How Puppets Dance and Rewrite their Strings (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 178)

He wondered about the people in the typical lower-middle-class houses like those. They would be, for example, small clerks, shop assistants, commercial travellers, insurance touts, tram conductors. Did they know that they were only puppets dancing when money pulled the strings? You bet they didn’t. And if they did, what would they care? They were too busy being born, being married, begetting, working, dying. It mightn’t be a bad thing, if you could manage it, to feel yourself one of them, one of the ruck of men. Our civilization is founded on greed and fear, but in the lives of common men the greed and fear are mysteriously transmuted into something nobler. The lower-middle-class people in there, behind their lace curtains, with their children and scraps of furniture and their aspidistras lived by the money-code, sure enough, and yet they contrived to keep their decency. The money-code as they interpreted it was not merely cynical and hoggish. They had their standards, their inviolable points of honor. They “kept themselves respectable”—kept the aspidistra flying. Besides, they were alive. They were bound up in a bundle of life. They begot children, which is what the saints and soul-savers never by any chance do.

Keep the Aspidistra Flying

George Orwell          1936

Cribb Comment: I understand the distinct possibility of my misperception of Orwell’s script, but my take on this passage is that it is as multifaceted and convoluted as the rest of his ponderings. The first half of the paragraph appears to present itself in direct full frontal clarity of meaning. The second half of the paragraph, beginning with but in the lives…, seems to display an intricate dual meaning. Satire dominates this section as the most overt theme of interpretation, but a simplistic face value description of pure relevant quasi-truth mixed in with illustrating how a “delusional norm” has been transformed into the “reality of the norm” for the majority of those of lower awareness cannot be denied. They are “bundled up in life” as they have rewritten life to be, but not as Orwell himself would define true objective life. The same applies to them “keeping themselves respectable in their translation of the money-code”. They are also more likely to biologically reproduce, which “thinkers” and those of higher awareness might be less likely to do as a direct result of understanding the actual and non-bastardized reality of consequence and existence. The “truths” of a delusional norm are still “truths” which most often impact heavily on the truths of shared or communal objective reality.  I can hear Orwell saying “Which is better? Which creates more suffering? Are the collective accurate perceptions of objective reality and the collective accepted delusions of a rewritten and bastardized reality codependent on one another for balancing each other out and assuring the continued physical survival of the members of both groups given the current condition of existence on our mutually inhabited world?” It would seem that until that comprehensive existence is emphatically changed for the entire world, the answer to this last question must remain yes.

Cribb          2017

The Pervasive Myth of Economic Gluttony vs. the Inescapable Context of Humanity (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 175)

The faulty assumption that scarcity-based economic thinking is somehow the de-facto human approach to questions of supply, demand, and distribution of wealth has mislead much anthropological, philosophical, and economic thought over the past few centuries. As economist John Gowdy explains, “‘Rational economic behavior’ is peculiar to market capitalism and is an embedded set of beliefs, not an objective universal law of nature. The myth of economic man explains the organizing principle of contemporary capitalism, nothing more or less.”

Many economists have forgotten (or never understood) that their central organizing principle, Homo economicus (a.k.a. economic man), is a myth rooted in assumptions about human nature, not a bedrock truth upon which to base a durable economic philosophy. When John Stuart Mill proposed what he admitted to be “an arbitrary definition of man, as a being who inevitably does that by which he may obtain the greatest amount of necessities, conveniences, and luxuries, with the smallest quantity of labour and physical self-denial,” it’s doubtful he expected his “arbitrary definition” to delimit economic thought for centuries. Recall Rousseau’s words: “If I had had to chose my place of birth, I would have chosen a state in which everyone knew everyone else, so that neither the obscure tactics of vice nor the modesty of virtue could have escaped public scrutiny and judgement.” Those who proclaim that greed is simply a part of human nature too often leave context unmentioned. Yes, greed is a part of human nature. But so is shame. And so is generosity (and not just toward genetic relatives). When economists base their models on their fantasies of an “economic man” motivated only by self-interest, they forget community—the all-important web of meaning we spin around each other—the inescapable context within which anything truly human has taken place.

Sex at Dawn

Ryan and Jethá          2010

Money is what God used to Be (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 169)

In a crude, boyish way, he had begun to get the hang of this money-business. At an earlier age than most people he grasped that all modern commerce is a swindle. Curiously enough, it was the advertisements in the Underground stations that first brought it home to him. He little knew, as the biographers say, that he himself would one day have a job in an advertising firm. But there was more to it than the mere fact that business is a swindle. What he realized, and more clearly as time went on, was that money-worship has been elevated into a religion. Perhaps it is the only real religion—the only really felt religion—that is left to us. Money is what God used to be. Good and evil have no meaning any longer except failure and success. Hence the profoundly significant phrase, to make good. The decalogue has been reduced to two commandments. One for the employers—the elect, the money-priest-hood as it were—”Thou shalt make money”; the other for the employed—the slaves and underlings—”Thou shalt not lose thy job.” It was about this time that he came across The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and read about the starving carpenter who pawns everything but sticks to his aspidistra. The aspidistra became a sort of symbol for Gordon after that. The aspidistra, flower of England! It ought to be on our coat of arms instead of the lion and the unicorn. There will be no revolution in England while there are aspidistras in the windows.

Keep The Aspidistra Flying

George Orwell          1936

The Kitsch Heart of both Communism and Capitalism (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 161)

“Kitsch” is a German word born in the middle of the sentimental nineteenth century, and from German it entered all Western languages. Repeated use, however, has obliterated its original metaphysical meaning: kitsch is the absolute denial of shit, in both the literal and the figurative senses of the word; kitsch excludes everything from its pureview which is essentially unacceptable in human existence.

Ten years later (by which time she was living in America), a friend of some friends, an American senator, took Sabina for a drive in his gigantic car, his four children bouncing up and down in the back. The senator stopped the car in front of a stadium with an artificial skating rink, and the children jumped out and started running along the large expanse of grass surrounding it. Sitting behind the wheel and gazing dreamily after the four little bounding figures, he said to Sabina, “Just look at them.” And describing a circle with his arm, a circle that was meant to take in stadium, grass, and children, he added, “Now, that’s what I call happiness.”

Behind his words there was more than joy at seeing children run and grass grow; there was a deep understanding of the plight of a refugee from a Communist country where, the senator was convinced, no grass grew or children ran.

At that moment an image of the senator standing on a reviewing stand in a Prague square flashed through Sabina’s mind. The smile of his face was the smile Communist statesmen beamed from the height of their reviewing stand to the identically smiling citizens in the parade below.

How did the senator know that children meant happiness? Could he see into their souls? What if, the moment they were out of sight, three of them jumped the fourth and began beating him up?

The senator had only one argument in his favor: his feeling. When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object. In the realm of kitsch, the dictatorship of the heart reigns supreme.

  The feeling induced by kitsch must be a kind the multitudes can share. Kitsch may not, therefore, depend on an unusual situation; it must derive from the basic images people have engraved in their memories: the ungrateful daughter, the neglected father, children running on the grass, the motherland betrayed, first love.

Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass!

The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass!

It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch.

The brotherhood of man on earth will be possible only on a base of kitsch.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Milan Kundera          1984

 

An Orwellian Bible Study (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 160)

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not money, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not money, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not money, it profiteth me nothing. Money suffereth long, and is kind; money envieth not; money vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. . . . And now abideth faith, hope, money, these three; but the greatest of these is money.

I Corinthians xiii (adapted)

Keep the Aspidistra Flying

George Orwell          1936

The “Common Sense” of Bullies and Over-dominators (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 154)

There was a small saloon in the rear of the plane and I repaired there for a drink. It was there that I met another fellow American, H. Lowe Crosby of Evanston, Illinois, and his wife, Hazel.

They were heavy people, in their fifties. They spoke twangingly. Crosby told me that he owned a bicycle factory in Chicago, that he had nothing but ingratitude from his employees. He was going to move his business to grateful San Lorenzo.

“You know San Lorenzo well?” I asked.

“This’ll be the first time I’ve ever seen it, but everything I’ve heard about it I like,” said H. Lowe Crosby. “They’ve got discipline. They’ve got something you can count on from one year to the next. They don’t have the government encouraging everybody to be some kind of original pissant nobody ever heard of before.”

“Sir?”

“Christ, back in Chicago, we don’t make bicycles any more. It’s all human relations now. The eggheads sit around trying to figure new ways for everybody to be happy. Nobody can get fired, no matter what; and if somebody does accidentally make a bicycle, the union accuses us of cruel and inhuman practices and the government confiscates the bicycle for back taxes and gives it to a blind man in Afghanistan.”

“And you think things will be better in San Lorenzo?”

“I know damn well they will be. The people down there are poor enough and scared enough and ignorant enough to have some common sense!”

Cat’s Cradle

Kurt Vonnegut          1963

 

The Financial Reward and Favorable Electability of a Persona that Ills, Endorses, and Enables (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 153)

My first boss out of veterinary school was a man that I looked to for admiration, respect, leadership, skill, and inspiration. I was hungry to begin my career as an associate veterinarian under his tutelage. At the time, I believed the profession to be saturated by exceptional professionals who prioritized empathy, exceptional knowledge and skill, integrity, and honor towards everything and everyone. I believed that the reward of money would follow those attributes naturally, secondarily, and in a balanced truthful fashion. It did not take long to discover how wrong such a premise had been. It was like that point in time when you finally figure out that your parents are not invincible, that they don’t know everything in the world, that they never did, and that in many ways, they are as damaged and confused as you are in your own childhood misperceptions.

I learned quickly how he polished the image of his ineptitude with insincere charming bullshit spewed towards anyone who would listen, towards anyone susceptible to his tactics of entertaining deception. I learned how much he loved to manipulate clients into spending massive amounts of money for unnecessary diagnostics and treatments when he did not care or even have a clue about the reality of the case. I learned how he lied to everyone about everything; his wife, his associate, his peers, his staff, and his clients. His relentless pursuit, his unquestionable priority, was selling without conscience, without validity, almost always absent of a fair exchange over a service or skill of objective need. Being a veterinarian seemed to mean nothing to him beyond serving as a mask of respectable authority and having a license to ill. I honestly don’t remember him ever doing the right thing even once when he knew that he could get away with doing less. I witnessed overt malpractice and unethical manipulation of clients on a number of occasions, but fearing unemployment, the associated possibility of being blacklisted by him in the veterinary community, and quickly realizing that in truth, maybe there were more of his character types in our profession than mine, I was frozen in indecision, and thus controlled by the fear of him for a time. The truth was also apparent to many of the staff, but like myself, most were also caught in the employer fear trap. To be fair, I suppose others liked his tactics and the emboldening sense that they felt from carrying out his passive-aggressive manipulation and revenue depletion of others. There are always those minions who prefer such a destabilized approach to their interactions with others.

This man became a very successful businessman and eventually was elected President of my state Veterinary Medical Association. He deserves those accolades. They should be acknowledged, but what should also be acknowledged is that you should hope he never tried to diagnose or treat your pet for anything. He spoke bullshit and sappy charm to all of his clients and most of them ate it up. It was/is almost like most people really want(ed) the bullshit, the show, the song and dance. They just want to be entertained and have their assumptions and beliefs, no matter how far fetched or off the mark they might be, endorsed and enabled. It makes me sick to even think about the insanity of it all for too long. I still can’t fathom how the system became so broken that it props up people of that nature to become financially successful and to become esteemed as elected leaders who supposedly have everyone’s best interest at heart. Such a system leaves all of the “patients” under the care of an incompetent doctor of malicious intent whether those patients know it or not.

Cribb          January 20, 2017