Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Human Capital

essaysbysean.blogspot.com

Hello Reader,
Got human capital?
My Thesis: That it exists at the group level, and can be nourished or destroyed.


Gay bashed, 
definition: a foreboding 1980’s phrase meaning to be attacked, verbally or physically, especially to be beaten severely, even unto death.


This week the BBC did a story on The Murder That Changed America. (Link) I well remember, although it was twenty years ago: Matthew Shepherd, a young university student in Laramie, Wyoming, was beaten severely, tied to a fence, and left to die. He was discovered, still breathing, after 18 hours, only by accident, after another student fell off his mountain bike and then noticed what looked like a scarecrow. By then Shepard was braindead, and he died. His crime? Existing while gay.

On Friday October 26, 2018 Matthew Shepard was interred with honor, among other U.S. notables, such as Helen Keller and President Woodrow Wilson, (of World War I)  at the Washington National Cathedral. A collection of Shepherd’s personal affects has just gone on display at the Smithsonian. 

America changed, through peaceful dialogue, against stiff minority resistance. I well remember the majority, religious and atheist alike, arguing that not allowing human rights protection for gays did allow people to publicly hate, a hatred that would eventually lead to violence and murder. At that time, over in Germany, they had laws against hate crimes and against freely speaking of one’s own holocaust denial, because the Germans had experience of  their tolerance of hatred producing death.

History flows on. Stephen Fry tells (on Youtube) the legend of Queen Elizabeth, as a royal formality, signing homosexual rights legislation voted by parliament and saying “No one would have imagined this in 1953.” While I’m glad the public has grown in knowledge and tolerance, I am keenly aware that knowledge-growth is not quite the same as responsibility-growth. I think as the public grows in knowledge of how to be responsible, in concert with each other, the public is also growing in “human capital.” Which is the life blood of every democracy

To think through human capital, I cast my mind back to a student I was acquainted with who was bashed outside a gay bar, and put in the hospital. Keep an eye on that bedridden student, I’ll get back to him. 

The student attended Mount Royal College, MRC, now MRU. At the time I knew lots of active students, including the editor at the student weekly newspaper, The Reflector

Remember those student cartoons of the 1960’s? Capitalist pigs, with the buttons popping off their fat vests? I knew students with the same idealism, but instead of drawing bad guys in general, such as running dogs or lackeys, they were, a few months before the bashing, doing panels on specific individuals expressing idiocy. I forget who the hated international leaders were back then, but truly there have always been folks like North Korea’s leader. (As we said during the Cold War, “It’s a good thing governments with atomic bombs are always sane folks like us, “who love their children too”)

The student newspaper volunteer’s Big Mistake? Lampooning a nameless generic skinhead. You may recall that these angry young skinheads, losers not students, without peace or long hair, shared one important-to-them fashion: Doc Martin boots, footgear well suited to kicking someone into brain injury. The idealist's Big Mistake? Having the stupid cartoon skinhead express stupid hatred of Jews. Like the dictators, he was being lampooned for his beliefs, but this time he was not a specific individual. Not like portraying the hostage-taking hated Ayatollah Khomeini mouthing off about minorities.

The skinhead cartoon was a public scandal. You would think the “Establishment,” as in the tweed coated, calm, pipe puffing college Board of Governors, would see this as a learning opportunity, and trust their students to take action. You would be wrong. 

Granted, the governors would know that many students had apathy, from the words “a” meaning without, and “path” meaning spirit. Granted, many students didn’t read the newspaper their student fees supported, and many didn’t even know there had been any controversy, even after it was reported in “real world” daily newspapers. Many students, like today, didn’t have idealism. But many did, and they had high spirits. Wouldn’t the governors (if only from previous cartoons) have known that there were still campus idealists?

For example, there was at least one heterosexual student in the Gay club on campus, a student who, at least initially, was in the closet about being straight. (He didn’t want to claim straight privilege, even when staffing a gay club display table) I knew several Canadian-born students in the International Student Club. There was even, that year, an attempt to start up a feminist club, as already existed at the university. (By now they may have established one, and maybe started a Green Ecology club too)

I can imagine spirited students setting up a six foot table with a banner: “Ask us about the Reflector cartoon.” The active students who read the paper, and therefore knew the ongoing cartoon context, would have shared their alarm and displeasure. The ignorant ones would have just passed by the table, granted, but the spirited ones could have educated each other, some from personal experience, about how hurtful hatred still exists. 

They could have dialogued: Just as most of the high schools at the time (I knew and highly respected the “only” gay person at her school) did not have even a single out-of-closet boy or girl, but nevertheless teen gays still existed, unnoticed, without limp wrists like on TV… So too did schools here, back west, have Jewish students, unnoticed, not wearing a round beanie cap or lapel pin like on TV. The students who, during high school, had felt so sleepy during history class and the teacher’s droning on about Human Rights could now have woken up. “This is real!”

Students could have put on noon hour activist demonstrations to teach, using a microphone in the student food court, which the spirited Student Association, as the Board of Governors could have known, was already doing for various topics.

And from the talking and working for action, bonds would have formed, trust would have formed. —It’s easier to confront the bigoted Chief of Police, to tell him he enables gay bashing, if you trust someone ‘has your back’— The student body would have not merely have grown in knowledge, but in responsibility, trusting each other show up for group action, such as a noon demonstration, a rally, putting up posters, and more. The term for all this “knowledge plus shared responsibility” is “human capital.” They would have been motivated for this as their “outrageous” student paper was continuing to publish, casting shadows over the campus. Students, including the newspaper volunteers, could have done the “Yom Kipper” thing of remorse and repair. But such things would never happen. I will explain.   

One of the tragedies of the late 1960’s is how leftist students were on their own to “reinvent the wheel.” Too many leftists had been destroyed by Senator McCarthy’s witch hunts. As the man they called President Obama’s mentor, Saul Alinsky, put it, by the 1960’s, “The human capital was just not there.” Within a national democracy “of the people,” here, at Mount Royal College, was a golden chance to build human capital after the final cartoon ran.

And then, short months afterwards, during that very same school year, a fellow student, very straight looking, without any limp wrist or fashionable clothes, upon exiting a gay bar, was bashed and put into the hospital…Shakespeare would say “his blood cried out!” But the bonds of human capital, bonds of trust that could have led to mass action such as getting the public involved, or confronting politicians and police, or, at the very least, some nice student hospital visits—just weren’t there. How sad, to have no visitors, since being gay bashed, like certain other assaults, is a lonely “blame the victim” thing.

The problem was “the establishment:” the College Board of Governors. When the final cartoon edition came out, they seemingly did not trust the students to have idealism, and wanted to do everything themselves. Even though the student editor had resigned, they unilaterally shut down the newspaper, deleting it’s shadow. This without asking the Student Association. They sent press releases to signal their virtue…

I wonder now: Were they ignorant of human capital? Or were they solely concerned with a few old people in the outside community, ones who would never, ever, bother read the student’s newspaper and the previous cartoons?  Did this overrule the governors’s concern for a campus of growing students? Perhaps the governors were like certain so-called grown adults we have all met: still so full of apathy they must worry only about their image, and their fashion accessories, more than their substance.

A few months later that school year? When the bashing happened? To the best of my knowledge,  not one of those governors had the grace to apologize for how their ignorant reaction had left a student, unlike Matthew Shepherd, to suffer all for nothing, in vain… and to be lying in hospital, all alone.

Well. It was all so long ago. 

Today’s lesson, if there is one? For my U.S. readers? This: Trusting your students is like trusting your fellow citizens. Be brave. I never thought American farmers and townsfolk would ever want to use passports along the world’s longest, friendliest border. Do you really need to desperately surrender so much of your liberty, for the sake of (homeland) security?

God bless America. And Edward Snowden.

But I won’t say “God bless the governors of Mount Royal.” Am I still angry at them? How can you tell?

Oh, time to forgive. And as Tiny Tim said, “God bless us, every one.”


Sean Crawford
Proud MRC certificate holder
Proud MRC diploma holder,
Proud U of Calgary degree holder,
Proud and relieved that I paid all my tuitions as I went,
without help from parents or student loans.
October 
2018

Sad Video: 
Looking up at my name, I see a lot of parchments, over time, a lot of  changed versions of me, yet, “I will always remember when I was me, a student with ideals.”
Here (link) is a “goodby video” (under 3 1/2 minutes) of Doctor Who, on his last day, telling Clara it’s important to change, and remember. 

In this little video masterpiece of repeating feet, Clara’s role, I guess, is to witness. The children’s art pictures are an hallucination, a might-have-been, had the Doctor put down roots.

When the music swells, in the Doctor's final minutes, the heart swells too, as the lyrics were once sung by a dear young girl: "Rest now, my warrior."

By the way, the bowl of silly food—fish sticks in custard—is a callback to the amusing day the Doctor met the young girl, Amelia, back when he appeared in ruined clothes. The child called him Raggedy Man. 
She later became a grown married woman, Amy, and she made the doctor cry desperately when she passed on. Her last words, in tears and torment, had been, “Raggedy Man, goodby.” 

Nice to see Amy smiling, at peace, and caring for the Doctor. We all want to be cared for, in the end. 


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Road Trip Reflections

essaysbysean.blogspot.com

Hello Reader,
Got insights?


If life is for learning, then road trips can sure help. I like them for clearing my head and allowing insights. Recent shockwaves from my discovery in the town of Camrose are still reverberating: I  wont’t just blurt stuff out; better I sneak up, essay-style, on my latest reflection. Which means doing something I seldom do: writing about myself, as today’s piece involves backstory about little old me.

In Edmonton 
I stayed in a fancy hotel with a flatscreen TV. How strange to watch some Star Trek episodes in color, episodes that I had seen with bated breath when they originally aired. I saw again “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” (by Robert Block) my favorite one of all: The one with the giant Ruk (He played Lurch on The Adams Family) from down in lost underground caverns, where the bad guys make an android duplicate of Captain James T. Kirk. (Cribbing from the dialogue of an episode of The Wild Wild West where they had a duplicate imposter for James T. West) I like it for the blocking, (where the actors stand) and for the karma of Professor Roger Korby and his partners in crime.

What I didn’t like, during the original airing, was my older brothers keeping their emotional distance, skeptical, “not getting into it.” When the landing party beams down and approaches the mouth of a cave my brothers said, “They should be shivering.” 

For years, with every exciting re-run, I’d recall what was said, during that original wondrous evening, by my older, wiser—no. They were fools, and I’ve chosen to drop my memories, gone forever. The reason for their silly lack of enjoyment was something I did not understand at the time,  but now I know: They had emotional insulation. Better to NOT feel. In a few years, as I insulated too, I would stand at attention, and I would sit like a pharaoh: limbs all symmetrical. Back then I might have thought I was uncreative, proper or uptight. But no: Having grown up in a destructive place, I was insulating. 

What else? I was conservative, believing in the Bible’s injunction: I would honor my mother and farther, and, in some bizarre double standard, not hurt their feelings. It was Ruk, the android lone survivor of a lost civilization, who gave me the way out, if I dared. His “Equation” was: “You can’t protect what is trying to destroy you.” … For a short while I simply avoided talking with my dear destructive relatives; for a good while I felt survivor guilt at moving on in life.


A nerd?
My hotel stay allowed me to finally catch the opening episode of Andromeda, a TV series with an interesting take on the King Arthur legends where The Commonwealth (Roman Empire) has fallen, and Captain Hunt of the warship Andromeda (an anonymous Arthur) is trying to end the dark ages. The ship is the sword Excaliber, the ship's A.I. is the Lady of the Lake... The series finale (with the Lady taking back the sword) was a delightful take on the final battle of Arthur where, as in the historic battle legend, he failed to hold back the night, as his companions, one by one, fall. (Don’t worry, their deaths are offstage) Legend tells us that King Arthur only sleeps in a cavern, and will appear again in England’s hour of need: Just as Captain Hunt and his ship had appeared, through a Black Hole time warp.

Given my interest in old history and TV sci-fi, sometimes I laugh to wonder: Why did I not grow up into a nerd who lives-in-my-mother’s-basement with a computer, and is lost behind brown pants and beige shirt, and argues on-line as a troll? I don’t know, but I have always avoided vexatious nerds. Perhaps computer trolls argue with such derision because the only thing they have going for them is a feeling of smart superiority, with web arguments as their only way to feel any passion since they don’t watch pro sports. Well. Let them argue with each other on their blog comments; I feel no guilt at leaving them to each other.

I arrived in Camrose 
Forget the stereotype of rural towns being left brain, conservative, and darkly suspicious of city slickers. No, the town is a microcosm of society, with plenty of exotic coffee houses, an art supply store, a comic book store, an awfully barren Japanese cartoon store, and hey, one of the lady’s clothing stores along main street even specialized in “unusual fun fashions.”  Camrose still has a nice second hand book store, praise the Lord, while lots of used book stores in this province are closing down.

I found a book—I went “WOW!”—that reminded me of my younger days, back when I was losing my insulation by attending a certain weekly meeting of a 12-step recovery program. Not a meeting for substance users, (such as Alcoholics Anonymous) or families of practising alcoholics, (That would be Alanon) but a meeting for adults who had grown up in alcoholic households, becoming as crazy as a drunk without ever taking a drop. On the outside, we had jobs and marriages and dressed normal, with none of us living in Mum’s basement, but still, we loved to meet to share our experience, strength and hope. Yes, it worked: I watched people in recovery becoming functional.

At least now, as adults, we were able to get better: If staying sober helped, we would do that; if refusing to blame our parents or our society helped, we would do that too. What wouldn’t help was wimping out and not even trying for any personal growth—we had already seen such wimping in our siblings and parents. The angry loud alcoholic who says, “Be tough!” and “Quit crying or I’ll punch you” and then punches, well,  he’s a wimp. But you just can’t realize that as a child, not in a home where craziness is normal.

We learned 
Two surprising things from our sharing at meetings and our socializing afterwards: One: that we would “isolate;” and Two: that we mostly, both men and women alike, had the majority of our friends being of the opposite sex. (Not like, say, in high school or on The Flintstones

Isolating, as in not getting out enough, was safe. As for our having opposite gender friends, we thought this was partly a self esteem thing, as it was safer, and partly because at least we could offer our adult sexuality—we had problems around feeling self-worth. Naturally. For we had been abused and brainwashed in our childhood. 

If I like feminism (and I do have that interest listed on my blog page) then it is because, besides having female friends, I can identify with the earliest folks in Women’s Liberation struggling to overcome their brainwashing, just as I have had to. As it happens, I’m still trying to understand people in general, “normies,” let alone women. But I really do try. What made me go “wow!” in that town was something in Chapter One of For Young Women Only.

The book was in the Young Adult section. Camrose is in the Bible Belt, where it is a cliche that young rural ladies go to church, and Bible studies too. This book, by two earnest authors, was meant for such ladies.

What the authors learned 
They had a big group of young men and women, at “a singles retreat.” They had the two genders divide, going to two sides of the big room. Then they asked the young men for a show of hands, based on a question, with two bad choices, “former and latter,” for if you somehow had to choose:
The former part: Would you rather be alone and unloved in the world, 
OR
The latter part: Would you rather be inadequate and disrespected? 

You might think the young ladies would choose the latter choice, love. Who could exist unloved? For the women’s choice, you would be right. For the guys? A show of hands… they nearly all chose the former! The ladies gasped! They had no idea how much even the outwardly confident and cocky guys needed respect so desperately, even more than love. No wonder, notes the authors, that the Bible tells wives to respect their husbands, but tells husbands to love their wives. (Ephesians) So that each gender gets what they need. (And of course to be “inadequate” means to be “disrespected” by one’s self)

What I immediately thought of was all those men, and all those women, in my 12-step group, “isolating.” As a lifestyle. Putting safety over being disrespected, taking no chances, as if being judged was figuratively life-or-death. Well, for us it was. At least in my 12-step group we safely had each other, praise the Lord.

Driving out of town 
Motoring past all the pretty pastures, wheels whispering, I reflected on my own bizarre life. Oh, the people, places and love I have avoided—like I said, bizarre… … I once did an essay on Being Good at Something. (Archived June 2016) It could well be that my achieving tangible skills and material possessions has done just as much for my willingness to risk a fleeting disrespect as any abstract increase in courage and self-esteem. But that would be a topic for some other road trip…


Sean Crawford
On Alberta roads
Autumn
2018

Footnotes:
~For Young Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa Rice, (the former wrote For Women Only) 2006, Multnomah Publishers, Colorado. I’m too old to correctly judge, of course, but I think it’s a useful book for young people.

~My safe buddy Blair, in order to be heard from the next room, would -shout- to me and his fiancĂ©. Blair was so charmingly normal: I had to explain to him to please stop doing that, as his dear fiancĂ© and I would visibly flinch.   

~What I know can help is radical self-acceptance, beyond what any “normie” needs. (Let the normies have their “self-esteem.”) I remember one day, back from overseas at age 20, visiting with a teenage girl, her younger sister and her mother. The girl was back in high school after having been a runaway—everybody knew—and been living with a man. She said simply, “I am me; I won’t be either more or less.” 

~Come to think of it, I once essayed about Self Esteem and Acceptance, archived back in September of 2011.


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Listening as An Inside Job

essaysbysean.blogspot.com

Hello Reader,
Got inner listening?


Every few years, I come across a slick paged popular magazine article, with a description on “listening,” advising such skills such as nodding your head, or not crossing your arms. I say: “Never mind!” 

And (figuratively) so says Richard Farson, the man who first observed and described all those visible skills, skills now taught to social workers. At the time, he was working with psycho-therapist Carl Rogers. 

What Farson says, specifically, is he wishes he had never published all those “skills.” Because, and I agree with him, it is better just to listen sincerely. (He says this in his great little book Management of the Absurd, with forward by Michael Crichton) I am sure if you are listening hard then your physical actions, if any, will take care of themselves—Better than using your skills to to fake that you are listening! 

Instead of skills, why not follow the advice of Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurly Brown who said, in her famous Mad Men era self help book, Sex and the Single Girl, (in my own words) “when you go on a date, listen really hard.” Isn’t that common sense? I guess not.

Listening “hard and sincerely” leads us into the realm of “focus.” A good word. Unfortunately, the closest the magazine articles ever get to “focus” is this advice: to paraphrase back what the other person just said. But I think “saying back” is mostly meant to make sure you interpreted right, not for helping you to stay focused on hearing what the other person is saying.

Focus means getting beyond your ego. I try. People have long said I am a good listener, which would always surprise me: Doesn’t everyone try hard? But I realize now I’ve been doing more than just trying hard: Having recently read Zen in the Art of Archery, I am aware of things beyond our everyday understanding.

Now, before I delve into the “zen” of an ego-disciplined mind, let me hasten to observe that some well-meaning people dial down their listening. Why? Because they assume they are “supposed to” be trying to “think as they hear,” meaning: thinking of what they will reply. My response? Don’t do that! Don’t try to do two things at once. Only listen. 

I am convinced it is worthwhile to wait until the other person’s sentence has come to a full stop. Only then boot up your CPU (Central Processing Unit) to think it over, and then, only after that, think of what to say. What seems to take too many seconds? Worth it! For then the person feels heard… 

In this sad world, for too many people, being heard is all too rare: No wonder I get told I am a good listener. I will always show even an impatient “type A personality” that I respect them enough to take time to listen and think. Even an impatient person will respect that. 

And hey, let’s remember, time telescopes when you are being looked at. What seems like a few long seconds? Microseconds! It’s barely a few microseconds.

I am sure there is an inner level of listening many people never achieve. From Book Three of David Gerrold’s War against the Chtorr, told in the first person, is a scene in a children’s refugee orphan camp. Even though the hero wants something from the young camp director, he isn’t truly listening. 

QUOTE 
I made an impatient waving gesture with one hand. “I know all that, Birdie. Let’s just cut to the chase, all right?”

She turned her chair to face me, pulled it close and leaned in close. She said, “What I’m getting at is this: for someone who seen as much and done as much in the past two years as you have, you are one of the most pompous, arrogant, and unlikable bigots it has ever been my misfortune to deal with. I like you, but it doesn’t change the fact that you have the very bad habit of not really listening to people. You’re not really listening now. You’re more concerned with boogey men up in the hills than in dealing with the children you’ve supposedly accepted responsibility for. At the first…
UNQUOTE (page 289)

Key phrase: “You aren’t really listening.”

Ego. Such a strange filter. It is a listener’s weak ego, I am sure, including his “I know more than you do” that makes him assume his own concerns, during a conversation, including his thoughts about the future, are more important than the person “here and now.” Ego can filter out the big world, if we are not willing to humbly release our own little world while we listen.

But there’s another sort of filter used by the weak: Here’s a scenario from an essay by computer millionaire Paul Graham. He runs a company to advise groups of “founders” of “startup” (computer software) companies. Again the place is an office. Graham converses, but do they listen? He describes unsuccessful founders in terms of their listening.

QUOTE Like real world resourcefulness, conversational resourcefulness often means doing things you don't want to. Chasing down all the implications of what's said to you can sometimes lead to uncomfortable conclusions. The best word to describe the failure to do so is probably "denial," though that seems a bit too narrow. A better way to describe the situation would be to say that the unsuccessful founders had the sort of conservatism that comes from weakness. They traversed idea space as gingerly as a very old person traverses the physical world. UNQUOTE

At the office location, Graham’s partner wrote:
QUOTE
My feeling with the bad groups is that coming into office hours, they've already decided what they're going to do and everything I say is being put through an internal process in their heads, which either desperately tries to munge what I've said into something that conforms with their decision or just outright dismisses it and creates a rationalization for doing so. They may not even be conscious of this process but that's what I think is happening when you say something to bad groups and they have that glazed over look. I don't think it's confusion or lack of understanding per se, it's this internal process at work.

With the good groups, you can tell that everything you say is being looked at with fresh eyes and even if it's dismissed, it's because of some logical reason e.g. "we already tried that" or "from speaking to our users that isn't what they'd like," etc. Those groups never have that glazed over look. UNQUOTE
(from the essay A Word to the Resourceful, (link)

Maybe if folks say I’m a good listener then it’s because my eyes don’t glaze over: You might say I keep a zen “beginner’s mind.”

Back to those popular magazines with slick pages for people to carelessly flip through: I think it logically follows that pop writers won’t put in dense paragraphs that require effort: Nothing about such hard-to-describe things as “zen,” or “filters,” or even “focus.”  

I think if the average person won’t set their ego aside, then the average person won’t be a good listener. A wise man said: The average person can’t run a mile; it’s normal to be able to run four miles. 

Dear reader, let us listen normally, from the inside.


Sean Crawford
In a cabin in the foothills
Calgary
October
2018

Sad Sidebar: 
I wonder: Was Paul Bremer, America’s man in Iraq, in charge of America’s war effort “to instil democracy,” any good at listening? Or—? Question: Did President Bush send a closed-eared ‘control freak’ to Iraq? Given Bremer’s gargantuan, egregious mistakes, mistakes that every single Iraqi taxi driver, barber, translator or Iraqi leader would have advised against, crying “Nooo…!” I guess I don’t have to ask.

In the nonfiction book Imperial Life in the Emerald City (with a foreword by the director of the Matt Damon movie Green Zone) is the chapter The Plan Unravels.
How sad: 

An Arab council to create a government is listening and sharing and consensus building, and has al-l-l-most enough mutual confidence to announce agreement with Bremer’s plan. Rushing to a vote would only result in a glorified opinion poll. Bremer? Not listening. He uses his power, as leader of the American Occupation, to order them to rush.

Across Iraq, disaster ensues.

The chapter ends quoting Adel Abtel-Mahdi, later the finance minister, saying ruefully, “If Bremer had only given us an extra day, none of this would have happened. We would have had the democratic government that the Americans promised us when they went to war.”  

Our grandparents had a folk ballad:

For the want of a nail, a (horse) shoe is lost,
For the want of a shoe, a rider is lost,
For the want of a rider, a battle is lost,
For the want of a battle, a kingdom is lost,
And all for the want of a nail.

Sing it, sister:

“For the want of an ear, 
a country is lost,
For the want of a country,
A war (on terror) is lost, 
and all for the want of an ear.”

That book, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, is published by Vintage Books, and has won several awards.

Three Footnotes:
~In the second paragraph I mentioned Carl Rogers. I really liked Roger’s brand of therapy, of listening with positive regard and acceptance—just reading Roger’s work was healing for me, back in my youth.

~Women's Liberation (feminism) arose as women met for circles of "consciousness raising" where they would defy society (and what they were "supposed to" think) by listening to each other.

~For Making Conversation, here’s a nice link, where I found that being in a conversation is like being in the world, like looking for a blog topic: Get off, (the couch) Go out, and “Prepare to be amazed.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Now in 2006

essaybysean.blogspot.com

Hello Reader,
Got history?


I found a May 2006 issue of a thick monthly magazine, The Atlantic.

At the time, a businessman was the subject of an article (page 42) called The Man With the Golden Phone: “(He) began his career in 1980—either “Morning in America” or the onset of a decade of greed, depending on one’s perspective—and his thoughts soon turned to money making.” 

The article, by Paul Starobin, quotes people explaining what an AMAZING DEAL MAKER he is. The man “who is now eying a run at the presidency” in May of 2006 was… Mark Warner.

Today folks in Venezuela, as arch communist Vladimir Lenin once put it, “are voting with their feet.” They are crossing to the next country to escape their hunger and, something I still can’t get my head around, three-digit inflation. But in 2006 they were big on using their oodles of oil to fund their country’s new exciting improvements. Franklin Foer (page 94) wrote on The Talented Mr. Chavez. 

President Chavez sings a Mexican folk song:
I’m not a gold coin to be liked by everyone
that’s the way I was born
And that’s the way I am
And if they don’t like me
… it doesn’t matter.

I like the article’s call outs (inset large print quotations from the article)
Chavez’s critics dismiss him as something of a buffoon, but he is not just a clown with oil money in his pockets. He is a deliberate strategic thinker capable of tactical brilliance.
Somehow, this sounds like something I’ve heard it before, regarding other leaders.

And
Chavez’s psychiatrist Edmendo Chirinos told me, “The love of the people is a narcotic to him. He needs it, the same we needs his coffee. (At one point in his presidency, Chavez drank up to thirty demitasses each day.)

And
Chavez embraced democracy out of practical considerations, not theoretical ones. He came around to the idea of participation in elections for a simple reason: he believed that he could win.”
Such a cliche: Like how communists would “believe” in elections, but then rig elections when it suited them.

There’s one obvious way in which Chavez could truly stagger the United States. Venezuela is an important supplier of oil to America. Chaves appreciates the power this provides him.
Venezuela can’t threaten anybody now. 

I don’t think there was any conspiracy by American Imperialists to bring Venezuela down… But I must admit it amuses me to imagine C.I.A. spies going through all the Venezuelan libraries, burning all the history books, just as Chavez came to power. So he would seem to be “a unique and original person” … uniquely repeating the path of so many leaders before him. 

Too bad, so sad. Historically, it’s hard for a public to have enough common sense to rein in their bewildered leaders; this while, historically, democracy is the only training ground possible for the public to ever acquire such common sense.

Hey, how ‘bout that illegal immigration to the U.S.? A letter to the editor (page 24) talks about a program for rounding up illegals, highly successful, that was scrapped: “But if that could be accomplished by twelve agents in a month or two, imagine what a scaled-up version would look like.” Twelve agents? 

As it happens, during my youth, the Green Berets operated in teams of twelve. I can imagine how a lot of people, just a few decades earlier, had used their Imagination regarding the successes documented by a journalist in the book The Green Berets. I can hear someone saying: “With more of those successes, we could WIN the war in Vietnam.”

This rather ominous voice came to me just before (page 123) reading Exodus subtitled The ominous push and pull of the U.S.-Mexico border by Marc Cooper, who examines a round up of books on the topic. 

“… Last winter … pushed through a landmark bill that mandates the construction of 700 more miles of border walls…” That same bill, if ratified by the senate, was to make being an illegal, or helping an illegal, a felony (it’s currently a civil violation) “… and thereby make thousands of American businesses, housewives, and gardening enthusiasts guilty of high crimes.” 

Let’s relax, dear reader, as I’m sure the bill was never ratified, because Cooper makes it clear that U.S. immigration policy, traditionally, has had trouble being “informed by the realities on the ground.”

Here’s the last half of Cooper’s ending paragraph: “… Mexicans will show as much ingenuity in getting into the United States as Americans would in breaking into British Columbia if the Canadian minimum wage were $70 an hour. “Nothing really changes here, “ Charles Bowden said to me, as a chill night descended on the Tucson desert. “When people ask me what the solution will eventually be here, I say, ‘This is it.’”

Yes, from 2006 to 2018, nothing really changes here.

Hey, how ‘bout those Europeans, with their immigrants and refugees? Today the staggering numbers, sexual crimes, violence, and resulting hot tempers might be distorting our ability to think, but in 2006 Clive Crook was (page 38) calmly writing on The Benefits of Brutality. 

The article is subtitled: “Why America’s immigration outlook—current grumbling notwithstanding—remains much healthier than Europe’s.” 

Crook notes America’s harsher emphasis on work, saying that jobs are a necessary
condition for successful assimilation. “The work requirement increases the dispersed economic benefits; it reduces or eliminates the net fiscal burden; and it lowers cultural barriers. As a result, tempers cool.” 

Europeans, of course, because they are lacking a North American culture of strength through honest immigrants, are now raising, not lowering, cultural barriers by encouraging enclaves. 

I think, dear reader, Europeans are finally learning the hard way, and may even be approaching, maybe next year, a tipping point where, suddenly, most people will acknowledge that self-walled enclaves of immigrants on welfare are a Bad Idea… unless, hypothetically, like in a U.S. white slum, the enclaves could rest on a shared national bedrock, a rock of shared belief in the values of democracy, of assimilation and of the Age of Enlightenment, an age from back around the time of the American Revolution.

Yes, the revolution was a long time ago, but many of the developing countries bordering Europe are still at the stage of Queen Elizabeth the first. Today’s Elizabeth II would be horrified if you murdered someone for yelling, “The queen is a fink!” But not folks today in Arabia and Iran. (Judging by Canadian Muslims stated opinions on a certain book) 

Back in 2006, the average person in Europe had no need to consciously know “What the heck are the cultural values of the Enlightenment?” I still don’t know myself. But now all Europeans, natives and immigrants alike, need to know, if only to reduce their casualties from holy terrorism. True then, true now: We all need to know now—we can’t turn back the clock to 2001, before that day in September.

Today in 2018 Iran is newsworthy, as Trump scandalizes the European Union by screwing with the treaty for preventing the building of an Atomic Bomb. The May 2006 Atlantic has a good-sized article by James Fallows. I will summarize: The U.S. is screwed, and a military strike to prevent the Bomb will not work. 

Fallows, who is listed on my blog’s tag words, also has an article (page 149) called Tinfoil Underwear. Before people of 2018 started belatedly cancelling their facebook accounts, before Google was fined heavily by the European Union court for biasing their search results, Fallows was warning the people of 2006:

“The main privacy concern about IP addresses stems from one business decision: the companies that collect and own the information traceable to them have decided to retain it more or less forever. Why would Google (keep a gazillion warehouses full of data) …? Because it can.”

Fallows talked to Kevin Bankston who told him, “The information about you is gold…Nothing will change that unless there is a law to force them to stop.”

As I write this, the head of Facebook is still refusing to appear before Members of Parliament. Perhaps he is scared of being politely requested to stop.

One final Atlantic article. 

As it happens, certain historical events might seem to be a “one off,” not worth remembering: But no, such events still allow for abstract lessons to be learned—If And Only If—the journalists do their jobs. Which was NOT done by Mark Bowden for the The Atlantic cover story, during that long ago May, about The Desert One Debacle, the failed attempt to “rescue the hostages” in Iran during April of 1980. It’s an article full of human drama, as when the leader of the Delta Force accuses the air force of trying to scuttle the mission, while the machines, grounded and refuelling, are roaring on the Iranian desert floor.

What Bowden neglects to report is that such “combined operations” (combining different branches of the forces) defy hard earned common sense. Earned, that is to say, by blood, agony and dying soldiers caught on barbed wire crying “Momma!” Professionals know the “combined chances for error,” and for accusations too, even from such easy things as a radio frequency, very rapidly mount up—producing too many chances for failure. The golden rule has to be KISS, or “Keep It Simple Soldier.” 

(Note: I seem to recall, for Desert One, pilots skilled at low overland flying being pulled out so that, instead, pilots of a different high flying branch could hurriedly try to learn to fly low in a featureless dessert. At night. Using clumsy night goggles. During a dust storm. And all this practise was at stupidly short notice—didn’t Bowden notice?)

There was only ONE reason for defying the blood-lesson of history: Turf wars in the Pentagon—everyone wanting a share of the glory more than they wanted to sacrifice their ego for their country.

The cover story is lengthy, of course, with many two column pages. Not until the last column, halfway down, is the overall mission commander mentioned, a fellow who, as the landed aircraft roared, was away in Wadi Kena. A Major General. 

What Bowden fails to report is that the mission commander—get this—was not involved in the planning and set up. Back in my dad’s war, and in peace-time Israel even today, the leader of any mission being planned by headquarters is involved right from the start, absorbing information and giving feedback. Of course. How could it be otherwise? And how could Bowden not report how the U.S. armed forced had apparently declined so very, very far since WWII?  I only hope he did better with his book Blackhawk Down

(That’s a book I enjoyed, which included the combined ops bungling of the folks overhead not being on the same frequency of as the one used by an army rescue convoy, a convoy trying to motor to the downed Blackhawk through extremely confusing streets: The folks therefore had to relay their road directions to a third party, directions which would then always arrive at the convoy too late, after a chance to turn had passed)

…And that’s the way it was, in May of 2006.


Sean Crawford
2018
October
As a history book lies on the desolate sand,
As the answer pages are blowing… flip, flip, flipping… in the wind

Footnotes: 
~From October 3rd 2018, regarding Venezuela’s creative economy, here (link) is a BBC article, with links to more articles. 

~Regarding how combined operations were truly not easy common sense, but in fact required a serious amount of practise beforehand: 

This truth was discovered for the first time when some folks had the simple-seeming idea of suddenly using the navy to land the army—what could go wrong?— in 1915 at Gallipoli. You may have seen the pessimistic movie, starring a young Mel Gibson. (brief review) I guess Australians are still bitter at the debacle.