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Patience

Patience

by Marco M. Pardi

There….is a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.”

Edmund Burke. 1769.

Beware the fury of a patient man.”

John Dryden. 1681.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

Some who have known me would not couple my name and Patience in the same sentence. I will not disappoint. In fact, my patience has run out. About what, you ask. Actually, a lot of things. This upbringing to be polite, genteel, and understanding is beginning to feel like the straitjacket it is. But I’m not going to rush out and join some loudmouthed group of protesters; largely because I don’t like groups, especially when they are made up of people.

So what’s got me cranked up today? Yet another example of the staggering ignorance, stupidity (I have often previously distinguished between ignorance and stupidity), and group delusions so loved by so many and so damaging to all: the resistance to getting the Covid vaccine and the refusal to wear masks.

As any semi-conscious reader knows, the world is gripped in a pandemic which, by its viral nature, has the potential to turn even more deadly than it already is. Coverage of this virus and its variants is exhaustive throughout all forms of media including that which is factual and that which, especially as funneled by Chinese and Russian provocateurs through American right wing outlets, is counter-factual. I won’t belabor that here. What I will take issue with is the response of the American public.

It has recently been said that the divide currently evident in the United States is not purely a politically, economically, educationally or any other such partisan divide as we so often see with other issues; “Anti-vaxxers” and “anti-maskers” come in all stripes. There is much truth in that. The National Immunization Program, within the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, developed the term “Hard to reach populations” to refer to these people. In fact, resistance to vaccines or preventive measures may be the only thing many in these groups have in common and they have continuously demonstrated that limited solidarity in response to a number of various vaccine efforts.

What is maddening, however, is the tepid response of the federal authorities who, it seems, imagine themselves caught in a jurisdictional quandary centering on federal versus States Rights, States Rights versus local control, and local control versus individual “liberties”.

Many people resent Top Down, so let’s start with Bottom Up. Specifically, let’s look at the concept Liberty (or Freedom, if you like). Liberty, or Freedom, is not just a core value among Americans, it has become an unquestioned mantra particularly among the American Right. Yet, these same people bloviate proudly about Law and Order. What do laws do? They circumscribe and spell out under what conditions certain acts can or cannot be taken. Visit an attorney’s office and what do you see? Bookcases filled with large law books, many of them. It seems liberty is pretty narrow. And what about order? Order is the state in which everyone and everything is acting in accordance with prescribed limits on behavior. No law, no order.

People here complain about driving in traffic. Try driving in some third world countries where people seem to feel free to drive wherever and however they want at the moment.

Ah, but we aren’t supposed to think so deeply. The most respected philosopher of the 20th Century, Bertrand Russell, said: Many people would sooner die than think. In fact, they do.

At the time of this writing at least two States, Texas and Florida, are banning local school boards from implementing mask mandates for children, faculty and staff attending school. In fact, they have outlined plans to financially punish them if they do. Georgia is not far behind. Science informs us that the wearing of masks is greatly supportive of efforts to contain the spread of the Covid virus. Dare we say that Science is a fundamental part of education and that denying science is a denial of education, not politics? What, exactly, do the State legislatures intend to teach to the children if not science and associated rational thought?

The issue of States’ Rights, enshrined in cherry picked readings of The Federalist Papers, calls a simple question: Is the United States a country, or is it a nation? A country is a geographic entity delineated by a border (usually) agreed upon by its neighbors, if there are any. Thus, it is at least as much an external statement as an internal one. A nation, however, is an expression of internally felt solidarity, such as The Cherokee Nation, which holds no matter where the members may be situated. Afghanistan is a prime example of a country; a border drawn mostly by people in other countries who had never been there. And, in this case, as in so many others, the border circumscribes a mosaic of separate and distinct tribes (analogous to States) which only remotely share a vague notion of nation. Is this what it means to have State sovereignty instead of federal unity? Nation or not, it would seem logical that, when the country at large is faced with an existential threat such as a deadly virus which does not recognize States lines, the country must act as a unified entity and empower resources and tactics universally, not adjusted and shaped to the passing political whims of ignorant or stupid State Governors.

Threatening school districts with financial penalties if they impose mask mandates for schools seems eerily similar to threatening police departments with such penalties if they dare to execute measures designed to identify and mitigate drunk driving. Drunk drivers too often walk away from the carnage they have wreaked; unmasked cases of covid do the same.

The political sphere is an obvious and well worn venue for people trying any tactic to ascend to positions of power. Less obvious but plumbing the same non-rational depths, or voids, of the human psyche is the religious sphere, or aura if you prefer. In August of this year two more examples of such common and prolific hucksterism surfaced: A woman who is a nun and an M.D., and an evangelical pastor. The woman, a rabid Trump supporter, claims the “diabolical” vaccines are part of a government plan for “total control of a populace” and induce abortions. The pastor, a convert to Qanon and its conspiracy theories, told his large congregation he would expel from his church anyone who wore a mask. He labeled vaccines a “dangerous scam”.

It has long been held that you are free to be as crazy as you want to be as long as you keep it in your own home and do not harm others. These cases, and many others like them violate that standard. Many of our hospital I.C.U. beds are now filled beyond capacity with Covid patients, over 99% of which had refused the well publicized free and easily available vaccination. This means that other people, with a variety of circumstances ranging from heart issues to traffic accidents are being shunted around in search of other hospitals, even dying in the ambulances as they wait. Many of the Covid patients are running up hospital bills exceeding 1 million dollars while taxpayers pick up the tab, hospitals inflate routine costs to other, insured patients, and insurance companies begin to raise their rates for everyone.

During 22 years of college teaching and 23 years in medical research and applied clinical care I have seen ignorance and I have seen willful stupidity. Ignorance is understandable; I’m ignorant of most things in this world. Ignorance is readily remedied through education. Willful stupidity, which denies undeniable facts and instead spouts “alternative facts” (read: lies) as the previous presidential administration was so famous for, is not so easily remedied.

My suggestions? Present unvaccinated Covid patients with the bill for their hospitalization while denying them bankruptcy protection and garnishing their wages and other income. Where a person testing positive for Covid refuses to abide by mask policies, such as in privately owned businesses, public buildings, and transportation explore filing criminal charges for Reckless Endangerment. In sum, my patience has run out.

Legacy

Legacy

by Marco M. Pardi

I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no super human authority behind it.” Albert Einstein. Letter to a Baptist pastor. 1953

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open for comment.

As Tonio ambled along among the pedestrians next to the street he again wondered if one could determine the country’s driving pattern by the pedestrian walking pattern. Do right side drivers walk on the right and left side drivers walk on the left? Back home some commented on his habitually slow walk. In answer, he cited injuries from a car accident. One which never happened. But those very few unfortunates who had seen him without clothes took the scars as confirmation of the accident. Which had never happened.

Much earlier that morning, after completing a clean SDR, he drifted into a small, empty park. Ahead was a pond and four benches in a row. As he passed a trash container he noted the chalked V on the side, the letter V to everyone else and the Roman numeral 5 for him. Subtracting the number for the day of the week he took off his book bag and settled on the first bench. From his bag, marked with the logo of the university sponsoring his research, he removed his camera and snapped a couple of pictures of the pond. Then he rose and moved to the third bench in the row and set his bag on the ground in front of him. Digging in his bag for another lens, he swept his hand up under the bench and retrieved the numbered key which had been taped there. He pushed it into a slit in the camera case lining.

Being a NOC, he could have no direct contact with embassy personnel and he had to enter the country clean. Therefore, his requested hardware, a Spetsnaz issue SR-1 Vektor using 9X21mm Gyurza body armor piercing ammunition, two extra magazines, and a Vektor specific suppressor had been sealed in a small university logo box and placed in a train station rental locker by an embassy based case officer.

The crowd of pedestrians was thinning as Tonio again contemplated the “national security” importance of his assignment, pushing back the intrusive thoughts of well connected policy makers for whom these executive actions brought financial benefits as well. Just then a little girl, seven or eight years old and reed thin, scampered past him. A few steps past him her skirt billowed as she suddenly squatted. He quickly scanned the oncoming pedestrians and the few windows and balconies facing him. Was she marking him?

Just as he concluded there were no shooters the girl leaped up and kept moving. Tonio came up on a bolus of brownish mucous where the girl had been. As he glanced at the evidence of illness he saw the problem: round, white worms wriggling in the sunlight. He flared with anger. The small ruling class of this country lived in opulent urban palaces, entertained in country dachas surrounded by armed guards, and little girls were sucked thin by worms they expelled on the streets. Unmindful of the discomfort, he quickened his pace toward the train station.

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I consider myself to be a person who, generally, is slow to anger. That may be because, as I have said, I don’t have a fuse – I have a switch. Of course, this doesn’t mean I don’t get irritated. And, unfortunately some people confuse irritation with anger. My irritation shows; my anger does not. I have not tried to inventory what makes me angry. I eschew pedestrian psychology and the latest self-help and wellness fads. But I do know that some things affect me, even to the point of action. In fact, it could be said that writing this compendium of over 250 posts probably arises from a felt need to act, though I by no means intend to flog the reader.

In my Death & Dying classes, even when provided under the designation, Perspectives in Critical Thinking, I proposed that anger is a secondary emotion, arising as a reaction to something else. That something else is almost always Fear. And fear is rooted in the feeling that one is or will be unable to control the outcome of what is perceived to be a developing situation. We dread being rendered impotent and we lash out in what is labeled as anger. For example, I’ve often heard it said that people fear death. I respond, Be specific: People do not fear being dead; they fear getting dead. They fear a process over which they have lost control.

So, in everyday life what is there to fear? What is there that might trigger our anger? When witnessing a harmful process in motion that a person or non-human animal is unable to stop, such as a beating or even attempted killing I have a flash of fear for the victim which immediately triggers a level of anger that manifests in action. I experience true anger. Chief Dan George, a chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, a Coast Salish band in the southeast area of the District of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, is quoted as saying: “A child does not question the wrongs of grown-ups. He suffers them.”

We can internalize that concept and apply it in many ways. I am angry when I read of the so-called Republican Party (in actuality, the American Fascist Party) placing their core value – greed – above the safety and health of our children in the face of the very real threat of Covid-19. Refusing to mandate masks in businesses and schools makes certain that, especially with the new Delta variant, more people will become seriously, even fatally ill and infect children in the process. The Party apparently fears economic downturn more than the long term damage to or fatal consequences for their own children. But we’ve known this for decades. This is the same group that has fought regulation of polluting industries, stalled enhanced safety measures in school buses and private vehicles, stopped common sense measures such as universal background checks for firearms purchases, and has attempted to void the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Agency, the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, the Consumer Protection Bureau and numerous other programs and measures designed to ensure the opportunity for their own children to grow into health adults. And yet this same group wraps itself in the soiled robes of religion as it employs absolutely fallacious “science” to justify overturning a woman’s right to control her fertility, either through contraception of abortion. Why? Could it be because since the legalization of abortion the yearly statistics show overwhelmingly that abortions are the last resort of those women and families, especially minorities, that cannot afford a child, or another child. Keeping this population on the edge of outright destitution keeps them willing to accept working conditions and pay befitting third world countries. All in the name of staggering Greed.

Every time I read of some new assault on the environment, even as the evidence for impending disaster compounds every day, or some new attempt to render entire sectors of the population impotent, such as the Republican efforts across the United States to restrict voting to those who will vote for them I wonder, Do these people not have children? Do these people have special places they go to breathe clean air and drink safe water?

Not many years ago a famous, if uncomfortable question was common: “What did you do in the War, Daddy?” We are in a war. But this is a war like no war before it; this is a war in which we are shooting ourselves with ammunition made of stupidity and greed. Our younger children unquestioningly look to us with trust. Fortunately, many of our older children have seen the march of the lemmings and refuse to fall in line. I recently had the opportunity to speak with college and post-graduate students. They agreed that, even with their powerful and portable degrees, their basic plans were to be quickly adaptable in the coming face of accelerating and fundamental change. In other words, the plan was to have no plan they could not quickly change.

Of course, some say that through government spending we are leaving our descendants a legacy of insurmountable debt. If we continue to turn a blind eye to the current practices this will be true. If, on the other hand, we recognize Fascist practices for what they are we can reverse this. These practices surfaced with the Reagan administration’s attempt at “trickle down economics”, tax exemptions and subsidies to major corporations on the claim that these will generate jobs. There is zero proof any jobs were created; instead, the corporations re-invested in themselves, including the purchase of automation to further reduce the work force. And, of course, these corporations became major donors to keep the political party in power. This is a core principle of Fascism. Another example was the conversion of the federal retirement system from tax supported to a system in which tax money was invested in the stocks of hand picked major corporations and administered by an un-elected, unknown person picked by the administration to choose which corporations got the windfall. This was then used as the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). A core principle of Fascism, yet G. W. Bush attempted to do the same with Social Security. Closing the tax loopholes for the super rich and assessing fair and proper taxation on corporations will negate the development of “insurmountable debt”. But as long as Fascists remain in power the average citizen will pay the price for his own confinement. And Democracy will become a memory.

I’ve always thought “legacy” was something I could define, something I could point to as something I had achieved and could leave to my descendants. Apparently even that has changed. The legacy we are leaving to those who survive our rapacious stupidity is captured in one word: Uncertainty.

Aging

Aging

by Marco M. Pardi

Old age takes away from us what we have inherited and gives us what we have earned.” Gerald Brenan. “Life”.

Ultimately, our lives do not make complete sense until we know with certainty that we are at the very end of our lives. Only then, as we view the finished mosaic, do the pieces fit and tell our story.” Marco M. Pardi

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open to comment.

For most of my life I did not think about aging except in abstract, rather academic ways. As the “One day at a time” mantra grew louder for others I felt no particular enlightenment or conversion; I had already been living that way as what I considered normal. After all, we tend to remember the very few plans that worked out and forget the very many that didn’t. So why waste time planning?

Some would say my lack of planning stems from disengagement or even disinterest in life. That could be. Very few of my early weeks passed without my mother wailing at me about how much she was “sacrificing” for me. The message was clear: she would have been better off had I not been born. Oddly, she was never specific about what she was sacrificing, and I never really cared to ask. I woke up each morning, went about my day, and went to bed at night. If I woke up the next day, fine. If I didn’t wake up the next day, fine. My only plan, if there was one, was to grow up and leave. But don’t assume I wanted to spare anyone the burden of my presence; I just thought being alive wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Some would say that’s not a healthy lifestyle. Why? How about the 100+ men, women, and children who went to bed a few weeks ago and got smashed like roaches on the kitchen floor as their high rise condominium building pancaked? Did they fail to plan ahead?

Becoming a parent, at age 27, brought significant changes. But in a few years came an unavoidable divorce. For the next couple of years I fought hard to gain custody of my daughter, even having an expert child psychiatrist present the court with a thorough analysis showing she would be far better off with me. But, the courts at that time were firmly of the mind that “A bad mother is better than no mother at all.” Over subsequent years I fought through continuous bouts of soul crushing guilt arising from the feeling I had not done enough. Not something a person should plan to experience. But I never had a moment of Oh, what I’ve sacrificed for her.

Oddly enough, while the divorce was progressing I began teaching Death & Dying at the state college where I was on the faculty. It’s often said that if you want to really know a subject, teach it. And Death & Dying is not just about taking your last breath. It includes a wide array of what are called “mini-deaths”: the variety of losses including amputations, loss of function, loss of career, loss of a loved one, and yes, divorce and loss of child custody. Never before or since was it ever so true that my lectures were often talking to myself as much as to the students.

Subsequent relationships, such as they were, were few, far between, and short. My daughter was my focus. Then the best relationship I had ever had developed with a woman a year or so younger than me and lasted through years, huge geographic moves, and occupational turmoil. We never argued. Not once. But uncontrollable circumstances pulled us apart, and she suddenly died soon after. Not in the plan, if there was one.

Today, as a grandfather of three, I find myself in an expanded role. The oldest grandchild is in the top 10% of her medical school class; the next just graduated from college and is in preparation to be a carrier based Navy fighter pilot; and the third is completing college at the top of her class with a major in Finance and minor in Environmental Science. I only half joke that each of them is way over my pay grade. But I can discuss the nexus of medicine and politics, the risks of being thrown into armed conflict on the whim of craven Imperialists, and the perceived gap between what we must do for the planet and what we can do given our cultural values and financial resources. I don’t expect to receive requests such as, Grandpa, tell us how they did it in the old days. The old days are what got us here.

Looking back is a luxury of questionable worth. But I feel one of my strengths is the ability to draw upon intimate experience with and knowledge of real Fascism, not the stuff portrayed in movies. I am convinced that most Americans really have no idea just how close the United States recently came to descending into the pit of Fascism disguised as Make America Great Again. Nor would most Americans recognize the deception once it is in place. The architects of this prison complex have been in place since the 1920’s and the Red Scare and the brutal suppression of the Labor Movement. The descendants and heirs of this vicious group, admirers of Mussolini and even Hitler, are still in place, many in positions of power, and simply awaiting the next opportunity to seize this country and overturn Democracy.

I’ve written several posts on the subject of Fascism and the attempts to impose an authoritarian government on an unsuspecting American public so I will not bother readers with more. I am more interested in devising ways to communicate the warning signs missed by so many in the elections of recent “Republican” administrations. It is far too easy to dismiss old men like me as alarmist and “out of touch”. And, familial loyalty does not always extend itself to serious consideration of every member’s views.

Now, as I’m quickly closing in on my eighth decade I easily acknowledge that I have far more yesterdays than I do tomorrows. And I’m fine with the loss of many activities I so enthusiastically did over those decades. Some of those losses stem from the loss of strength to do them, some from the loss of physical safety in doing them, and some from the loss of interest in doing them. No more maintenance of exotic sports cars, and hurling them around; not even average car maintenance. No more bareback riding of spirited horses (I feel guilt even thinking about putting my weight, average as it is, on a horse’s back). No more home repair when it involves what are now risky or weighty tasks. I’m growing into being an old guy. The one activity I seriously miss is college teaching. Few things in life brought me the utter joy of seeing people, of all ages, blossom with excitement as they entered into new realizations which I, in some way, helped to facilitate. Undeniable medical issues tipped the ethical decision for me to withdraw from that dearly loved activity.

On communicating with the grandchildren about the increasing risks of authoritarian answers to problems which are seemingly insurmountable any other way there is an understandable voice which says, Do what you can to facilitate understanding of authoritarianism, prepare them to survive if it comes to that, and accept the reality that some things are just not within your control.

Okay. Each of them is more than demonstrating that they are unusually intelligent, and their parents are both stunningly intelligent. But is intelligence a broad enough tent to protect and empower them should an entire society veer toward the worst manifestations of social control? And who said everyone’s life is supposed to be happy? One man’s heaven is another man’s hell.

A metaphor might help: Martial artists are rigidly trained to advance in their sport against combatants who are also rigidly trained to adhere to the rules. Real fighters are flexible in their ability to recognize and overpower those who do not adhere to the rules. The past four years of chaos and turmoil in the American government, from State to federal level, awakened us to the vicious, demented motives and actions of those who feel rules apply only to others. The United States came far closer than ever before, and far closer than most people seem to realize, to losing its democracy to a totalitarian dictatorship. The neo-Fascists, masquerading as “Republicans”, are still in positions of significant power, simply awaiting their next opportunity to try again. Those of us who feel we do not live simply for our own passing pleasures must act to facilitate understanding among the generation coming of age in this most risky of times. I’ve always bristled at that phrase, productive citizen. Being an old guy doesn’t mean being unproductive. Not at all.

QoD

Ultimately, our lives do not make complete sense until we know with certainty that we are at the very end of our lives. Only then, as we view the finished mosaic, do the pieces fit and tell our story.”

Marco M. Pardi

Cultural Relativity

Cultural Relativity

by Marco M. Pardi

The degree of tolerance attainable at any moment depends on the strain under which the society is maintaining its cohesion.” George Bernard Shaw.

We are none of us tolerant in what concerns us deeply and entirely.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are open to comment.

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One of the most common misconceptions about Anthropologists is that they are open and accepting of all forms of human behavior, especially if these behaviors can be subsumed under “culture”. I have encountered this mistaken attitude in the general public as well as in college classrooms. Typical statements have been, “I would have liked to be an Anthropologist but I have certain ideas of right and wrong and I would not be able to keep my mouth shut.”

Well, readers of this site must have by now gained the impression that I, too, have certain ideas of right and wrong. The issue is not whether I have principles, it is whether I can keep those principles from influencing my observations of and conclusions about others. Certainly there have been times when I wanted to intervene and stop some culturally approved behavior. And I have always held strong opinions about certain practices. But an Anthropologist must always be mindful that he or she is almost always a guest of the population being studied. Being openly critical of practices may result in failure to gain cooperation, at best, and expulsion, at worst.

Readers know my feelings about how humans interact with and treat non-human animals. But just to balance the score sheet somewhat, I would also take strong measures against FGM, Female Genital Mutilation. But before going into a village and cutting throats among the practitioners it’s always wise to ask what’s going on. Who are the women who are cutting the clitoris and sometimes the clitoral hood out of young girls, and why are they doing it. It turns out most of the cutting is being done by the mother of the girl, a woman who has had the procedure done to her. When asked why they would do this to their own child the universal answer is, “Without it they would never be accepted in marriage.”

Now we might think freedom from being bartered into a marriage is not a bad thing. But in the majority of societies wherein this is practiced there simply is no culturally accepted status for an unmarried girl over a certain age. Her options would be: domestic slavery (not much different from marriage), if that is even possible, or leaving the society to become an eventually diseased prostitute in a large city or a rural truck hub. In other words, it’s not just mothers wanting to do to their daughters what was done to them. It’s the men in the society who think that a woman deprived of her ability to enjoy sex will not wander and thereby get pregnant with another man’s child. A female is often viewed as a domestic servant and as a brood mare, not a romantic partner. Changing this behavior, then, would take more than just forcing the women to stop; it would require a major change throughout the culture.

Although there is a branch of Anthropology called Applied Anthropology, traditional Anthropology seeks to observe, learn and understand, not seek change. Practitioners of Applied Anthropology face stiff ethical examination when presenting their rationale for “social or cultural engineering”.

Of course, the potential for change is inherent in every interaction Anthropologists have, especially with societies relatively or completely untouched by outsiders before. They are as curious about the Anthropologist as the Anthropologist is curious about them. And, there have been occasions when Anthropologists took direct action to effect or to curtail change, such as in war. During WWII several highly ranked and established Anthropologists joined the OSS, parachuting deep into enemy held territory to organize and empower local resistance. They may have set the example for President John F. Kennedy when, anticipating the wars of the future, he designed and chartered a small organization of elite soldiers, specially trained in basic field medicine, linguistics, observation and analysis, and particular cultural negotiation – about half the Master of Arts in Anthropology curriculum at an upper tier graduate school. Instead of caps and gowns they were issued Green Berets and full survival gear, to be known from then on as “Armed Anthropologists”. Their mandate was to win “hearts and minds”, not take scalps; they were the OSS reborn.

This development was complicated by another organization developing in parallel: the Peace Corps. While both organizations ran counter to the traditional Army model of bomb everything and roll tanks over the remains, the Peace Corps was frankly dedicated to cultural change, to showing people a “better way”.

Although I met some Peace Corps veterans the only active members I met were in a contingent that was granted permission to speak to the Doctoral program in which I was enrolled at the time. We were polite to them. Most of the time. In fact, among our small number of Doctoral candidates at an upper tier university we had two young, freshly minted Jesuit priests. Mistakenly thinking they would learn useful tactics to employ in their upcoming missionary work they had transferred from the nearby Catholic university to ready themselves for saving exotic people from the errors of their ways. They lasted less than one semester.

But in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s a perfect storm was upon us. Military and civilian personnel returning from Korea brought with them their exposure to and subsequent interest “Eastern religions”, the Puritanical repression of 1950’s America was weakening, the Draft was draining American blood into SouthEast Asia and many were coming back addicted to opiates, Civil Rights were being forcefully asserted, hallucinogens were commonplace and four English kids led a British re-invasion of the United States. I got fewer questions such as, “You want to study dead Indians!?”

This storm brought a surge of interest in Anthropology. University classes filled and expanded with young people wanting to explore other cultures, travel the world, and maybe find themselves. Institutions became more aware of the relevance of and potential uses for Anthropology. Not to be left out, the Intelligence Community absorbed many as analysts, case officers, and NOCs (Non-Official Cover). NOCs were embedded across the spectrum of public and private institutions, businesses, colleges and universities, and medical and other science institutions especially where sudden and unexpected travel was not unusual. Very specialized NOCs, such as those with an established Anthropology legend, could respond and resolve matters anywhere on an ad hoc basis; they were “just doing research” as they moved about on Tourist papers.

But while the dons of academia retained much of their reticence toward such “extra-curricular” activities, they also offered little comfort to Anthropologists having second thoughts about their activities and who were the ultimate winners and losers. Of course, most activities entail the gathering of information (Intelligence), but there are those cases which call for direct action. Still, even something like “outing” Valerie Plame, a covert operations officer, has consequences. Hostile powers are quick to review every one of her contacts, no matter how seemingly innocuous, and subject them to harsh interrogation or worse. And this can extend to their families as well through something as simple as cutting off all their financial support and chances for future employment. Should the children inherit the sins of the father?

In 1976 President Gerald Ford issued a prohibition of any U.S. government employee engaging in a political assassination (Executive Order 11905). Every President since has reaffirmed the order (for example, Reagan: Executive Order 12333). It therefore remains unclear whether Reagan (1986) or Clinton (1998) got around it by a policy only later articulated openly by George W. Bush. George W. Bush issued a Presidential Finding which declared certain targets to be military or terrorist targets, not political. Open season.

Most Anthropologists gravitate into more mundane careers, usually connected with some form of trans-national business. With the increasing sensitivity to diversity in the workforce they may be key players in Personnel departments, ensuring friction free accommodation to cultural differences among employees. They may be analysts and/or negotiators of trans-national interactions. Or, they may be advisers to the company advertising and public relations departments. But here, too, the best intentions can meet obstacles. While women in the workforce, including senior executive positions, may be “normal” in the home society of the company, this may not be easily acceptable in some cultures especially when women have supervisory power over men. Even in the most developed nations we still hear, “She slept her way to the top.”

The Western World is now aflame with controversy over “Critical Race Theory”. Okay, I will keep silent over the use of the word race; that’s another story. For that matter, at this point I cannot support the use of the word theory either. But that is what happens when concepts drift into or arise from poorly educated minds.

Cultural relativity is usually thought of in contemporary terms, what those other people are doing now. But a slight shift in perspective enables us to see how people look back to previous eras, even to recent times, and try to explain and excuse beliefs and practices that would be anathema now. I suggest the far more uncomfortable perspective is that from which we view our current actions and ask how our descendants, even the next generation will view us and our beliefs and actions as we forcefully attack science on every front in our self-absorbed voracious lust for “the good life”. Will we have set the stage for them to enjoy this dream world we cling to? Will there be apologists who try to explain that we were just acting according to our culture? Or will they spit on our graves. Those of you who have read this far have made a statement, albeit within you. Please accept my request to voice this statement and write a comment.

QoD

I think the idea of manifesting a future is a misunderstanding of the nature of time. We are always, ever have been, and ever shall be a mosaic, our attention drawn from piece to piece in what deceptively seems to be a chronology.

Marco M. Pardi

Marco M. Pardi QoD:


I don’t need to pick the flowers to enjoy the garden.”

1976

Marco M. Pardi QoD:

“Creativity is just inventiveness wearing lipstick.”

6.16.21

Marco M. Pardi QoD:

“The brain is a filter which enables us to focus on what is necessary for keeping the physical body alive, and in a dimension which makes sense to a physical being. The mind is limitless.”

3.19.21

Creativity

Creativity

by Marco M. Pardi

When Alexander the Great visited Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for the famed teacher, Diogenes replied: ‘Only stand out of my light.’ Perhaps some day we shall know how to heighten creativity. Until then, one of the best things we can do for the creative men and women is to stand out of their light.” John W. Gardner.

To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.” Albert Einstein

“A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” William James, MD. On Thinking. Lecture. 1907

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Since my childhood was dominated by religious people who droned on and on that “God created everything, from nothing”; that we are all “God’s creatures”; and, that we should appreciate “creation” I’m inclined to react with gale force flatulence on hearing anything rooted in “creation”, creativity included. But of late I’ve softened my views, holding the ill winds in abeyance.

I still bristle at the suggestion of something from nothing since quantum mechanics do support my philosophical insistence that the presence of a state, such as nothingness, demands and therefore manifests the co-existence (even if undetectable) of somethingness, the classic Hsiang Sheng (Mutually Arising) of Tao. Thus, the assumed pre and post relationship of one to the other is negated, each by the concurrent presence of the other; At Onceness is manifest.

These thoughts on the nature of being are most commonly associated with philosophical discussions, often going until the morning light. But while many discussion participants cite – or drop, depending on your perspective, famous philosophers’ names, increasing numbers of scientists are making their presence known in ways more rooted in their philosophical origins. This should not be surprising. After all, until very recently in our history what we call science was known formally as philosophy.

One such philosopher/scientist I have been revisiting is William James MD Harvard (1842 – 1910), considered the Father of American Psychology. A recent book spoke of the people you would want to meet “in heaven”. James and I agree there is no heaven, but I sure would want to spend some “time” in discussion with him.

James saw the self as a composite of four elements: the Material Self, things that identify a person; the Social Self, the various roles we adopt; the Spiritual Self, our core identity; and, the Pure Ego, the soul or mind. Of these four, the Pure Ego is the most inaccessible to scientific analysis. And while creativity, if loosely accepted as the presentation of new and even unique features, can be accepted in any of the other three elements, its origins lie in the Pure Ego. This position then challenges the apparently presumptuous act of judging someone’s creativity.

For example, in prep school and undergraduate college my Humanities classes included sections on “music appreciation”. I very certainly appreciate certain music, but I am utterly unable to grip how and why a person devises sounds the way they do. I could not appreciate what a composer was supposedly trying to convey. I knew only what I liked, and disliked. The same held for the visual arts and I have often wondered at the commentary from fellow gallery visitors as they viewed what I had assumed were the same paintings I had just seen. In fact, I asked art professors and artists I knew how anyone could judge art. Invariably, they pointed to technique. But I felt this did not address “creativity”.

But the worst affronts came in my college literature classes. The class was challenged to identify the “Christ figure” in each of the assigned literary works. While others debated I repressed the urge to ask: Did anyone contact the author and ask? I could just imagine the authors’ response: WTF are you talking about?! And, when I asked how certain famous writers could get away with such miserable grammar I was told, It was their style. So why test for grammar at all?

James excoriated organized religion, Charles Darwin, and Sigmund Freud, religion for its sellout to autocratic politicians, Darwin for failing to counter the Tooth & Claw ethic which gave rise to Social Darwinism and the ethic of a pointless universe, and Freud for his abysmally unscientific presumptuous hierarchy of Super Ego, Ego and Id. The Darwinian and the Freudian schools were both based in an inescapably negative view of human action, the former in mechanical determinism, the latter in the cursed birthright of aggressive instincts and drives.

While in graduate school I maintained my cross-cultural interest in how cultures devise religious delusions and I applied myself to studies of evolution and genetics. Unfortunately, the internationally famous professor, Dr. Jules Henry, under whom I had come to study Psychological Anthropology lingered and died after a major stroke and the other significant professor, Dr Pertti Juto Pelto, returned to Cornell. As a University Scholar, Research Assistant, and Teaching Assistant I continued their work and took the opportunity to meet with a practicing Freudian Psycho-Analyst in St. Louis. Although she fully informed me of the principles and techniques underlying her discipline I left her company with a certainty that Freud had serious issues and that my imaginary Id was not plotting to draw me into varied and nefarious bumfuckery.

James, however, seemed onto something. Among the first to separate mind from brain, he proposed mind as an amorphous field-like entity capable of exchanging information with other minds, even unknowingly. This immediately put sense to the word inspiration, deriving literally from the idea of some thoughts coming in through infusion from an immaterial (spiritual) source. Okay, here some may want to imagine a God whispering in the ear. I do not. But we certainly have examples of “coincidence”, such as Darwin and Wallace independently and simultaneously coming up with evolution from “lower to higher” life forms.

James also explored visualization, the effect the mind has on the universe of probabilities. That is, the role of the observer in the manifestation of the observed. In this he was perhaps a century ahead of modern physics. Just for fun, consider Edgar John Rubin’s Ambiguous Figure Vase.*

As an observer, what do you see? Have you created two faces, or one vase? And who can say your choice is incorrect?

Of course, just as Social Darwinism arose from Darwinian evolution and pop psychology from Freudian fantasies, the Visualization fad arose from James’ insights and the growing realization of the observer effect which was becoming obvious in physics. The Creative Visualization Workbook : Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life by Shakti Gawain became one of the more influential books in this development. Since its publication I have wondered how many purchasers have tried to visualize getting their money back. The take away is: Imagining doesn’t make it so. Staring at your bank balance will not enable you to pay the mortgage.

The saying, “There’s nothing new under the Sun” recently gained new life with the publication of Biocentrism : How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the True Nature of the Universe by Bob Berman and Robert Lanza. Saying essentially that all life forms are of equal moral standing and that life creates the universe, Biocentrism is fundamental to several ancient and current religions, Jainism the most pronounced. Yet Biocentrism relies heavily on our quickly growing understanding of quantum mechanics and theoretical physics. In ways it is also dependent on the insights of William James, proposing the interconnectedness of all life consciousness such that particular and specific origins for ideas, or “creations”, are difficult if not impossible to ascribe. It is the umbra surrounding the person who, when asked how he or she arrived at a particular inspiration simply says, “I don’t know. It just came to me.”

Nonetheless, we still reward what we call creativity. Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemical engineer who combined existing elements and invented dynamite, established the foundation which awards prizes across a broad spectrum of fields. But are these given for creativity or for inventiveness? If we distinguish these concepts by saying inventiveness is the reconfiguration of existing elements into a new package which can be used in a way the pre-existing elements could not, should there not be equal credit given to the existence of the elements? For example, words are elements. They exist. Is the Nobel Prize for Literature an award for inventiveness or for creativity? Does a visual artist merit a prize for arranging perceptible elements creatively or inventively? And upon what basis do Juries, whether for literature or visual art, make their award selection? Who, with anything greater than their own subjectivity, can tell you your painting is amateur or your short story is nonsense? And by the same token, who can tell you your work is creative?

I’ve often said, If you are willing to take the credit you should be willing to take the blame. The same holds true when understanding one’s role in the unfolding of the universe.

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