Mains, a shocking but beloved book and man.  Because he had a doctorate in biochemistry, he related serotonin to radical sexual behavior in the “leather” community, some of it prompted by PTSD.  This took medical mysteries into daily life.  His papers are archived at www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/c83b60qk/  
The “finding aid” is at http://www.glbthistory.org/research/FA/glbths_1989_03_GeoffMains_FA.pdf  There are restrictions because society is still so squiffy and punishing about sex.  The links may be suppressed.

Serotonin is ancient and mammal-ominpresent.  (Our kind of sex is a mammal phenomenon.  Reptiles don’t fall in love.)  It keys into everything from sugar to weed to the tryptophan in the Thanksgiving turkey.  (ncbi.nim.nih says the turkey thing is a myth.)   A map of where it operates in the brain almost exactly matches what is called “the social brain,” particularly the parts involved in social cognition and decision making.  Even in monkeys, abundant molecules “co-vary” with prosocial behavior (grooming, cooperation and affiliation) and when low, matches with aggression and social isolation.  Deficient serotonin matches with depression.  (One can’t help speculating that our whole culture is serotonin deficient.)

“Moral codes dictate how people should treat one another, and most of these focus on two facets of social relationships. The first prescribes caring for others and prohibits harm; the second relates to the fair distribution of resources and reciprocity in social interactions.  Concerns for harm and fairness play a central role in moral codes across cultures, and there is some evidence that these building blocks of morality shape social behavior in primates.”

Chimps can be killers; bonobos are always lovers.  The diff may be partly in their serotonin.  There is evidence that serotonin and similar hormones are what create personalities and that the proportions and actions are inheritable.  People who are harm-averse (high serotonin) do not rape.  But there are two other valences: those who are disgusted by harm to people and therefore get out of there; and those who become aggressive in the face of harm.  High serotonin that triggers aversion may be useful for predicting problematic situations to avoid.

QUOTES:

Early studies in rats demonstrated that global brain serotonin depletion made them insensitive to punishment.

Cooperative behaviors in social dilemmas have been linked to serotonin function.

The association between serotonin and social reward processing dovetails with previous reports linking serotonin function to the processing of non-social rewards and recent studies showing that social and monetary rewards engage overlapping regions of the striatum. Collectively, these findings indicate that the role of serotonin in value computation goes beyond a simple enhancement or inhibition of reward processing in general; instead, serotonin's effects appear to depend on the social context. We suggest that serotonin amplifies neural representations of positive social preferences, whereas serotonin depletion shifts neural value computations toward selfish or even negative social preferences.

Assuming that people are predisposed to cooperate in social dilemmas (i.e., that their indifference curves are downward-sloping, absent concerns about inequality), serotonin augmentation should shift preferences further counterclockwise, making people more cooperative, whereas serotonin depletion should shift preferences clockwise, making people less cooperative.  Finally, previous studies have shown that serotonin manipulations influence aggressive behavior, particularly in people predisposed to aggression. Assuming that aggressive individuals have upward-sloping indifference curves (i.e., they are motivated to harm others) serotonin augmentation again should shift preferences counterclockwise, reducing aggression, whereas serotonin depletion should shift preferences further clockwise, increasing aggression.

This sort of inquiry is only suggestive, not definitive.  We don’t know enough to say that all politicians should be tested for their serotonin levels, but it does suggest that the general public is susceptible to persons with serotonin deficits who don’t want to cooperate, don’t want to avoid harm, don’t want fair shares for everyone.  We don’t vote for bonobos — we vote for chimps — as long as they seem to be on our side.

Unconscious efforts to make serotonin go up may include eating sweets, going for a walk at first light, eating foods high in tryptophan, like chickpeas.  In my experience chocolate, sex and praise make my serotonin go up — but it might involve some other interacting hormone as well.

“Breeding corn with a higher tryptophan content was shown in the 1980s to prevent pellagra; presumably, it also raised brain serotonin. In a recent issue of Nature Biotechnology, Morris and Sands argue that plant breeders should be focusing more on nutrition than on yield. They ask, “Could consumption of tryptophan-rich foods play a role in reducing the prevalence of depression and aggression in society?” Cross-national studies have reported a positive association between corn consumption and homicide rates and a negative association between dietary tryptophan and suicide rates.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2077351/

SOME MORAL REASONS FOR SHARING SOCIETY VIA THANKSGIVING DINNERS:


As much as 95 percent of the serotonin in your body is produced in your gut, so strategies designed to optimize gut production of serotonin could certainly go a long way toward optimizing your mental health. Make sure you are taking a quality probiotic, properly hydrating, and eating a brain-healthy diet.

There are two ways that food can increase serotonin levels. Foods high in simple carbohydrates, such as pastas, potatoes, bread, pastries, pretzels, and popcorn, increase insulin levels and allow more tryptophan (the natural amino acid building block for serotonin) to enter the brain, where it is converted to serotonin.The calming effect of serotonin can often be felt in thirty minutes or less by eating these foods. This may be one of the reasons simple carbohydrates are so addictive. 

They can be used to make you feel happy, but also cause high blood sugar levels that over time are associated with brain atrophy and dementia. I particularly like complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, apples, blueberries, carrots, and garbanzo beans, as a healthier way to boost serotonin. Brain serotonin levels can also be raised by eating foods rich in L-tryptophan, such as chicken, turkey, salmon, beef, nut butter, eggs, and green peas. Many people unknowingly trigger cognitive inflexibility or mood problems by eating diets that are low in L-tryptophan.  

They don’t call it comfort food for nothing, and with enough serotonin and proper opportunity, people naturally love to comfort each other.  This is good for everyone.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

FRAT BOY SEXUAL ETHICS


When I was a young teen and rode the city bus to downtown, it would sometimes happen — if the bus were crowded — that I would feel a soft patting to my bottom without any idea who was doing it.  I suspected the nearest older man, who often studiously looked away.  It didn’t hurt, I wasn’t exposed, I couldn’t prove it, there was no cupping or attempt to get in the groove, but there it was.  Repeatedly.  People I told about it laughed.

Today they are not laughing at George H.W. Bush.  For the naive, his fanny patting is just a sort of Uncle Doofus patronizing thing to do.  For the politically enflamed feminist the act is an atrocity, a pre-rape invasion of one’s body.  For the initiated kinks (those who explore the sexual edges) it is a very pale version of spanking.  For the sophisticated shrinks, famous people have enjoyed that particular perversion which came out of strict European practices like nursemaids who spanked their charges, maybe with their slipper or hairbrush (both good fetish objects), or school masters who believed in the cane — a more hard-core practice than spanking.  Paul Tillich and Winston Churchill are said to have been fond of being spanked.  Masters and Johnson said the best sex education for kids was seeing their dad fondly pat mom on the bottom while she washed dishes.  (There's a more recent and nicer trope about a man offering to dry the dishes while the women washes.)

A grown man spanking a grown woman is a trope.  In the Fifties it was often in the movies.  In “Frenchie” — Joel McCrea is a sheriff trying to control an uppity madam and bar owner played by Shelley Winters.  There's a "cat fight" between women but that's a different trope.



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frenchie.  The sheriff turns the madam over his knee.  

In later films like “The Quiet Man”  www.imdb.com/title/tt0045061/  John Wayne’s woman, Maureen O’Hara, doesn’t respect him until he gives her a good spanking. This vid version is from "McClintock.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T12-qzPW9Gg

My father loved these scenes and my mother played along, though I never saw him spank her.  He spanked us kids.  There was no suggestion of it being sexual until the last time he did it to me — I was fourteen, fully mature.  Even then, I don’t think we had the consciousness to understand why it was so disturbing.

A good (effective) sexual kink should combine the physiological/neurological built-ins from during early life, with cultural titillation, with traditional conflicts like “the war between the sexes,” with more passing irritations like trying to get women to defer to men after WWII when women had been running the show.  But taken to extremes, a kink-supported spanking can look a lot like torture and far exceed the imaginations of most folks who have better things to think about than the vignettes screenwriters ponder, the ones often called “beats.”  Urk.

One of the tropes that is as ubiquituous as breast-honking and fanny-patting is pretty vicious; it takes males as the victims.  I’m talking about crotch-kicking or kneeing.  It can be deployed in a script as a desperate defence by an attacked woman or it can be a sort of frat-boy joke with all the qualifications of being obscene, damaging, and provoking reactions of pain and embarrassment.  There is a bar franchise named for breast-honking (Hooters) but none for fanny-patting or spanking that I know of.  "Spankie's"?

The crotch-kicking trope

When I was briefly teaching in a nearby small town, there was a twisted-up high-school kid whose sole-custody father was itinerant oil-field labor.  One lunch period I saw this unhappy kid systematically kicking in the crotch every boy he could get close to who was smaller.  The victims simply covered as best they could and fled.  They never reported to authorities.  I don't think they told their parents.  They were humiliated.  I took the boy to the principal but she didn’t know what to do and let him go.  Later he brought a gun to school and was expelled.  A mass shooting waiting to happen.

The Bush family is notorious for their connection to Yale secret societies.  They are a frat-ethics sort of family, more interested in power connections and athletics than traditional education, though they are at least literate, unlike the “pussy grabber.”  If girls can be called “the dry herd” of unbred heifers, then the frat boys can be called “the spike herd” which is a stage of development in elk and other ungulates for whom men name their social groups, like moose.  The spike herd gets its name for the single antler tine they sport until they’re able to form a full rack of horns.

Spike elk

The point of antlers is combat.  The spike herd is young bulls who can’t do much damage but need a lot of practice so they can compete against each other to form a breeding herd, the elk equivalent of a family.  It’s not an elitist fantasy that the biggest, boldest, most aggressive bull has the most success, nor is it a pattern for corporate CEO’s whose success might be based on understanding, developing teamwork, and an accumulation of knowledge.  (Trump doesn’t know these factors exist.)  It's a evolved strategy to keep males alive until they're old enough to breed. 

The main herd of cows and calves get impatient with randy young males and throw them out.  This biological imperative causes the spike bulls to form an auxiliary herd or “family” which helps them stay safe while their antlers are the equivalent of a pocket knife.  They spend a lot of time sparring and one-upping each other.  Humans are not different.  Being too weak and passive, or at the other extreme constantly on the fight, will cause ostracism which exposes the individual to much danger.  It’s a social version of homeostasis that keeps behavior within limits of survival until testosterone takes over.

Frat boy ethics can get young men into a lot of trouble, including murder.  Check the newspapers.  It’s not the fact that they are fraternities or even the fondness for drinking (which is at the core of the Elks, Moose, Eagles clubs as well).  It’s that they are the spike herd, an age-stage in the natural course of things, and some guys never grow out of it.  It’s a situation of testing power and skills, which means in human situations also testing ethics.  Frat hazing and so on are meant to test loyalty to the herd, but the results can be tragic if you’re human.  If you're an elk, dinner for someone.

Bull elk in season can't always find another bull to fight no matter how much they bugle, so as an added threat and to keep in shape, they fight trees and brush.  You can hear them thrashing out there if you know how to call elk.  But be careful -- they're as dangerous as politicians.  Sometimes they deliver on their promises.   Often, while they are fighting the bushes, the cows and calves sneak off.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

MOORE AND HIS LITTLE SILVER GUN

Moore and his Little Silver Gun

It was a phrase I haven’t heard for a long time.  “If it bleeds, it breeds.”  For those who can’t figure it out, this is a statement that any woman who is old enough to menstruate is old enough for sex.   "Should be fucked."   The criteria precedes legal definitions of the “age of consent,” meaning when a child is mature enough to decide what to do.  It refers to sexual ethics that developed in times and places when people were so poor and endangered that if they didn’t produce babies as early as possible, the adults wouldn’t live long enough to raise them.  I don’t mean “send them to college,” I mean, keep them from starving to death.  Not all of people in that situation are in Third World places.  The idea is so deep in the survival imperative that it’s at a fleshly emotional level very hard to get at.  

These conditions of survival still exist, esp. in the American South.  Young legal ages for marriage vary across the continent but are probably the lowest in the South.  This is not like the customs in countries where the woman may be taken into the man’s family as a child and raised there until she transitions from daughter to wife.  Often there are multiple wives, so the girl doesn’t stand alone against abuse.  

“Breeding” youngsters is also an idea from when slaves were not just chattel but also cattle.  In the rez resort towns there used to be an influx of nice Minnesota girls every summer who came to serve in the “big hotels.”  They were called “the dry herd,” which is a reference to heifers who need to be bred.

Reproduction-based ethics are reinforced by the idea that a man “owns” his wife and her children, the same way that he owns his cows.  This idea also lingers in US laws.  It is a bulwark against neighbors or even relatives intervening in cases of abuse.  The Bible, for those who take it as a guide, defends beatings and even stoning to control human chattel, without ever defining slavery.  The first humane society laws were used to protect children from abuse, though they had been written to prevent people from beating and starving their horses to death.

Recent factors impact the situation.  One is the idea that a human being should be self-determining and “free.”  For a child entering adolescence this is a seductive idea.  If he or she is not happy or protected in the family, it encourages defiance, leaving, and attachment to strangers.

The other unsettling force is chemical.  First the pill and other contraception which can take “getting pregnant” out of consideration, so that a girl can have as much sex as a boy without having a baby.  (Which is not to lessen the great good of a grown woman controlling her own body, even in marriage, even if her husband wants the “crop” of babies as though they were calves.)  And second are the many street drugs that eliminate consciousness and judgment, so that contraception that depends upon behavior (a daily pill, a condom) is not as useful as bodily modification: inserts under the skin, IUD’s, cutting or blocking the tubes of fertility in either sex.

Decades ago my ex-step-granddaughter, convinced that the early death of her mother was due to the pill, relied on abortion, the worst measure possible.  The last time she got pregnant was by her high school classmate who specialized in using alcohol to get girls unconscious so he could rape them.  He had made half-a-dozen girls pregnant by the time he got to my ex-step-granddaughter.  His mother thought it was cute until I threatened to castrate him with the biology kit scissors I used for animal control projects.  I actually waved them at him and he was impressed.  The mother never made contact with me.  At that point the girl decided to live lesbian.   She died in a car accident not much later. 

This kind of convoluted and unreal reasoning is partly due to the separation between the generations, so that the information and support that’s supposed to be passed down is knocked aside by reliance on classmates and buddies of one’s own age, who seem to be able to understand the modern streets, relying on street youth media and word of mouth.  The kids are justified by the failure of adults to BE adult.

We forget that only 2 or 3% of our “thinking” is conscious.  Even if we’re honorable ethical thinkers, there are primitive knee-jerk loops and responses we don’t even know are happening, much less have control over.  But somewhere in between ape-reactions and high-thinking modern principles supported by prosperity is a convoluted, childhood-deep, collection of shadows and rationalizations left-over from twisted and misunderstood religious ideas that cause people to think in terms of Christmas pageant concepts.  

SOME EXAMPLES

The only sex that is good is what produces babies, so if a person — male or female — is fertile, then they should have babies —however they come about.  This works best if the whole community accepts responsibility for taking care of the babies.  But righteous Christians stigmatize babies outside marriage to spare the expense and trouble.

Warriors are potent and aroused, therefore it is only natural that they should want to make babies.  And then they will increase the tribe.  Besides, rape in war is effective aggression and intimidation.  HORRIFY THEM!!

The ability of a woman to control her own reproduction (the pill) is achieved, justified, and valued because it is based on prevention by herself.  Impregnation, gestation, birth and the subsequent duties of motherhood ask a high price — even death.  (We forget that now.)  My great-grandmother died from childbirth and the consequences to the family dynamics rolled down to me.  I’ve been terrified of pregnancy.

And I’ve been aware that my fear is entwined with economics.  It’s like rez sovereignty or state primacy — it means paying your own bills.  The ability of women to earn enough money to support babies is part of contraception.  Not having to dedicate every penny to babies is what allows economic capital to build up.  But it lessens the need to maintain family, esp. extended family.  Often, economic challenge is what triggers abuse from men who are aware they can't hold women except through need of a man's salary.

The morality controlled by reproduction is older even than ownership or matrimony.  But there is also morality controlled by disease, which is another valence in encouraging sex with young women on the premise that they are less likely to be infected.  There is also cult superstition in “virginity” which is exacerbated by the Christian idea of the Virgin Mary as evidence of a miracle.  Much of Christian thought comes out of impossible opposites: eternal life coming out of gruesome death; immaculate birth in a stinking stable; conception without penetrating sex.    

If I were to compose a new cultic miracle story about birth, I think I would use the idea of a boy giving birth.  There have been cases where a fertilized egg, a potential twin, lodged inside a male fetus but didn’t begin to grow until the boy entered adrenarche (ages 9 to 13).  Then it attached to his intestines, forming a placenta and so on.  It didn’t go to term and had to be removed by surgery.  But that’s enough of a thread to build a story.  I would have the story describe the birth of twins, conjoined, one named Heaven and one named Earth.  It’ll take a bit of figuring to devise a birth, a tearing open of some kind, maybe deadly.  To avoid secondary binaries, I would imagine them as intersex or a third sex.Then the point would be that if heaven is crowded and sullied, the earth will die.  But if the earth is polluted and the seas are dry, then heaven will die.  

On the way home today I had to stop to buy cat treats or they wouldn’t let me back into the house.  My fav checker was on duty, the one with scripture tattooed on her wrists.  She’s an End of Days believer.  She said, noting the cat treats, that she’d never had a cat — just dogs.  I said I’d had both but would also like a horse, a giraffe, a hippopotamus and . . .  and . . .  “That day will come,” she said.  And she believed it.  “All the animals will come to be with us.”  Impulse is with us.  Myth and story abide.

But Moore’s crude, self-serving idea that he can stick his tongue in pretty girls and wave his little silver gun around at a microphone — well, it just won’t do.  He’s a loser.  I have more to say.  More than Moore is happening.