Friday, May 29, 2015

Ruins of the past

I think it is useful just to make open the fact that the bulk of both Emotional Life of Nations and Origins of War in Child Abuse are averse, grotesque, offensive, to a good number of psychohistorians. One now knows that if one actually likes these books, hasn’t never though to shy away from them, exactly where one stands. One had been wondering, hearing discussions of changing … of improving childrearing through time, if the full story of what this means is being kept in clear view; or if the matter can only be discussed and explored at some remove ... as if if one actually had to write of possessed mothers seeing demons in their "bad" children and rejecting them only out of that, the game would be up, and all of a sudden the discourse on the matter would change so that Mother is exonerated, and the child, at fault. One would be wondering if the whole subject is being manoeuvred not just to suit the academic temper, but so that if one's own mother espied what you were up to she wouldn't say, hey! you're pointing at exactly the kinds of things I've told you are not ever, ever, to keep conscious of, and you know what’ll result of this, don’t you, young man?, and perhaps just more drowsily say, eh? what's this all about then? before losing interest and digging into her latest read. Whew!

DeMause's theory of gradually improving childrearing, if true, means that a lot of adults have to confront the phenomena of having children before them from whom they actually have more to learn than they have to impart. We're starting to hear a lot of credentialing here on this list  … with space created by Judith to allow that some of those who predominated in the 1960s may not have all what we hope the current field of professionals would possess, but were of such massive, credible depth that they bequeathed great jewels of influence to the subsequent generation of professionals — so they get a pass, and then some! I think deMause helps create the space so that young people interested in psychohistory can take some faith that if they aren't yet possessed of many of the accoutrements of a long professional career, they can also claim some “advantage.” What you may have is the emotional health to be able to sustain a kind of abandonment that would follow pursuing taboo subjects that would blanche most of those, generations past. You may be able to distance yourself from subject matter that had occupied minds for generations, but which were never really worthy of the fully healed, "helping class," homo sapiens’ attention. 

Those at the student paper at Columbia University are insisting that many humanities courses carry "trigger warnings" on their syllabi. It's been getting a lot of press lately. Professors of Ancient Greece/Rome, for instance, are being pressed by students to make clear beforehand that a lot of the texts from their periods carry offensive attitudes towards women, and a casual approach to rape — such as the “wisdom” of reconciling with the rapist  —  as well as a grotesque preponderance of it. They deem this, not just offensive, but hideously damaging ... to them it's like being made to watch a gang rape without a hint of warning, by a professor who’s somehow convinced themselves there’s redemption in the matter (my own personal experience of Anthropology struck me as like this, btw). The famous online feminist site, Jezebel, describes Donna Zuckerberg’s —the editor at Eidolon, an online classics journal — account of the matter here; and sums up her whole field of study like this: 

My subfield inside Classics is Greek drama, and if I wanted to expunge all texts containing triggering material from my syllabi, my classes would consist in me and my students staring at each other silently across a seminar room. Domestic violence, war, rape: these are the foundation of Greek tragedy. And jokes about them are the foundation of Greek comedy.

Euripides’ tragedies are especially full of sexual assault. In the Ion, Creusa identifies as a rape victim, racked with guilt because she initially found Apollo attractive, even though the text specifies that he used force on her and that she screamed for her mother. Euripides’ Trojan Women is the story of a group of wives of dead Trojans who know that they’re about to be divided up among the Greek generals to be their sex slaves. The prophet Cassandra is raped before the beginning of the play by Locrian Ajax in Athena’s temple, and her obvious mania in an early scene of the play could be seen as a response to her recent trauma.

Unfortunately, Euripides’ fixation on sexual assault doesn’t extend to sensitivity about its effects. Tragedy uniformly assumes that these female characters who are given away as the spoils of war will eventually resign themselves to their fate and become affectionate and loyal towards the men who won them. One prominent scholar calls the world of Greek tragedy an example of a rape culture. 

Zuckerberg ends up being cool with students’ complaints, seeing means to go half-way, but the implications of the students being alarmed by something she had accepted, never really thought to question, aren’t really considered. These students have climbed to the level of emotional health that what ought always to have offended — hey, this work of art is full of rapes … why are we studying this? — offends in the way it should, and the professor has massive credentials in a field of study that is beginning to look like it could eventually disappear … eventually, no longer of interest to intellectuals in the Ivy Leagues. What do her “trophies” signify, after all? Accomplishment, or gruesome misfortune: one’s bizarrely chaining one’s whole life to demons in the past, who raped, and raped, and raped; feeling pleasure when one’s own involvement was intense enough that it would be recognized? What was wrong with you? 

The student who wants to respect you but knew enough from all the tell-tale signs to split early and commit to something else, doesn’t want to understand her very beginning as superior to your whole life’s accomplishment, but she can’t hide from herself the conclusion self-respect indicates she keep alert to. The world must be remade. Much of what was once revered, must go. Personal trophies, not even worthy of nostalgia, but of the wayward inflations those of worse childrearing, injected into the objects of their world.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Time for the Anthropology take-down?

I've argued that the implications of Steven Pinker's “Better Angels” looks to be that there is little reason anthropology and Medieval Studies should continue to exist. This was an exaggeration. He posits all the peoples anthropologists tend to study, as well as the entire medieval period, as “id,” which means they had the worst table manners you could possibly imagine, they were gross ... I mean, really, really gross, and about a hundred time more likely to stab a neighbour over a trivial matter as you, civilized reader. But even though these people were to him not making use of the capacity of the brain to still these impulses, they nevertheless represent a manner in which even contemporaries might slip back to if for some reason they let their current focus on reason slip, so in that sense they are still relevant to today. They are part of what ostensibly remains innate about us, part of something Pinker fears, so he allows the same room to study them as he does chimps, who, argue some, kill every outlier from a different “tribe” they happen to meet.  

You go about the web and you get a sense of what anthropologists and medieval historians make of this offering. Their disciplines and specialities, they insist, introduce us to to people who are in some ways superior to ours. These are people, many of them tell us, before the crushing overlay of that devouring monster of undeterred, constant, indifferent-if-not-just-plain-cruel change — modernization. Their "disciplines" are not built about a longing to hide out with a whole swath of undeterred pederast priests in medieval England, or to gain the sympathy of peoples who still infanticide their young and who carry proudly, each one of them, more scars out of mad brutal warfare (Pinker points out that this is changing now more to "local homicide," as anthropologists try to repackage the people they’ve been studying so they appear more local crime-addled than war-driven) than your typical WW1 soldier, but out of a desire to reach out — meet the world outside of our prejudices, that serve to cast so much of the rest of the world in unflattering light. Anthropology, as Brian R. Ferguson, tells us, has activism built in — it’s one of the real good guys, which has been ridding itself entirely of the colonialist impulse. He describes what it was like for the discipline in the 1960/70s at Columbia, where it seemed part of sudden uptake of astonishing human goodness … of a complete shedding of the long-forsaking of the pains and concerns of so many. And when you hear the discipline being grouped, as you do in Ferguson’s account, with the Revolution … with “Black Power, Women’s Lib, Stonewall," you’d have to think that if you’re a radical progressive today, you’ll count yourself for sure amongst those negotiating anthropology and "the world before history” so it’s spared Pinker’s dreadful winnowing. 

Except, when we live in an age where you hear Ferguson’s concerns that much of anthropology could become militarized, lose all the trust it’s earned, and become an agent of god-damned colonization again, as military money beckons to flood the field, and you guesstimate that scholars who find no qualms in accepting this money will probably flourish over the concerns of activist brethren, that they will displace them, ignore them — gleefully conquer them — this may be a time when the savvy young progressive actually holds back her support. Sorry dog! You were my inspiration, but anyone who addles along with you into this fight is just going to end up broken … I’ll save myself for a more sunny tomorrow, thank you. 

I think we are living in an age experiencing growth panic. And what this is again, is when our own incurred societal growth has us feeling like we’ve earned our being abandoned by our mothers (the persecutory maternal alters in our heads). And, in an attempt to be "good children" again, and reacquire her love, we end up turning on those who genuinely most want to avoid our world becoming one of such harshness and affliction it would lead to perfect ground where conservatives like David Brooks argue, "character" might develop. 

We favour people like Pinker, because there’s something imperial if not ideological about him — he steamrolls through his opponents, many of them those one senses most feel the pains of "outliers," people like Noam Chomsky (with subjects of American military domination) and William Deresiewicz (with brutally overwhelmed and constricted students). Stern refusal … excites, as of unflinching parental retribution. Plus he allows avenue, as much as he might deny it, for a righteous war against arising "id" cultures, like perhaps China or Islam (have they or haven’t they successfully "compartmentalized" their more worrisome inclinations? If they haven’t, can they really be allowed to grossly afflict those who’ve arrived at the civilized stage where their "bad parts" are finally under strong self-guidance?). A war against China and or Islam would cost us a lot of young — and this is the second group those experiencing growth panic are going to want seen sacrificed. They represent people with so much capacity to grow — our own "guilty" striving selves — plus as well, vulnerability — the other thing we were when our mothers turned on us, which "surely" is part of the wickedness we must pick on. 

And so we’ll watch as anthropology, "sadly" afflicted not only by some of the most activist and decent professors alive, but with subjects who so readily suggest the small, afflicted, and vulnerable, draw upon itself the most intense of smackdowns. The rightness of ignoring their (i.e. anthropologists' ) guilt trips will first be established. They’ll try and show us as just bullying imperialists, so we’ll begin to enfranchise thinking of them as those who’ve profited for years by putting the truly righteous off balance. We’ll show, like Pinker is doing, that who they may be most intrinsically are people loyal to themselves, quite willing in fact to manipulate how their subjects get represented — be in a sense, casually untrue to them — if it helps them keep their own place secure. So they change from saying they are studying people who are all Rousseauian to arguing that most of them are actually — like all of us — a mixture of both … with the exceptions of a notable number who actually are human perfection (some tribes scattered here or there in the Savannah, suggesting an oasis that might just be "found" for the rest of us; or that lost swath of all mankind that dwindled six thousand years ago but which ostensibly were living peacefully and collectively for no less than a period of hundreds of thousand of years), and so their subjects seem more in-line of what evolving common sense and retained sense of eager hope, will allow for them. They change from arguing their subjects are war-free to arguing that their discipline once made this mistake but has fully corrected this earlier error, thank you, gauging that with this foot put down … internal correction has occurred, so no longer concern yourself with this matter; crowds disperse! will intimidate any further bothersome outside poking around within their field of expertise. 

We’ll suggest that anthropologists are holding us back from what all we’ll need to survive in a world where local tribes might all of a sudden conglomerate into some ferocious ISIS massing that might appear anywhere within our civilized world to do nothing short of raping our women, destroying our cultural artefacts, and cooking us alive, through making any study of a tribal culture that veers pejorative off limits, evil. We’ll need the inside stuff on them to avoid this appalling carnage, and you sir/madam, are in the way of this. 

Revved up, we’ll undercut the shield they think they’ve got comfortably enough in place to protect further assignations for awhile, a block of, have you factored in how you're never studying a tribal culture solo, but always as formed through interactions with predatory imperialist Western cultures? of, have you factored in how all the war-instinct in chimps might be explained simply out of human-caused territory restrictions or artificial provisioning? of, have you factored in how every bloody piece of evidence Pinker puts forward has got significant holes? and take the focus off the war and instead onto what-all has been suggested about how these tribes raise their children — we'll go domestic, when the anthropologists think we're fixed on the political. It’s a focus that’ll come to us naturally — so not really tactics — because the source of this downward, regressive turn in our own psyches, is the abandonment and terror we experienced at the hands of our mothers and fathers in our own lives; and as much as we will be intent to blame ourselves and exonerate them, we’ll just as much do a split so delicious righteous revenge can be partaken in as well. And so the enemy we focus on, will not be the one anthropologists seem concerned about — the savage warrior — but more the abandoning mother, so crass and evil she dangles her children mercilessly over fires and pits … how deMause shows Saddam Hussein, for example, was consistently portrayed before the Iraq War.

We'll look at studies by scholars like Bambi Chapin who seem near tied up in knots as to how to move forward in research when their research seems to be crumbling all around them as something worth dispassionate, disinterested examination ... as something worth studying in any such a matter that the possibility that its subjects aren’t just intrinsically sick, gets allayed, and show that such like her rosy assessment of her tribe's childrearing that morphed into a later assessment of it as really quite frightful, is what you'll find with every tribal culture once the romantic glow that can lead to such glossings of love for incest, and useful boundary-formation for abandonment, is off.  We'll find every kind of empowerment now to go at scholars like Mathieu Ricard, and so face off against his assertion that in many tribal cultures you can find such goodness, such intrinsic sense of cooperation, and such maturity, they discourage the kind of praise that might make group leadership something to compete viciously for, with de Mause's sense of them as just squelched people, afraid to reach for any level of power because their parents terrified them out of making any kind of reach at all for capital acquisition — just evil-stepmother-ridden people, essentially, forlorn of all fairy godmothers. These are kids everywhere that need nothing more than to be rescued, we’ll point out — obviously — and anthropologists have anointed themselves as the proper agents to familiarize us with them ... only to lax around, allow and be indifferent to their squalor, like the worst of self-obsessed provincial administrators, who make fun of "the capital" for being so easily mislayed from ever incurring their natural right to come visit and see for themselves. We'll conclude that what we always suspected — that the reason they've kept tribal so long and stayed a million years' distance from modern medicine, modern dress, modern culture ... from civilization, couldn't have owed to anything good; and judge that you can know what you need to know about a people simply by noting if they bear the outside, extraneous marks of having incurred "their Reformation" … Are they tent people, that have barely begun the human climb, or can you visibly see in their cosmopolitan centres the earnest bustle that energizes all emancipated, modernized people?

They’ll be a fervour. Anthropologists, sensing defeat, committing all to battle. But what we’ll do is take advantage of the fact of a society leaning our way, to go especially arrogant, and CAT-scan whole tribes to see if they’re possessed of the kinds of brains we know can only incur out of prolonged childhood suffering. We’ll show damaged amaydalas, and shrunken orbitofrontal cortexes, in every tribe we scan; we’ll show how well it matches those of CAT-scanned brains of murderersfor goodness sakes!; and we’ll pretty much then nest in total victory … one might hear some brave lingerers-on suggest this too might represent only what-all savagery the West is responsible for, but they’ll be spooked away the moment we compliment this victory with our first threatened proposal of late-night showings of tribal infanticide, or youth-upon-elder New Guinea fellatio … what have you been doing casting these people as those most worthy of your earnest friendship, and of endless, endless, endless defence, all this while? Nothing spooked you out ... Jesus Christ, how can this possibly be?

While this hideous mess is occurring, savvy progressives will be preparing for the world after this period of growth-panic has ended. We’ll actually be pleased that hunting and gathering has been disenfranchised as an ideal … because what we’ll want to take up again is the intellectual energy and excitement of 60’s Berkeley/Columbia, the movement, not just the sitting together quietly on the grassy slope, whittling away the time — we’d had our lost decade, been stilled long enough, thank you very much! We’ll know that the past hasn’t a model for us, and that when we dip down “there,” we’re to be conscious that when we see something that inspires us, it’s not distanced from the familiar phenomena of being able to see inspiring formations even while looking at the mess of a massacre. No romanticization, this time. No fetishes. Just the desire for a better world, and the care to make sure no one out there is suffering … and, quite frankly, much of the jubilant 60's partying, though it seems near shameful to speak of such gleeful matters now.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Reflecting on anthropologist, Bambi Chapin

I was wondering what you guys made of Bambi Chapin's "Reflecting on how we know dreamwork and fieldwork in Siri Lanka," in March 2014, Clio's Psyche. She says that the "miracle" people she was working with, who ostensibly were able to make use of a form of childrearing -- i.e. "giving in" -- that she argues surely leads to spoiled, selfish brats in her own culture, to instead produce older children who were respectful and self-denying, were in fact NOT up do anything we might soon want to emulate. She says she is coming to realize that the reason these children end up becoming, not tyrants, but rather those who so thoughtfully don't bother anyone with their needs, is because they have learned if they do end up becoming "a bother," they overwhelm their mothers, and end up feeling rejected/abandoned by them: they stop asking, that is, because they're scared stiff of the repercussions: loss of everything that really matters to the child -- mom (they don't come to understand borders/boundaries, but just denial of love, is what she writes). She suggests that the fairest way to assess this childrearing is in a pejorative manner (she isn't too pejorative, though: she never considers that the mothers actually lack interest in or do deny their children love -- it's all about  the terrible consequences of the child's misinterpretation of surely benign intent), something she only allowed herself in her dreams, because it's such an insult to the people she's been graciously allowed to get to know, and because it'll lead to the intense arousal of her peers who'd surely scold her over her insensitive Western righteousness. She then concludes by remarking on how much goes on when we get involved in the messy process of ethnography. 

I'm hoping that in discussion of the article, someone mentioned that what she describes as typical of Western families -- that those mothers who give in to their children, spoil them, give them everything they want, produce tyrant children -- is seen as a kind of fantasia on the part of adults by such Western thinkers as deMause and Alfie Kohn. (DeMause would suggest that the person holding this point of view may still not be "helping psychoclass" ... that they themselves have incurred the kind of parental abandonment after self-attendance that would lead to naturally associating terrible things with self-attendance and ideal things with self-denial; Alfie Kohn would argue that Chapin shows signs of a "deeply conservative assumptions about children."). I'm hoping someone mentioned that she essentially makes the Sinhala seem a group of people who are no different from any other engaged in a cycle of abuse, and that it therefore seems inappropriate to finish as she does, by encouraging us to think on the "messiness" of,  rather than perhaps the inherent limitations of, enthnography ... it seems as "avoidant" of what perhaps she ought to have encouraged as the one she highlights as typically used by anthropologists when they begin to doubt the people they've been invited to become intimate with: namely, putting focus on the evils of Western and corporate imperialism. 

To be more blunt: shouldn't she have asked herself if the next step would be to explore other suspicious things about the people she is studying, that she may not allowed herself previously because it would have been pejorative ... like, perhaps, the depiction of feeding, where the mother just shoves food into the mouth of the child, seemingly independent on whether or not the child is actually hungry (erotic feeding)?  Shouldn't she have ended her article suggesting that if there was the equivalent of some empowered UN child services out there, first thing before doing anything further would be her stepping out to make that call? 

And while they separated parents from children until some arrangement could be made so the children don't become those who shape their adult selves out of terrifying fear and who panic when life inadvertently amply provisions them, then she might encourage us to think more on the nature of ethnography. Perhaps even suggesting that if it can shroud a people from immediate response from child advocacy, there may actually be a built-in limit to the amount of respect and consideration enabled by its methods? 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

My very worst day of the year -- Mother's Day

As a mother-hater, my very worst day of the year is Mother's Day. It's awful: all these people paying homage to the women we mother-haters hate the most! So what we've taken to doing is getting together into a maternal cave, and reading things we've written that are so dripping in mother-hate, it's easy for us to imagine it permeating the uterus cave, going through the body public, and causing each and every one of them to die off. 

A contribution will be made tomorrow by my friend, Vanessa Vargas-Cooper, who's actually just posted it at the feminist site Jezebel; it's great, of course, so if you're a mother-hater too, please feel free to read: a Toast to all the Brave Kids Who Broke Up with their Toxic Mothers. 

I'll be reading some of the things I've written for the Clio's History discussion site. I'm just going to pick a couple at random, as I can't remember a single one where I wasn't fuming at mothers while I wrote.  

Then, after enjoying a paleo feast made entirely from ... well, you know, we like to finish the day by paying homage to the greatest mother-hater of our age, the psychohistorian Lloyd deMause. 

We could just read random parts from his work too, because every paragraph contains some wisdom pertaining to our faith. But we often tend to go to chapter seven of Emotional Life of Nations, because its one of the juiciest.

What follows is a partial line-up of what we'll be reading about infanticidal mothers, the worst mothers of them all! who do all their villainy for no reason at all other than their being really mean people who take pleasure in others' misery.


I have termed the earliest mode of childrearing the infanticidal mode
because parents who routinely resolve their anxieties about taking care of their
children by killing them without remorse also convey this attitude to their other
children by demonstrating throughout their lives that their personal existence is not
important to them except as the children satisfy the needs of the parents.

Although anthropologists commonly excuse infanticide as required by
"necessity" and don't count it as part of the homicide rate their informants themselves
report otherwise when asked why they kill their infants, stating they killed them
because "children are too much trouble," because the mothers were angry at their
husbands, because they are "demon children," because the baby "might turn out
to be a sorcerer," "because her husband would go to another woman" for sex if she
had to nurse the infant, because they didn't want babies to tie them down in their
sexual liaisons, because it was a female and must be killed because "they leave you
in a little while" or "they don't stay to look after us in our old age." 

Infanticide by mothers can be thought of as an early form of post-partum depression. Siblings commonly watch their mothers kill their siblings and are sometimes forced to take part in the murder. In many tribes, the newborn is "tossed to the sows, who promptly devour it. The woman then takes one of the farrows belonging to the sow who first attacked her baby's corpse and nurses it at her breast." Pigs, by the way, are
commonly nursed by women at their breasts, then often used for sacrificial
purposes and discarded thus disproving the notion that infanticide is made
necessary because of lack of breast milk. Even when the baby is buried, it is often
found by other children: "the mother...buries it alive in a shallow hole that the baby's
movements may be seen in the hole as it is suffocating and panting for breath;
schoolchildren saw the movements of such a dying baby and wanted to take it out to
save it. However, the mother stamped it deep in the ground and kept her foot on it.


Anthropologists often report the infanticidal actions of New Guinea mothers
without noticing what they are actually doing. As a typical instance, Willey reports
in his book Assignment New Guinea that a group of mothers were gathered outside
the police station to protest some government action, yelling, "Kill our children."
Willey says, "One woman in the front line hurled her baby at the police, shouting,
"'Go on, kill my child!' When the senior officer caught it and handed it back to the
mother, she held it up and yelled, 'Kill my baby.'"  Invariably, these mothers are
reported as very loving, not infanticidal.


Individuals or groups who murder and eat babies are in fact severely schizoid
personalities who handle their own rage, engulfment fears and devouring
emotional demands by either murdering children to wipe out the demands they
project into them or by eating them in order to act out their identification with
devouring internal alters. Indeed, anthropologists are only reflecting their own
denial rather than looking at the evidence when they conclude that the ubiquitous
infanticide in New Guinea is really a good thing for children because then "children
are desired and highly valued [because] there is no such thing as an unwanted

As one step beyond their need to murder children, infanticidal societies are
commonly found to treat children as erotic objects, again in a perverse attempt to
deal with their own severe anxieties, repeatedly sexually abusing them in incest,
pederasty and rape. It is to this sexual use of babies and older children in New
Guinea that we will now turn.


The Sambia, like most New Guinea groups, have prolonged postpartum
taboos that prohibit couples from engaging in coitus for at least two and a half years
following the birth of each child. Anthropologists always portray these postpartum
prohibitions as unexplained "cultural beliefs," as though there were no personal
motive for them, but in fact they are simply practices chosen to express the mothers'
desire to use their children rather than their spouses for sexual arousal. Since a taboo
this long means women choose to have sex with their children rather than their
husbands for much of their lives, it is obvious that they are unable to achieve the
level of mature love relationships, and instead, like other incestuous individuals,
need to have sex with children in order to counter deep feelings of depression. Like
all infanticidal mothers, New Guinea mothers, unloved themselves in childhood,
feared as polluted by her society, devoid of intimacy with her husband, needs her
children rather than loves them.


Since Poole was the only New Guinea ethnologist who interviewed both
mothers and children, he obtained the most complete reports of maternal incest.
Like infanticidal psychoclass mothers everywhere, Bimin-Kuskusmin mothers
consider their babies to be part of their own bodies, "never permitting the infant to be
detached from contact with her body" and breastfeeding the baby "not only on
demand, but also sometimes by force," whenever the mother needs the stimulation.
Mothers, Poole says, constantly masturbate the penes of their baby boys, while trying
not to let their incest get out of hand:


No better description can be imagined of the infanticidal, incestuous mother
using her child as a poison container to handle her depression: mother wants to
annihilate her inner tormentors, she kills her child; mother needs sex to counter her
depression and deadness, she masturbates it; mother is angry or sad, she twists and
hurts his penis.


Children are experienced by mothers as extensions of their bodies, and any
separation or independence is seen as rejection of the mother, as reminders of the
severe rejection of the mothers' own childhood. Mothers do not allow others to nurse
their children, saying their milk is "poison," and even do not allow their one- to twoyear-olds to visit their relatives for fear they would "poison" them. When a motherdies, often the "infant would be buried with her even if perfectly healthy," and if the infant dies, "the mother remains secluded with it for days, wailing, attempting to nurse it," blaming it by saying "I told you not to die. But you did not hear me! You
did not listen!" When infants begin to show any sign of independence, they are
either wholly rejected and ignored or forced to stay still. Typical is the Wogeo child,
who Hogbin describes as often being "put in a basket, which is then hung on a
convenient rafter...or tree" and "discouraged from walking and not allowed to
crawl...[forced to] sit still for hours at a time [and only] make queer noises" as he or
she is immobilized to avoid even the slightest movement of independence from the
mother. Anthropologists regularly see these ubiquitous New Guinea baskets and
net bags in which the infants are trapped and in which they are often hung on a tree
as "comforting," even though it means that the infants often live in their own feces
and urine and can neither crawl nor interact with others. Only Hippler describes
them as a function of the mothers' pattern of "near absolute neglect" of her child
when it is not being used erotically.


This emotional rejection and lack of verbalization has been widely noted
among infanticidal mode parents in simple societies. When the baby stops being a
breast-object, it simply doesn't exist. In my New Guinea childhood files, for instance,
I have over 1,000 photos from books and articles showing adults and children including one book of over 700 photos of Fore children taken randomly so as to
capture their daily lives. Virtually all the photos capture the adults continuously
caressing, rubbing, kissfeeding and mouthing the children's bodies, but only two
show an adult actually looking at the child.


So difficult is it for New Guinea area mothers to relate to their children as
independent human beings that they are unable to feed them regularly once they are
off the breast. Like contemporary pedophiles, they do not so much love their children
as need them, so when the parents' needs end, the child can be emotionally
abandoned. When still on the breast, New Guinea children are constantly being
force-fed, so that nursing "becomes a battle in which the mother clutches the child,
shaking it up and down with the nipple forced into its mouth until it must either
suck or choke." As soon as they are off the breast, however, the mothers no longer
need them as erotic objects, and they have difficulty understanding that their
children need three meals a day.


Throughout the New Guinea area, children are "not only turned loose for the
daylight hours but also actively discouraged from returning to the parents" and so
are forced to join "a transient gang." As is usual in gangs, the older children "lord it
over" the younger, often beat them and make them their servants, particularly their
sexual servants, since they were used to constant sexual stimulation by their parents
as studies have shown, "incestuous children are uncommonly erotic...easily
aroused...and readily orgasmic." Malinowsky was one of the first to report sexual
intercourse beginning at age four in the Trobriand Islands, where "children are
initiated by each other, or sometimes by a slightly older companion, into the
practices of sex," including oral stimulation, masturbation, and anal or vaginal
intercourse. Others since then have confirmed the pattern:


New Guinea men fear women as incestuous,
engulfing mothers whose "menstrual blood could contaminate and kill them." By
raping boys, these pederasts reverse their own being passively used as erotic objects
and instead actively use the boys sexually. Thus the boys become sexual objects
devoid of the mother's frightening configurations, while restaging the maternal rape
of their own infancy. Both the boys and the men recognize the rape as being like
breast-feeding, rationalizing it as necessary for growth, telling the little boys, "You all
won't grow by yourselves; if you sleep with the men you'll become a STRONG
man...when you hold a man's penis, you must put it inside your mouth-he can give
you semen...It's the same as your mother's breast milk." 


The notion that boys must be given semen to stop them from growing into
females has a certain logic to New Guinea people. Like all maternally incested
children, they feel that being used sexually by their mothers "pollutes their blood"
and since the boys consider themselves responsible for the seduction they feel "full of
women's pollution" and need semen to "get mother's poison" out of them. Since as
infants they were used erotically by always being rubbed against the mothers'
bodies, they were intimately familiar with her menstrual fluids, remaining with her
in the menstrual hut, and so an explicit association is made between menstrual
fluids and poison


The ritual both demonstrates "we are all bleeding, polluted mothers here" and
tries to undo the feeling of being polluted by cutting the boys with the razor-sharp
leaves in their nostrils and the cane-sword down their throats. The boys
understandably "tremble, urinating and defecating in fear" during their torture. Yet
the feeling of still being incested, polluted maternal sex-objects remains with them,
since so many continue to bleed their noses, tongues or penises periodically the rest
of their lives.

There's no doubt about it -- Lloyd hates mothers more than any of us, which is saying something, because I've argued in public that the reason for all our current problems is that we stopped burning witches. He is beyond redemption, by even the most wizardly of opponents, who'd have us see him as actually wretchedly full of love for these vile beasts!!! This is why he is our god, our protector, our all. Be with us tomorrow, our one and only ... we'll need all of your delicious hate to make it through the day!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Binding ourselves up in strings

Aliens aren't the only things that threaten the Avengers. By their foes, and by their own members, we hear that they are plagued by many potentially disabling if not deadly things, many impediments, many "strings" — they may have "weak"members, some of them may be "monsters," they may lack cohesion. None of these things are actually problems for the Avengers — more like afflictions they almost gladly take on because each one can be turned on its head, and how. Hydra leader, Strucker, identifies the group as having "weak" members, but Hawkeye's being taken down by a laser shot ends up being more a plot device — it introduces us to the skin surgeon, Dr. Helen Cho, who'll help fabricate the new Avenger member, Vision — than any showing-up of an Avenger weak spot. We remember in the last film he effectively was Loki's own version of an "enhanced" — the key recruit on the evil side — and throughout this film his “bow and arrow" really shows itself as an all-purpose energy weapon, more versatile but just as effective as Hulk's crashing through bunkers, Thor's hard-struck hammer, or Iron Man's beams. The "weakness" isn't allowed to stick — even the idea of him just being flesh and blood, just a regular guy, rather than superhuman, is made to seem an "in," in that he can trump Iron Man's and Thor's party-room discussion of their accomplished cosmopolitan girlfriends with his suddenly revealed secret life of an at-ease farmhouse life, with wife and kids. They're playing at something that he's already got well under way.  

The Avengers are ridden with a monster problem — the Hulk, the — as Tony Stark calls him — "enormous green rage monster." But the film amply shows that having someone who seems to never wear down, who is just as intense at the far-end of a battle as he is at the beginning, can make someone as indefatigable as Ultron nearly just ready to give up — “Oh for God’s sakes!” as he says, when he is humiliatingly tossed by the Hulk out of his getaway jet. Besides, his needing a calm-down after every time he responds to "code green" entrenches nurturance as an essential component responsible for all the team's blasting firepower, something which adds to also-one-of-the-weaker Avengers' — to Black Widow's — throughly essential contributions. They've got a monster-creation problem too — Tony Stark and Banner are responsible for creating Ultron; but by persisting to own their mad scientist status, Ultron in the end is destroyed and the Avengers end up having along their side, Vision, a powerful android that can make the Avengers seem okay, and the Earth still in good hands, even if the like of Iron Man or Thor need to depart the team to attend to personal business.

Group cohesion is ostensibly a problem too — the fact that there are too many independent minds, sometimes in strong conflict: Ultron mocks them for it; foretells their doom through it. But of course we feel that if you can have a group which works made out of strong-minded, independent, and different personalities, you've got something that easily trumps the easy path to cohesion — namely, just having endless multiples of a single intelligence, aka, what Ultron's got. The Avengers are compelling because you never really know which of them might make the unexpected, great contribution, not just because when Thor smacks Captain America's shield and stuns an army of opponents, or bulls-eye aim Hawkeye tosses Captain America's shield to Captain America so he can discombobulate an opponent, or when Hulk impales a large shard into a demonically large slug beast for Thor to tap down into its brain, or when Black Widow goes "domestic" and picks up and returns Captain's shield so he can break up the stranglehold he's caught in, or when Thor distracts Ultron so the Vision can use his hammer to full-effect, you've got things working lock-and-key, synergistically. They're all intelligent, and none of them seem to have a problem voicing their opinions. I myself was particularly impressed when Banner reminded everyone that the witch had gotten inside Captain America too: Captain America never factored that this may have been why he'd accepted Scarlet Witch's apparently rock-solid reasoning that Tony Stark would when alone with Ultron’s intended new form, simply create another monster. Quicksilver's just cutting through the dispute and pulling the power chord, and Thor's returning to charge the Vision's creation, willy-nilly whatever had been going on previously in the room, were thrilling in their way too: sometimes the independent, disparate and/or desperate act, leads to something —  as Thor says about the Tony Stark's effort to yet-again create the perfect AI machine — ultimately very "well done."

Every Avenger member, and the Avenger group assemblage itself, are always redeemed, because this is the humane intent of Joss Whedon — when you feel so much a creator rooting for his creations, loving them, as one does in his products, it misleads to talk of expectations, of formula, because it's not primary. Whedon is kind of the anti-Loki — he doesn't use what he knows of people to hopefully humiliate and destroy them, but naturally wants to see someone raised from whatever status they'd befallen to. He's more like Ultron, actually, at least when he draws out Quicksilver to talk more on his very troubled past — as did Loki with Black Widow, we remember — and soothes the memory by establishing their experience as not just of loss and affliction but of resilience and survival skills: constituents of a solid future that might make up for their harsh beginnings. A good man like that behind this product means that the people who'll have to suffer for all this destructive carnage to come into play — civilians — are going to be thought about and tended to as well. Never before have I seen a superhero or action film where we come to know that the heroes we have before us are constantly thinking of abating the damage done to citizenry. You have a feeling that the creator was willing to resort to an absurdity, to actually pissing some of his fans off, to involve the complete destruction of a skyscraper without a single person getting killed, than find a fitting way for Iron Man to quit the team's most indestructible member, the Hulk, in a way that'd strike us as plausible but that'd involve multitudes of squashed civilians. Since there is a sense in all films that what's going on is "real," then Whedon is going to make sure that the real life concern we all ought to have that masses of civilians getting killed is never just a component of an exciting happening, gets full play. He’s going to make sure that civilians “in the way” are never just felt to be an unfortunate impediment that lucky! villains don’t have to consider themselves with, but a fortuitous constant reminder of the team’s whole point.

What I'm getting to is that, if Ultron's belief is that humanity needs some kind of apocalyptic event to breed a more evolved race of "men," my own role as a single mind envisioning how our world might be made better has me wishing that a huge bulk of the world would get inculcations of Joss Whedon's Avengers on a regular basis. You get the kind of action and delight that a lot of us desire, but then as well all these reminders that the world taking shape before us should and will rightly mean fewer and fewer people we can count as not mattering; fewer and fewer peoples who's suffered plight we in our immature years enjoyed because their suffering misfortunes meant that we thereafter felt less susceptible to the same. If women are in the film, we will see so much focus on them from someone immediately able to relate to them, that we'll grow so that the nature of one's sex will tell you little of how much life will prove an obstacle. The same goes for race — white characters will no longer simply predominate, and so finally a coarse, stifling 1950s vision of all whites, finally ebbs away. Concerning the villains in a film, we'll get a fairer sense of their makings too; feel sorry for them, have sympathy for them, if they can't just be saved — as Vision does beautifully with Ultron in this film. And in the end of all this Joss Whedon' Avengers viewing, some frat boys will come back to their all-white, no-female fraternity, and find the whole concept a bit strange. If they still vote Republican, they're more dismayed now to learn foreign wars mean lots of drone strikes which always seem to hit best all the civilians in whatever country is being invaded, and so are reconsidering this one too. People, regular people, will do the evolving Ultron insists on, and it’ll lead to what he’s hoping for too, but very much more quietly — an eventual end to war. 

But it isn't true that as a doctor I would subscribe Joss Whedon to all my patients, without attending to his mood in any given day. Given certain conditions, what I might end up thereby being guilty of is injecting into them a hot bath of rage. I sense that when Ultron awakens, understands that his role is protection against war-intent aliens, and takes a look at those he’s protecting and identifies them as war-obsessed themselves — as unworthy of even being protected until they dramatically improve — this was an angry turn on humanity's worth that Whedon himself might find himself susceptible to.
For me it explains why he seems to be only able to portray civilians in poses that counter this portrayal of them, that is, as instead always under threat, always weak, always traumatized, always scared, always just grateful for simple rescue— always sort of dismally small. When Banner decides that he has to leave the Avengers and once again become a recluse owing to the world having finally seen the real Hulk, Whedon enters this frame of mind where he suddenly pictures the rest of humanity as reacting in a simple, unsophisticated and ultimately diminishing way: just affront, fear and rejection. I get a sense that he doesn’t want to let the reality in, namely, that if the Hulk actually let loose on a town, but only after being instrumental in preventing terrifying giant space slugs from obliterating our planet, people might actually only ask that more resources be developed to improving the Hulk containment device, “Veronica,” which after all showed promise as an effective rabid-Hulk container. Yeah, the big guy can go awry — but if the next threat to Earth is more terrifying space monsters, he’s on the team — no questions! He wouldn’t let them be capable of this sort of evolved thinking because his humiliating them into the mindset of scared wildebeests is necessary so he doesn’t imagine them as the sort of confident beings whose ongoing accomplishments and lack of sufficient humility — whose lack of “stoppers” — might make them capable of sliding on over into pompous-sinner territory.

One of the taunts/accusations used against certain Avenger members actually aren’t in play only as vehicles to ultimately elevate/redeem them … they reflect, in fact, concerns Whedon has as he himself ascertains the future worth of humanity. I’m thinking specifically of the Captain being identified by Ultron as someone terrified of “real change,” and Tony Stark’s being identified as someone who ignores the adage that “man was not meant to meddle” and instead, well, meddles madly. My own sense that this film’s putting the Captain as the effective leader of the group (Tony Stark says, referring to the Captain, “actually, he’s the boss … I just pay for everything, design everything”) is actually Whedon’s preference. I think it eases him to think of this team as ultimately being headed by someone who prefers brakes still be kept on change — by someone who can’t afford a home in Brooklyn, who is selfless, and who’s view on new technologies, new discoveries, is a wary one, believing that it tempts men into sin — i.e. the first film's, “you should have left it in the ocean.” I think he’s glad that Ultron ultimately settles down into the form of the Vision, so what is in service to the Avengers isn’t the newest thing, set to displace top-of-the-line Jarvis, something overflowing, unaccountable, independent and brilliant, that could hypnotize Bruce Banner back into the enthusiasm of his pre-Hulk-curse years with its promise, but something compact, useful, but not really game-changing. Further, I think he’s glad to end the film with the Vision ostensibly standing up for mankind in way that involves his acknowledging Ultron's argument that they are nevertheless “doomed,” without the accuracy of this estimation seeming questionable or dubious given his, after all, just being “born yesterday.” I think he’s glad that our last sense of the Captain America vs. Iron Man relationship isn’t so much Tony’s “I don’t trust someone who doesn’t have a dark side,” where Captain America looks like he’s guilty of insufficient self-introspection, of just ignoring what everyone else at least have the courage to know they ought to deal with, nor with Tony’s having “owned” his being a mad scientist status rather than being cowed by it and in the end actually creating something pretty great, but rather with Iron Man subsuming himself within the Captain America articulation of the fundamental Avenger principle — that all that matters is that they function together — a repeat of the ultimate playing out of their tete-a-tete in the first film, with Tony there choosing to “make the sacrificial play” that the Captain insisted on, not just finding a neat way to sidestep the problem by "cutting the wire." Whedon likes that the Avengers have all their wild, individualistic “id” ultimately contained and looked-over by an administrative “super-ego” — no change coming out of his creations, will be spared the affliction/humiliation of parental-approval.   

Why? It’s because the number of people out there who can be completely comfortable with absolute progress, where we communicate to people that they should apply no limit on how much they should enrich themselves and enjoy life, is still very rare, and Joss Whedon, though good, isn’t one of them. Too many people empowering themselves like that would trigger a part of his brain to take over, and suddenly he’d see people as the self-destructive, self-indulgent shits that would deserve the universe teaching them some kind of hard lesson. And he understands that the world he is helping create through his empowering depictions of peoples previously stigmatized, shortchanged and stifled, is one where fewer and fewer people are either going to be forced to live cramped lives, or who’ll believe they really don’t deserve much more than this. 

Some people are wondering why Joss Whedon, the freewheeling auteur, would agree to become Marvel Entertainment’s "slave" — someone who’d be bound for years and years by the corporation’s expectations, and who’d have to work in his creativity while meeting every single one of them. Why would he willingly agree to bind himself up in strings? It’s not the money; more what it means to be part of furthering a better world outside of a Golden Age where everything youthful is golden: every step forward you make can get confused in your own mind as an advancement that humanity simply does not deserve. So when you indeed still make that step, it has to feel burdened for it to feel as if it gets to keep its new hold. Otherwise, we have to take a step back, to bleak, compromised, regressive days, of Christmases past. 

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Essays on the Lord of the Rings Draining the Amazon's Swamp Wendy and Lucy, Star Trek, and The Lord of the Rings (and free at scribd...