Chiefs, Indians, Slavery & Tocqueville

Leonard R. Rogers was the subject of a 1954 article called “Boss Of Million Dollar Firm At Age Of 21 Is No Pipe Dream.” Rogers, whose company was responsible for 75 per cent of America’s business in tobacco pouches, was radically revamping the mega-corporation. When Rogers took over the company founded 50 years earlier by his grandfather he quickly realized that some of the long time company executives knew nothing about anything that was happening outside their department (bubble). Thus, he made the decision to re-organize the company by rolling heads and dissolving positions, i.e. Too many chiefs and not enough indians.

Catalan human-towers

Human towers in the traditional Catalan Festival

Too many chiefs and not enough Indians” was also the phrase my father liked to use. When we were down in Brazoria County, Texas, working my paternal grandparents cattle and land during one or two of the 3-4 holidays of the year, every one of my cousins, myself, and all my uncles and one aunt of the family had/wanted to accomplish all the needed and necessary work and never-ending repairs as efficiently as possible given the usually short few days everyone had while there. With so many cousins running around wanting to play or do our own “work tasks,” that was when he’d often use the phrase on us. I have to note here, however, that with his family the chief-indian concept reflected more the later 1996 concept “It Takes A Village” by Hillary Clinton. His family had rotating or periodic leadership and supporting roles. Everyone had to do and know all positions and their functions. Dad said it many times during my school and select-league soccer games he’d attend when we’d play bad or lose.

In the exceptional 2008 animated film WALL-E, Earth has become a trashed garbage planet due to unfettered free-enterprise which led to human hyper-consumption of everything corporate manufacturers and retailers convinced and sold the poorly educated masses they HAD to have to be “truly happy.” The upper-echelon executives left Axiom starliner people_1Earth on giant starliners and charged lower-echelon humans the same type of prices they charged for all their earthly GNP goods. As a result of the never-ending, rising land-fills from impulsive, Keeping Up with The Jones consumers they ironically created, Earth was no longer inhabitable. The starliner Axiom returns to Earth to retrieve another garbage compactor EVE that is not functioning. WALL-E becomes a stow-away onboard the Axiom and when he finally sees his predecessors/creators, humans. Every single one of them are grossly obese, immobile, and totally dependent on automation to do everything for them — the consequence of widespread chief-dome and no one wanting to rotate into the support roles, the blue-collar roles, the farmer roles, the plumber and garbage roles, or janitor roles. The ‘indians‘ roles.

All the chieftain-humans on the starliners had become slaves to convenience, leisure and having anyone or everything robotic perform all the daily, humdrum labor they themselves were too lazy to do. It was below them and their pay-grade.

Slavery. Oh the irony. In 1835 Alexis de Tocqueville, a French historian and political scientist, wrote a book about the young United States of America while examining a spreading trend of democracy and equality in Europe as well as North America. The book was Democracy in America and Tocqueville was intrigued by America’s system of governing and its nurturing of individualism. He thought the U.S. was a leading example of liberty, equality, a stable economy, and governing in action. He noted too how popular its churches were to social life. Yet, with all those “good marks,” he couldn’t help but notice how a freedom-loving nation despicably treated Native American Indians and African slaves. With all the theoretical perks of democracy, capitalism, and individualism, Tocqueville warned that too much equality would or could lead to intellectual dilution and a mediocrity of majority rule. Regarding independent, provocative thought, theory, and debate he wrote:

The majority has enclosed thought within a formidable fence. A writer is free inside that area, but woe to the man who goes beyond it, not that he stands in fear of an inquisition, but he must face all kinds of unpleasantness in every day persecution. A career in politics is closed to him for he has offended the only power that holds the keys.

alexis de tocquevilleOn the other hand, the pendulum can swing too far the other way to plutarchy and oligarchy if there is an insufficient, low-quality public education system and lack of economic opportunities/mobility to hedge against such tyrannies. If or when that occurs, some “individualized” Americans independently wealthy and above a struggling majority — what is currently the case in America today — often have the delayed pragmatic realization that looking after the welfare of others is not only good for the soul, but actually is equally good for their business and wealth. Those individualized elite who never realize this profound truth, eventually watch their empire and ivory towers crumble. Just ask the Roman Empire’s aristocracy, ask the 18th century opulent French monarchs such as Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, or ask those executive heads of Leonard R. Rogers’ mega-tobacco corporation, or let’s ask a modern, Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz:

The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this has been something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Often, however, they learn it too late.

Tocqueville had a lot to say about the bright and dark sides of “democracy” in 1835. I think he still has a lot to say about it today, along with WALL-E, Leonard Rogers, and my Dad. Everyone deserves the right to be well-educated, helped and prepared by a team/village for their rotation as a chief and as an indian. When you stand-in and walk in someone else’s shoes, that is when understanding begins. That is when appreciation begins. That is when compassion and empathy begins. That is when true empowerment with humility begins.

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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The Bastard Muses

Democracy. What does it mean? The Oxford-English dictionary defines democracy this way:

1.0 — A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives. (1.3) The practice or principles of social equality.

Yet, it is more than that. In fact, it is a LOT MORE than that. Stanford University in a 2004 lecture for humanistic studies breaks down democracy with four pivotal elements.

  1. A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.
  2. The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.
  3. Protection of the human rights of all citizens.
  4. A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.

It is #3 that is the focus of my post here. But it is not the advocacy of “protection” that I’m going to address. I like a process I sometimes call Reciprocal Comprehension, or examining the positive and negative aspects of an image, in this case principles. Here is Stanford’s breakdown of #3…

  • In a democracy, every citizen has certain basic rights that the state cannot take away from them.
  • These rights are guaranteed under international law.
  • You have the right to have your own beliefs, and to say and write what you think.
  • No one can tell you what you must think, believe, and say or not say.
  • There is freedom of religion. Everyone is free to choose their own religion and to worship and practice their religion as they see fit.
  • Every individual has the right to enjoy their own culture, along with other members of their group, even if their group is a minority.
  • There is freedom and pluralism in the mass media.
  • You can choose between different sources of news and opinion to read in the newspapers, to hear on the radio, and to watch on television.
  • You have the right to associate with other people, and to form and join organizations of your own choice, including trade unions.
  • You are free to move about the country, and if you wish, to leave the country.
  • You have the right to assemble freely, and to protest government actions.
  • However, everyone has an obligation to exercise these rights peacefully, with respect for the law and for the rights of others.

[emphasis mine]

There is also an inferred responsibility to all law-understanding and law-abiding citizens to be informed about and keen enough to understand the difference between rhetoric/propaganda and facts/truths regarding a subject. Just because someone has the right to say whatever they want, however they want, doesn’t make it right or true. Each of us, me included, are responsible to discern what the real facts are or what the probable or highly probable facts and truths are so as to properly identify bastard muses.

nine muses

Cleanth Brooks is often referred to as one of the Fathers of New Criticism. He also is credited for composing formalist criticism of literature and poetry. While being the keynote speaker at the 2011 convention of History Makers in New York City, Bill Moyers spoke these words about literature, journalism, Cleanth Brooks, and to modern social-media:

…while “most of us like to believe that our opinions have been formed over time by careful, rational consideration of facts and ideas and that the decisions based on those opinions, therefore, have the ring of soundness and intelligence,” the research found that actually “we often base our opinions on our beliefs … and rather than facts driving beliefs, our beliefs can dictate the facts we chose to accept. They can cause us to twist facts so they fit better with our preconceived notions.”

These studies help to explain why America seems more and more unable to deal with reality. So many people inhabit a closed belief system on whose door they have hung the “Do Not Disturb” sign, that they pick and choose only those facts that will serve as building blocks for walling them off from uncomfortable truths.

[…]

George Orwell had warned six decades ago that the corrosion of language goes hand in hand with the corruption of democracy. If he were around today, he would remind us that “like the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket,” this kind of propaganda engenders a “protective stupidity” almost impossible for facts to penetrate.

[…]

The late scholar Cleanth Brooks of Yale thought there were three great enemies of democracy. He called them “The Bastard Muses”: Propaganda, which pleads sometimes unscrupulously, for a special cause at the expense of the total truth; sentimentality, which works up emotional responses unwarranted by, and in excess of, the occasion; and pornography, which focuses upon one powerful human drive at the expense of the total human personality. The poet Czeslaw Milosz identified another enemy of democracy when, upon accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature, he said “Our planet that gets smaller every year, with its fantastic proliferation of mass media, is witnessing a process that escapes definition, characterized by a refusal to remember.” Memory is crucial to democracy; historical amnesia, its nemesis.

Against these tendencies it is an uphill fight to stay the course of factual broadcasting.

I would like to personally clarify Brooks’ three bastard muses of broadcasting, or social-media, and Milosz’s amnesia muse on democracy, and modernize, more specifically distinguish, those bastard muses as opposed to the nine inspirational Greek muses.

Propagat Bastard

Propagat, or propaganda, is as most of you know a selling, marketing, or diffusion technique of hype and/or disinformation of an ideology, cause, product, or service that may not necessarily be factual or truthful. Who or what can you name, past or present, that was a masterful or sinister propaganda machinist? Here are six rules-of-thumb from one of history’s most successful propaganda campaigns by one of the world’s most elite, most notorious propagandist:

  • Propaganda must be carefully timed, reaching its audience ahead of competing propaganda.
  • Propaganda must have a theme that must be repeated over and over.
  • It must label events and people with distinctive phrases or slogans.
  • It must evoke the interest of the audience.
  • It must diminish anxiety.
  • It must be transmitted through an attention-getting communications medium.

Who was this elite propagandist? He was Nazi Germany’s and Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. He was also primarily responsible for much harsher discrimination policies across continental Europe including the extermination of Jews in the Holocaust. This is the power of unchallenged, unscrutinized propaganda.

Addendum — The Pink Agendist below in comments offered an exceptional article that further reveals the spine-chilling, remarkable power of propaganda. I highly recommend reading it. Thank you Pink.

Nostalgia Bastard

Sentimentality, or as I’m calling her nostalgia, in my opinion is the most covert, the most misunderstood bastard muse. Brooks correctly describes above that it is unwarranted emotion and in excess of the occasion; it panders to a gullible human sentiment to “rewrite history” as this Vox video informs us:

Sadly, much of modern racism, discrimination, and segregation in America can be attributed to the United Daughters of the Confederacy. They’ve kept much of the old Confederate prejudices alive today.

Pornographos Bastard

Pornographos, or pornography, perhaps the antithesis of Erato, but only from a conservative, pious, or puritan viewpoint. She is derived from the Greek word Eros that in ancient Greece is historically just one of six forms of “love.” Modern-day conservatism rarely understands the full experiences of endearing Greek relationships of Antiquity.

Despite the fact that Brooks does indeed give in very few words the correct, yet truncated definition of pornography, I feel the fuller understanding of the muse Pornographos should be understood in her expansive form. Bill Moyers may have described her more fully at some other place and time, I’m not sure. But he did not elaborate or hint in this opening speech what he means by “total human personality.” That is what I wish to do.

Pornography, or Eros, belongs with another 5 or 6 siblings:  Ludus, Agape, Philia, Pragma, and Philautia. The sixth sibling, in my opinion is the antithesis of jealousy:  Compersion. It is unfair for societies and religious ideologies to separate out or orphan Eros (pornography). Though she can be the center of attention for a period of time and degrees of sublime endeavor, she will always be one of six sister muses. When her other six sisters are neglected, that is when habitual problems and implosion creeps in. When sexual organs and associated body parts are exploited and/or abused for the gains or pleasures of another, while at the expense or humiliation of the entire person/victim, then CLEARLY that is wrong, illegal, and detrimental to everyone involved. All become less human.

Based on what I know about Bill Moyers and what I’ve briefly read about Cleanth Brooks, this latter specified condition of an orphaned Pornography is more their “bastard” muse. It is still incomplete. Their description is the modern connotation of pornography within conservative-puritan society, but it does not represent her family of six sister muses.

Amnesia Bastard

Amnesia, or historical amnesia, is indeed an infection to democracy. On the distinctions of history, national or individual, known or unknown, there is probably no better an expert, a firsthand expert, than Czeslaw Milosz. While becoming an acclaimed poet, he survived ethnic cleansing, exiles, and two world wars in Europe and the constant annexations and occupations of his homeland by Russia/USSR twice and the Nazis occupation 1939 – 1945 during World War II. Plain and simple, the man knew much about history and truth. Milosz writes:

“The creative act is associated with a feeling of freedom that is, in its turn, born in the struggle against an apparently invisible resistance. Whoever truly creates is alone… The creative man has no choice but to trust his inner command and place everything at stake in order to express what seems to him to be true”

The 20th century culture surrounding him worshipped victorious power-versions of history, but Milosz is the artist who through his poetry worships truth. His craft allows him to save his and the reader’s soul. Perhaps the trick (or struggle) for all free citizens of democracy — the type of democracy Stanford describes above — should be which muse you fall in love with, which muse beguiles you and why, yes?

nine muses

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Civil Responsibility 2016

I pointed to the classroom’s lesson hook on the board, I turned to my 8th graders and repeated the question, “Who has the power to do things in the United States?” I quickly had to add, “LEGALLY do things!

Over the years of teaching Social Studies, there is one answer I consistently get: “THE PRESIDENT!” I remain silent for as long as necessary. Why? For a number of fine reasons, comic relief is one, but mostly to gauge how extensive the class will need to cover U.S. government, and indirectly Texas state government, for the upcoming week or two. However, there is another reason I like to ask the class this hook question. Inevitably parental teaching and influence will surface between the lines of their responses, especially if I allow the students some time and freedom to challenge each other’s answer and explanation. Those opening minutes are not too unlike adult conversations over political issues you catch at town squares or workplace break rooms. Every four years these conversations, sometimes volatile debates, can be exactly the same as those my 8th graders start. 😮

Don Huffines - TX Senator

Senator Huffines reply to me about the absurd injustice of Texas businesses refusing service to any of the LGBT community on religious grounds

If all of you received a quality education in primary school through secondary school and graduated obtaining your diploma, perhaps in the upper half of your senior class or better, or had the fortune to attend four years of undergraduate studies obtaining a bachelor’s degree, then it is reasonable to assume that you know that our U.S. President does NOT have all the power to do things. There is a very good reason… it prevents one person, or one office, organization, branch, from gaining a greedy and/or abusive advantage; in a word: dictatorship. Yet, surprisingly (or not) a significant population of American adults under the age of 50 feel the U.S. President is the sole person responsible for good times and bad times. At the risk of stating the obvious, this political mentality is tragic, let alone harmful for a community’s, a state’s, or a nation’s future.

Critical thinking skills are sometimes (often?) NOT taught to our young children, adolescents, or undergraduates. This is partly due to how much freedom people and institutions are indeed given, e.g. the above image and response letter from Don Huffines, my Texas Senator, regarding the rights of business owners to refuse all services to gays-lesbians-transgendered whomever they choose. Another reason critical thinking skills are not taught or tested in primary and secondary schools is that until recently Common Core Standards in education did not exist 10-20 years ago. Thus, a generation of un-ingenious or unimaginative followers were raised. Today, 43 states have fortunately adopted Common Core Standards teaching critical thinking skills to young minds. But that is only in public education. It does not reflect the ever-increasing popularity in some states for charter or private schools, much less the home-schooling sector.

Following is a good 3-minute video about these skills and how ProCon.org promotes them in non-partisan fashion.

As I alluded to in my previous post, I have very little time at the moment to write in-depth 3,000 – 7,000 word posts on such MONUMENTAL subjects as voting and other civil responsibilities during campaign years, primaries, elections — and elections of public officers who APPOINT other officers or judges into positions of great power the general population will have no direct say in their placing — and how these officials will affect millions of citizens for years to follow. Knowing how your candidate might “appoint” other officials, collaborate with other officials, or remain consistent to their campaign positions and promises are just as crucial as your here-n-gone single vote for him or her! I feel this is a subject, a blog-post that is important enough to pause my hectic life for a few hours and share in a small way how paramount civil responsibility is to each of us… including your own children’s and grandchildren’s futures and how to make changes, improvements, even though they may be slow and gradual.

Therefore, if you would like to get a broad introduction into how to be a more informed wiser voter, I’ll recommend my post Oversimplification 2012 and its 4-part series as a starting point. However, if you’d prefer the abbreviated more shallow introduction — i.e. the version(s) many American voters prefer or only have time for — then continue reading. If you barely had time to read this far, then I beg you to try and at least watch completely the below video. It could cause you to reconsider your voting and political tendencies regarding our privileged, important, and free (or costly?) civil right to vote that each of us are gifted. Voting, and voting wisely, as well as freely, should never be ignored or taken lightly.

So many political issues and controversy are rooted in economics; its healthy or unhealthy status. This is partly why I chose Joseph Stiglitz’s video and commentary over his new book, The Great Divide. Also because he is a Nobel Prize winner in Economics and has loads of wisdom to impart!

I hope this very brief post has helped you and other voters to be a bit more informed, but informed in more objective broader ways. Please get or remain very involved in your community’s, your county’s, your municipal’s, your state’s, and your federal elections. Correspond with your elected officials frequently. Vote and vote wisely, and just as important, vote for a greater good for the greatest number!

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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