Society Without Qualities

Sarah Jones

Sarah Jones

“The neat division between roles and real selves reduces society to a masquerade party. Yet not even plastic surgery can heal the psychic disfigurements. The social evil reaches into the living fibers; people not only assume roles, they are roles.”
Russell Jacoby

“Interpretations by themselves do not determine meaning.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The problem of limits (of langauge, of technique) is precisely what interests Tarfuri and seperates him from Deleuze and Guattari, Foucault and Lyotard. For Tarfuri, as well as for Georg Simmel, the limit, the confine, the border (and, as such, form and history), is the place of contradiction – the place, that is, where the thing itself, and, at the same time, the cessation of the thing…are one and the same.”
Marco Biraghi
Project of Crisis
Tarfuri & Contemporary Architecture

In Ukraine the U.S. wages a proxy war with Neo Nazis and US mercenaries. Clinton broke apart the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as a trial balloon for expanding NATO, and to see just how useful marketing could be in such matters, and of course to break up the nominally socialist state into small client states. Serbs became the new Nazis, even if it was an utter fabrication. The Milosevic trial was a Star Chamber sort of farce, and like so many held in The Hague, Milosevic *died*. Today, Joe Biden’s even dimmer son signs on to the board of Ukraine’s biggest gas producer, and the U.S. under the guidance of the grotesque Victoria Nuland (married to arch war mongering neo con author Robert Kagan) have thrown in with frothing Nazi thugs, and groomed “Yats” to step into power as Prime Minister…while the media ramps up the anti Putin rhetoric much as did for Milosevic at one time. There is an Orientalist trope at work in this, of course, that painted Putin as a slightly comic ex KGB agent, given to martial arts and bare chested horseback rides. It is interesting that body surfing and golf, or photo ops with a shotgun, are seen as mostly alright. Reagan of course loved to be photographed on horseback, and Bush Junior was given to adopting Stetsons and cowboy boots in middle age, and now paints fluffy West Highland Terriers, but all of that is embraced by media, none of it seen as comical.

Domestically there are stories of cops shooting kittens (threatening kittens no doubt), shooting pet dogs, and mostly shooting young black men, but often just the poor in general. And the U.S. military is having bases added throughout Africa, and eastern Europe, and the Pacific islands, and executing a drone terror on sheep farmers, the most vulnerable and poor people on earth. Why? Why bomb farmers? How can such things find public support? Why are these obvious contradictions ignored?

A part of the answer lies in the backdrop created by Hollywood and Madison Avenue. The sagas of Paul Greengrass, shows like Homeland or 24, and others, have enshrined a certain general narrative as the definitive version of fact. Except I honestly don’t think anyone believes this stuff, Greengrass’s Flight 93 is fantasy. Much like Lord of the Rings, or Harry Potter or Spiderman. Flight 93 is nothing more than that.

Now, I think a case could be made for the sublimated distrust of a good many in the U.S. by pointing to the popularity of the X-Files franchise, and its brethren. Most people WANT to believe in both. The strange secret CIA plans for dealing with Aliens, and the syrupy jingoism of Greenglass and Speilberg and Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa et al. The public needs both. When I watched the network hour presentation of the Snowden story, via Frontline, with Glenn Greenwald, one thing stood out; the endless white thin lipped gray haired, pink jowled faces. These are the men in power. White men. White men with soft hands and the resentful distrustful eyes of ferrets.

Roger Ballen

Roger Ballen

I mean no plane hit the Pentagon for fuck sake. Any ten year old can see that. There is no forensice evidence anywhere. But the same thing happened with the JFK assassination. People can both believe and need Oliver Stone and Jim Garrison, as much as they need Lee Harvey Oswald and the Warren Commission.

But this raises an important question that has to do with what I see as a degrading of curiosity. And curiosity has to do with learning and education. And curiosity is linked to authority. Or rather its surpression. Sven Birkerts, a few years back, wrote: “Knowledge, certainly in the humanities, is not a straightforward matter of access, of conquest via the ingestion of data…the past is as much about the disappearance of things through time as it is about the recovery of traces and the reconstruction of vistas.” Birketts was arguing that multi-media packages, platforms, and interactive databases had made the field of knowledge being studied a lateral and synchronic enterprise, one which allowed faster data consumption, but which eroded the sense of depth, eroded a quality of learning that came from struggle and the study of difficult forbidding material. Rather, this is the post modern learning of flat affectless shine and the illusion of transparancy. I say illusion because in fact, just like the architecture of domination and efficiency, these paradigms are efficient, but only for those in control. The instrumental logic that has given birth to political strategies such as those employed now by the NSA, is now one in which the machine, the hyper-space, far exceeds human capacity to integrate all this harvested information. Whether that info is a classics department data bank about Plutarch and Horace, or Ezra Pound or Rubens, or whether it is how much porn each citizen in the United States watched each day of the last ten years; the lateral data accumulation is impossible to fully grasp. The scale is not human. There is some kind of zero sum game involved, I suspect, and it certainly feels increasingly like a failed Borges story. The point is that study, driven by curiosity and not grades or institutional approval, often means *not* understanding a good deal of what one studies. For understanding is not a simple thing. There are layers and qualities of understanding. In science, like math, one must memorize and retain information. Everywhere else, this is far less true. Philosophy and art are about finding the parameters for interrogating rules.

Why Factory, Delft University  of Technology,Netherlands. MVRDV architects.

Why Factory, Delft University of Technology,Netherlands. MVRDV architects.

Birkerts suggests we may, over milennia, as a species, develop an expanded short term memory while losing long term memory. The instinctive Darwinian solution seems already underway, and that is to think as managers. Again, we will tend to be speaking of those with control, for there remain tens of millions of people who never touch a computer in their entire lifetimes. Still, this is the new intellectual laissez-faire atrophy of body and soul one saw in a number of sci fi films and books from thirty years ago (Zardoz being one). But my feeling here is that ‘thing-ness’ of a word on a page, the thingness of a book itself, is totemic. It occupies space (and no, I dont think software memory is, finally, a place). And sure, there are comparable issues (as McLuhan noted) in transferring from the oral tradition to the written. On an anecdotal level, I remember conversations with strangers, or people I barely knew, on a daily and weekly basis, in which we asked each other questions. This is my memory of it, anyway. I don’t have those conversations today. They stopped fifteen to twenty years ago. When I teach, I am often stunned at how few questions students ask. I feel as the formulating of a question is, itself, a bygone skill. Is this the product of getting wrong answers all the time? (like, it was a plane hit the Pentagon). I think it is connected to the idea that conversation, even written communications, are always part of a strategy, a marketing campaign, even if said campaign were constructed by oneself. Silence, contemplation have come to feel uncomfortable, too, for something of an empty inner life is laid bare. Hence, fill it up with noise. Electronic noise. And there is the paranoia factor. People in the West are increasingly reluctant, over all, to rock the boat. Surveillance is everywhere, and the police response is now so unpredictable and often psychotic, that understandably people are going to get in the habit of shutting up. I would guess people actually have fewer conversations today than a hundred years ago. Some of this is technological, the inroads on communication made by texting and email, but in the West again, I would be willing to bet that people say fewer words out loud than they did in 1900.
'Ceramic House, Wang Shu architect.

‘Ceramic House’, Wang Shu architect.

Now I would also guess a large percentage of people reading this would disagree. And that is because so many people have been trained to see the world as a static whole, with minor cycles of variance. This is the psychological position I equate with white liberals (though its probably true of conservatives as well, to some degree anyway). Its mildly cynical. Which takes one back to the extraordinary tolerance for government lying, and government propaganda. The U.S. can place sanctions on Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of children and declare this (via the ghoulish Maddie Albright) “worth it”, but get misty eyed at Boko Haram. Can tolerate the birth defects and spikes in cancer in Fallujah and Belgrade and still scold other nations for their human rights record. To not be deeply enraged, furious, to not be sick with anger at this wholesale hypocrisy is evidence of a society’s troubled soul.

Nightmoves, Arthur Penn dr. 1975

Nightmoves, Arthur Penn dr. 1975

The propaganda from cop shows and military narratives is rather obvious, but I was pondering the kitsch medical franchises, almost all of which reduce the complexity of medical treatment to cartoon level bromides, albeit replete with a surplus of highly technical jargon. Shows in which long term pesticide poisoning, for example, rarely ever makes the storyline. The new Black Box, a show so uremittingly awful in every way that one does wonder, seriously, that anyone, even for a paycheck, could tolerate involvement. Freud was summarily dismissed by the lead character, a bi-polar head of neurosurgery (no, really), by saying “We no longer believe in Freud, welcome to the twenty first century”. What is distressing is that for a majority of Americans, this may well constitute the sum of their education in psychiatry. Its not disagreement with Freud (though thats an unfortunate sympton, and one found in the NYTimes and New Yorker pretty regularly) but rather the manner of this discussion; smug, junior college level psychology class. But then this is a show that resorts to zoom in camera, entering the eyeball to see exploding math symbols and equations, to indicate, um, *thinking*. Such zoom/CGI is usually reserved for ‘smart’ characters. Presumably common man has no such imagery IN his or her brain. The image of wires and conductors and circuits as symbols for the mind is now pretty common. Instrumental thinking dictates that for the world to make sense, consciousness must be just some form of software. There is a buried class element to the brain-as-machine trope; for expensive machines, a Porsche, or BMW, costs money and need upkeep, and the machines of the poor are discarded when they break.

Maison Carree, Nimes, France

Maison Carree, NImes, France

Still, the single defining and overriding factor in place for almost all television today is *the legitimacy of the state*. The government as, however flawed, a great institution of service to its people. The secondary trope is the valorizing of the individual, the individual as a self generating figure for whom history, class, and ideology have little to no importance. There are some exceptions; The Killing had a policewoman shaped by her foster care upbringing and the indifference of child services. But in general, these are rare exceptions. Now this is all far less true of European series. The current popularity of Scandanavian crime shows (and French, even Belgian) has to do with what feels (to American audiences) like a much more ambigious moral landscape. Even British shows, while hewing closer to U.S. political conservatism, include a far greater awareness of class distinction and of working class hardship.
Rudolph Stingel

Rudolph Stingel

Now, one could find countless examples from a mere thirty or forty years ago, in Hollywood film, of a dissident point of view. Even if only through the nihilism of the protagonist, there was something far more allegorical and certainly far more distrustful of institutional authority. British director John Boorman made Point Blank in 1967, a film that in both form and narrative feels closer today to Tarkovsky than it does to current Hollywood film. It remains the purest vatic and oracular crime film ever made, probably. But the atmosphere, the landscape of films such as Cutter’s Way, Nightmoves, Charley Varrick, Ulzana’s Raid, Two Lane Blacktop, Cockfighter, Smile, Scorcerer, The Hustler, Fat City, Blue Collar, and Bullit, was one of moral corruption, existential angst, a world predicated upon disequalibrium and trauma. Nightmoves probably deserves a special mention here, directed by Arthur Penn, released in 1975, and written by the great Alan Sharp, it is on one level a standard private eye genre piece. But the mystery being solved isnt the one PI Harry Mosby is hired to solve; the real mystery is Harry himself. This is a post Watergate noir, a re-evaluating of what once made the moral crusade of Phillip Marlow or Sam Spade make sense. Harry is a man not perceptively acute enough to untangle the societal malaise around him. The moment Harry realizes that solving the mystery resolves nothing of his own problems, the film takes on something approaching tragic proportions. Scotsman Alan Sharp, who also wrote the very fine The Last Run, with George C. Scott, died just a year or two ago. His lack of appreciation is its own tragedy, for one cannot find better screenwriting than that of Alan Sharp.
Two Lane Blacktop, Monte Hellman dr. 1971

Two Lane Blacktop, Monte Hellman dr. 1971

The 70s marked the end for an American cinema of Aldrich, Hellman, Freidkin, Peckinpah, and Penn, for audiences were already going to see All the President’s Men and Godfather, not to mention Star Wars. I don’t think a single film listed above (and it’s a very partial list) made any money. The sensibility that saw societal ills, that questioned the status quo, and prioritized suffering as historically based, that saw human misery as unsolvable under the society of the Spectacle, was not what studios saw as profitable. And such films were not profitable.

Rudolph Stingel

Rudolph Stingel

I was reminded this week of Rudolph Stingel’s work. I am a big admirer of Stingel, even if I think some parts of the ourve are less impressive than others. In his best there is something deeply disquieting, almost vertigo inducing. For me I feel the launching of memories, or feelings associated with memories, memories that I can’t retrieve, and that feel almost discomferting. Experiencing Stingel makes one feel almost guilty, or as if someone caught you doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing. Both pleasure and pain reside in this work.

In Stingel there is no sentimentality; there is great lavish opulent color and tacticity, but it evokes memories. Maybe part of Stingel’s genius lies in his making us want to live in HIS memories. Or his dreams. The giant paintings, soiled and walked on, of the hyper realist Tyrolean Alps, remind me of those 1950s View Master 3d toys. For me the feeling is akin to what marionettes achieve. Roberta Smith described his orange wall at the Venice Biennale as an “etch a sketch cave painting”. Something of deep childhood dreams is operative here. But the work is not childish. It is the adult melancholy at lost childhood.

Rudolph Stingel at the Neue Nationalgalerie.

Rudolph Stingel at the Neue Nationalgalerie.

Stingel is also a romantic. For all this use of chance, of letting people scrawl on his electroplated gold walls, Stingel is still firmly an arch romantic and a romantic that I think finds something profound in that very idea. Stingel manages to eliminate the need for cheap effects, relying on his taste, and his intelligence. This allows me to segue to architecture again. Marco Biraghi wrote an excellent book on the work of Manfredo Tarfuri. Tarfuri was that rare Marxist who examined architecture as an expression of and creator of social conditions, who saw the buildings in the light not just of design, but of economy.
Gaetano Pesce, architect. "Pink Pavillion".

Gaetano Pesce, architect. “Pink Pavillion”.

Walter Benjamin wrote; “Rather than asking ‘what is the attitude of a work of art to the relations of production of its time’? I would like to ask ‘what is its position in them’?” I think it is interesting to look at space again, as it is created in architecture, as unavoidably taking place in some way in relations of production. I believe that the erosion of curiosity in the general public today, certainly in the two youngest generations, those born into hyperbranded electronic space, is connected to the failure of inwardness that Berkerts laments, to the temporal displacement that is the Spectacle; the instrumental erasing of dreams, of that indeterminancy and overdeterminancy that accompanies all allegorical expression. In all arts, but perhaps in architecture most of all, there is a prophetic suggestion of coming dreams, and coming realities. Architecture and theatre are the two mediums most concerned with the past, while constantly outlining the future. Their temporal position is the most contradictory. Architecture is prophetic.

Tarfuri on Scarpa; “a game of formal skill played with open organization of interrupted sentences.” But then adds; “..a fragment, properly unbderstood, always speaks of an irredeemably lost whole.” Tarfuri compares Scarpa’s melancholy to James Stirling, of whom he writes; “In Stirling’s case, fragments echo a distance, an impossibility of reactivating a discourse on the meaning of architecture…”.

The 2012 Pritsker Prize winner, Wang Shu of China, creates something I feel is close to Stingel’s work, and in another way to Scarpa. They are all very different in all the obvious ways, their work *looks* different, but they evoke our buried memories. The Ningbo History Museum is among the finest buildings of its kind built in the last one hundred years. But it is in his smaller works, where the use of recyled materials feels more present, that Wang Shu’s genius is most evident. The paradox of course is that this is an architecture of tradition, but not of the past. The interruptions in Wang Shu are treated as if there was really nothing to interrupt. His buildings feel proto, and they seem to hover in some way. They feel light without being insubstantial.

“…this work which I have called the “Decay of a Dome”. There is a cultural issue. The dome is based on a precise principle but I had it built high and you start to get disorder at the base when it reaches a certain height. This is interesting culturally because the Chinese have no problem accepting this disorder but it is not the same for the Western world.”
Wang Shu

Ningbo History Museum, China. Wang Shu architect.

Ningbo History Museum, China. Wang Shu architect.

There is something profound in what Franco Rella wrote…“ intermediate realm between the abstraction of the concept and the fullness of the myth, the analogy and the image.” This is the secret meaning of great architecture, that introduces the past to the present, in a dialogue of allegorical parts. The Maison Carree, one of the oldest Roman buildings still standing, is also one that contains within it several visual conversations from several distinctly different eras. When Tarfuri wrote of Las Vegas (in relation to Venturi); “…domination of all visible space…a network of superstructures.”

Tarfuri called it an..“intentionally childish phantasmagoria of light.” There is importance in understanding the subtlty and sensitivity of Tarfuri’s observations, for he, like Adorno, never forget a sense of mission, a faithfulness to his program, to the political implications hidden in the vocabularies of building. The landscape of Las Vegas is on the one hand chaotic, but beneath the chaos, is a rule of the Spectacle, that nothing can happen outside the rule of Capital. The economy of Las Vegas is, finally, expressed in the hysteria of this infantile architectural form.

“A city without qualities.”
Manfredo Tarfuri, on Las Vegas

Birkerts wrote; “I fear a world sanitized and superficial, in which people have forgotten the primal terms of existence – the terrors and agons — and in which the existential uknown is banished outside the pulsing circulation system of data…efficient and prosperous information managers living in the shallows of what it means to be human…”

Verne Dawson

Verne Dawson

There is a through line here, from TV cop shows to Obama terror drones, to what was lost in cinema, a cinema of only thirty and forty years ago, to Stingel and Wang Shu and Manfredo Tarfuri and to Las Vegas. And to the breaking down of curiosity, and its replacing by the efficient and superficial kistch management of Madison Avenue and the U.S. State department. When Peter Brook was recently in Los Angeles, his company played to half empty houses. The culture is now predicated almost entirely on kistch, on the constant reiterating of childishness. History is reduced to cliche, to banality, and that cliche soon becomes the principle of governance. Culture is today ruled by cliche.

“The city, having absorbed every architectural object into the informality at its core, covers itself up as a structure, and presents itself to the distracted perception as an asyntactic, alogical field of pure images to be consumed on a daily basis, thereby establishing a new realm of collective behavior.”
Manfredo Tarfuri

Michael Hayden

Michael Hayden

The political terror of Victoria Nuland and Michael Hayden, and Obama cannot, finally, thrive except in a landscape of amnesia and denial. A landscape of multiplicity, where uprootedness and exile become constructs of desire. This links to the quote of Biraghi at the very top, for it seems a crucial and highly significant distinction for aesthetic resistance. For Adorno and Horkheimer, as well as Benjamin, the exile had deep mythic resonance, but also clear political content. For Tarfuri, with his distrust of post modern aesthetics, and his keen sense of an alienated landscape, exile and the nomad were political figures, and his love of the architecture of Scarpa, and distrust of the International style, make him essential reading, I believe, for anyone looking to do theatre. His distrust of Deleuzian desire also harkens back to the austere sober vision of Adorno. And finally, too, of Debord. Today,the erasing of Freud’s basic political pessimissm, has resulted in self-help as self manipulation. It is a very profound mistake to see society as something that effects people instead of something that largely made them.
Teahouse, Wang Shu architect.

Teahouse, Wang Shu architect.


  1. It is amusing to see the way “facts”, once their moment has passed, emerge into an ether of opinion saturated manipulation. In a dream ten years old a plane did or did not hit the Pentagon.

    ‘I would be willing to bet that people say fewer words out loud than they did in 1900.’
    If indeed this is true, I would applaud the change. Most of what comes out of people’s mouths is pfiffle, and the only value of most conversations is reinforcing and bolstering one’s false sense of self–a self made of cliches and clinging to some notion of role, value or worthiness. Even “good” conversation is little more than a support for egoism, whether the content is gossip, opinion, analysis, or a display of one’s knowledgeability. Truly valuable conversations, that further insight and enlightened perspectives, have always been rare, and always will be.

    ‘It is a very profound mistake to see society as something that effects people instead of something that largely made them.’ It’s an even greater mistake to see society as anything more than a dream from which it is possible, if you are willing to do the work right, to wake.

  2. John Steppling says:

    Well, I think the kind of conversation I remember was about a kind of human contact. I think it was part of a daily life of interaction that included people. One bought vegetables or whatever from people, and had contact and such interaction created a level of expectation and comfort for human interaction. And much of it was indeed, perhaps anyway, empty ritual, but even that had some value because it was human interaction. I dont think its progress to speak to machines, which I do on a daily basis more often than talking to humans now. Id say its very elitist to suggest most things that come out of people’s mouths is pffile (good word). But thats neither here nor there, because its not as if people have retreated to meditative contemplation. Community has value, and community is exactly what has been systematically destroyed over the last fifty years. To dismiss the interaction one had with people, is a dangerous form of acceptance of the systematic exercise of control by the state.

    And I suppose I would argue that if one takes the time to write a comment about the worthlessness of ‘good conversation,’, whatever that might be, that suggests that such discussion has value.

    As for society being a dream, Im not sure I even know what that means. Again, such a comment feels very disengaged, and elitst. Even if it is a dream, we all live in it. Even those who call it a dream.

  3. John, first I wanted to say that just because I don’t comment, doesn’t mean I don’t read. I always do. Every single post.

    As far as conversation, I think the effect you’re talking about is two-fold: not only do people speak less than they did a hundred years ago, but also what they’re saying is far less important or interesting. I’m sure that with the mass dissemination of information and “news”, fewer things are communicated within the community. I used to love to eavesdrop on conversations in restaurants or cafes, but now they’re infuriating.

    You allude to Kant’s notion of the mathematical sublime when discussing the government collecting data. It’s really impossible to fathom on a human scale the amount, much less the reasons why. We are becoming less human and more numbers. I remember working in a restaurant as a host and feeling bad about referring to guests as “covers.” Now we’re all just covers, followers, “friends”, viewers, or $.

  4. john steppling says:

    Right…I believe people do speak less than even thirty years ago, actually. Sleep less, talk out loud less, and certainly read far less. Id be willing to bet they have fewer words of a non technical nature in their vocabulary./ And see, I think that when one had to shop and engage in negotiation…..only the very poor in some areas do that now…or in places like north africa and asia…..and probably other areas in Africa and South America…but its a huge part of the culture of Arab countries. Even in Thailand I got to know merchants….and developed relationships. It was barter. Today the bourgeoise in the US is terrified of talking too much to the help. They have disdain for them. Pffifle is all they speak I guess. And its partly just this sense of alienated consciousness, and I think heidegger wrote about the forgetting of Being…..standing reserve….an idea of his….we relate by picking out something from this storehouse of data and emotions and ideas and images. All of it ready to hand. Its pre packaging. And the automobile contributed to this too. Autos shaped commerce and individual shopping a lot, I think.

  5. Fun stuff here, really. First, those needle-fish lipped folk, white men with no lips, some great public art plastered all over the place in my old neck of the woods — El Paso, Texas. You know, the same players in the Contra-Yellow-Belly wars against women, children, nuns, priests. That was the 1980s, and the conversations were based on a fucked up world with USA at the helm of the drugs for contras. I ended going to C.A., got to talk to Robert Parry and Gary Webb. Ended up in Costa Rica, you know, Ollie North’s HQ? But in the cities, Tucson to LA, El Paso to Austin, those four ugly white men in the Reagan administration, White, Pale, Men with No Lips. Of course, there are literally 100,000 of them in and around Washington, DC.

    Back then, 1983-199, conversations were had at the community colleges I taught at, the prison, the university (UT-EP). We had two daily competing newspapers, all sorts of rags and radical journals out there. People showed up, yelled, cussed and talked.

    Now, come on, elitists. I am on my way to substitute teach a second grade class in WASH state. Been doing that for a few months after being laid off as a community college part-time worker because of my “conversations” and one or two students who are beyond entitled and called the campus cops on me for making an allusiion around climate change, population and, no, a solution is not me coming to school with my AK-47 and shooting every second student leaving class.

    Virginia Tech reactions, and the admin class and nanny PC class that have destroyed conversation in public education, well, they rule the roost. So, as an adjunct, I got no Spring classes. No reason, no pink slip, just that incident of one student who felt threatened, and that was enought to get me sacked, but not sacked, since 75 percent of faculty in the US colleges are prefcarious, non-tenure track, Part-time or Full-time. Just put my name in a search engine and tag on “precarious or part-time faculty” in the search engine (sic). You’ll get that! Or, Scoop It, A-is-for-Adjunct!

    Let me tell you how many words people use everyday, from 1983 when I first taught adults to now — it’s small, really small, that vocabulary. Down to 2,000 words used on a regular basis. SOmething like 32,000 words most adult could define and use properly in context. Down from 64,000 in 1980. We have a million words in our language.

    The conversations in schools are limited, limiting and dictacted by law. Warnings about not only high-fiving youth, or hugging crying 2nd graders, but warnings to cover up you tattoos, covering up your history, you writing, your real life in the community. These kids are corralled by a nanny world, set up by the marketers and the political class and the policing mentality of men and women in a a brken society where you can get kicked out of school, community college, for talking about evolution, population change, and solutions that are not BASED on the One Percent and the First World scraping and raping the world for its little time of self importance, self-actualization, entertainment and self-delusion.

    Every single time I substitute — 2nd grade, 4th, 7th, 11th, in math,, music, literature, writing, PE, you name it, the kids hands down WANT a male teacher, WANT someone outside the box, WANT stories, WANT connectivity to struggle, WANT real words, REAL learning, REAL challenges. And, they want a MALE teacher. Few K12 have male teachers, really. Look it up in the Chronicle of Higher Ed or what have you.

    We are cereal box society, blips and screens and now the IT fucks, the coders and their bosses, are looking for eye-ball time, the true tricks of flicking junk, snake oil and propaganda on the screens that the schools are training the little IT nazi’s to bow and salute to: our schools, K12, college, will be mostly on-line, distance learning (sic) in front of a screen, brought to you by MicroSoft/Amazon, GE and Monsanto.

    So how do we reagain the conversations? Sure, sociologists in several countries (in UK recently exposed by National Propaganda Radio — NPR) followed hundreds of people talking on the street, to see if “politics” were important topics of their chatting. Hands down, no. But our the conversations about coughing kids or new produce at the store, or what sort of things are happening in the community with the trees getting lopped off, are those so much less important than White Skinny Lipped Men and WOmen talking about their machinations on how to screw the world?

    Yes, the car has encased people in their bedrooms and rot-gut hate world, for sure. Conversations I hear in the MAX or Tri-Met busses in Portland range, sure, but they are face to face, and evetually their are what were the talk of the campfire. Do we need more to say, more to engage in, more to comtemplate, rather than blip cognition? Of course we do.

    Even the fucking elite, Columbia School of Journalism, through the faculty in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education special on the state of journalism, shows that, in a graduate class, the students can talk like the masters of the universe about the “situations” in China or Juarez or mortgage fraugh or NSA or India for FIVE minutes. You know, blurb, Press Spokesperson style, you know, Power Point enhanced. But when those five minutes are up, in a class of 30 grad students, things trail off and fall off after FIVE effing minutes.

    I call this all part of the shifting baseline disease. You know the idea — baseline in environment means my reef dives off Guaymas when I was 19, 1979, that was the baseline we should be using as a gauge, as a baseline to protect and restore. But, if you are a PhD student now, 2014, diving those same reefs, that one sea turtle and for morays may be orgasm, but the reality is, of course, the 16 turtles and 20 morays and 17 bottlenose dolphins and that riot of reef fish, all of those depicted in my slides, that is the base-lline.

    Death of the humanities and critical thinking by one million commercials and one billion worthless toys of the marketers.

    I’ll leave it to William Worthy —

    WILLIAM WORTHY: “One of the most discouraging things about this country is the lack of critical thinking by Americans. The educational system fails Americans miserably in any kind of analysis of what’s going on. And any government line which is echoed daily by the mass media becomes gospel in this country.”

    “The Ballad of William Worthy”

    Well, it’s of a bold reporter whose story I will tell
    He went down to the Cuban land, the nearest place to hell
    He’d been there many times before, but now the law does say
    The only way to Cuba is with the CIA

    William Worthy isn’t worthy to enter our door
    Went down to Cuba, he’s not American anymore
    But somehow it is strange to hear the State Department say
    You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay

    Five thousand dollars or a five-year sentence may well be
    For a man who had the nerve to think that travelin’ is free
    Oh, why’d he waste his time to see a dictator’s reign
    When he could have seen democracy by travelin’ on to Spain?

    William Worthy isn’t worthy to enter our door
    Went down to Cuba, he’s not American anymore
    But somehow it is strange to hear the State Department say
    You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay

    So, come all you good travelers and fellow travelers, too
    Yes, and travel all around the world, see every country through
    I’d surely like to come along and see what may be new
    But my passport’s disappearing as I sing these words to you

    Well, there really is no need to travel to these evil lands
    Yes, and though the list grows larger, you must try to understand
    Try hard not to worry if someday you should hear
    That the whole world is off limits, visit Disneyland this year

    William Worthy isn’t worthy to enter our door
    Went down to Cuba, he’s not American anymore
    But somehow it is strange to hear the State Department say
    You are living in the free world, in the free world you must stay.

    “The Ballad of William Worthy” from Phil Ochs’ 1964 album, All the News That’s Fit to Sing.

    I will take a million superficial conversations from 3rd graders over tome written by the Madison Avenue-NY Publishing World pukes. Anyday of the 24/7 News (sic) week!

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