I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
October 02, 2015 - 4:17 p.m.
It happened again, I slept through my alarm. Next week I have to get up at 4:13 AM for the WFUV pledge drive. I'm worried about that; it's a total change from what I've done all my life. I have to remember to talk to my therapist about this.
I never got dressed or left the house yesterday. Too bad as it was the last not terrible weather day before the WFUV pledge drive. I don't actually need much in terms of groceries during the drive, I eat there, so maybe I can get by without shopping. Of course I'm planning on going out the next three days if possible. I'm afraid that Sunday when I am planning on seeing Jean Rohe will be a washout.
As promised I listened to Hamilton on Amazon Prime. It took me a while but it won me over. Yes it's great. I'm not sure if it's super-great. I will have to see it. That means I have to rob a bank first. I'm still waiting for the epic musical or even better, grand opera, about Millard Fillmore. Did you know that Millard knew less about opera than any other president? Do you know what TV show that's a reference too? One more Millard Fillmore TV trivia questions. Two very well-known TV shows had major characters that attended or graduated from schools named after Fillmore, one was a high school and the other a junior high. What were the TV shows and who were the characters? There were multiple references on both shows so this is not particularly obscure.
Now it's time for a sharp change it tone. Think of this as equivalent of the "fasten your seatbelt" sign on the plane going on. It's going to be a bumpy blog.
Yesterday 10 people were murdered at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. The news almost immediately took over my Facebook feed. This happens every time there's a mass shooting. It dominates discourse for days maybe weeks then fades away. When people discuss gun violence it's what people talk about. And that's all misdirection. Know how many people are killed by guns on an average day in the US? About 33. We could be having this discussion every day and then we could talk about measures that would help against the vast majority of killings, not these isolated cases. All the mass shootings combined in a year add to only about 100 deaths. I'm not going to analyze what happened or even solutions. I'll just play for you the two songs I always think of when these things happen, the yin and the yang. They are from the 90s and sadly still relevant. Please listen to them both. Stop what you are doing and listen to the lyrics. These are great songs.
I'm now going to move on to what I had been planning on writing before the shooting. It ends up being relevant.
I want to discuss us. No not you and me but the concept of us and we. The Finns and Tolkien's Elves make distinctions that lead them to use many different words where we use the one word "we." Here are some of the possibilities,
You and me and no one else.There are more, I think Tolkien listed 12 possibilities. I often finding myself wishing it was easier to make the distinctions in English.
One of my repeated themes here is that I have no meaningful "we" as in me one other person and nobody else. It has not always been that way but it's that way most of my life. I can never say "We like that movie" or "We are busy that day."
But I do have other senses of we and us. One of the first blogs I wrote was Usz, thems and bridges. That was almost 15 years ago. I've been thinking about this for a long time. So did Kurt Vonnegut. In Cat's Cradle he introduced the notion of "karass"; A group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial links are not evident. There is also a granfalloon, a false karass; i.e., a group of people who imagine they have a connection that does not really exist. An example is "Hoosiers"; Hoosiers are people from Indiana, and Hoosiers have no true spiritual destiny in common, so they really share little more than a name. Another example is a Cornellian, a student or graduate of Cornell University. I have never been a big fan of Vonnegut but these are such useful terms. When I talk to people I know if they are in my karass I recognize it. It's very different than being in my granfalloon, the people that are nominally in my group but I don't feel connected to.
Of course it's not quite that simple, nothing ever is. There are all the different meanings of "we." I'm in many different karasses as are we all. I think of them as expanding but there are no concentric, some bigger ones won't include some people that are in smaller ones. It looks something like this
I'm the black dot.
So many of the ills of the world are due to people's notions of who constitutes us. Think of the refugee crisis. Many Europeans do not see the Syrians as part of us. They see it as us defending ourselves against them. This is not to single out Europeans, Europeans are a classic granfalloon. When people post in the US about Syrian refugees there will invariably be comments saying, "We have to take care of our people first." I frequently post about extreme poverty in the third world, people living on less than a dollar a day. When I do someone always says we should take care of our poor first. They simply do not identify with these people separated by distance and culture.
What are all the sectarian conflicts in the world but us against them? Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are in chaos because people see themselves as Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, Pashtuns, Uzbeks, etc., not Syrians, Iraqis, and Afghans. They owe their allegiance to granfalloons and don’t identify beyond them.
What are terrorists like The Islamic State and Al Qaeda but people that don't recognize a connection with people outside their groups? The Islamic State feels that it's actually virtuous to rape Yazidi women because they are pagans, not part of us.
Mass murderers in the US are almost always described as alienated; "Officials on Friday described the gunman as an alienated young man…" That’s from Gunman in Oregon Shooting Was Armed With 6 Guns and Left 7 at Home. Mass killers think of their victims as "them." For some "them" includes almost everyone. For others it's those outside their ethnicity or religion or gender or sexual preference. For others it's members of the hated ethnicity or religion, or gender, or sexual preference.
Sorry this took me so long to write and post. Tonight I'm off to see Tracy Grammer. I hope I see you there too. You can be part of we in tomorrow's Wise Madness
Brother Brothers in Arms - October 01, 2017
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