Sunday, February 9, 2014

Four Men Who Will Save the World (Part 7)



We’re here to enjoy ourselves, which means we are prac­ticing the most essentially human of all under­takings, the search for joy. Not the pursuit of plea­sure—any hamster can do that—but the search for joy.
—Ursula Le Guin

Two of the most powerful forces in existence in the 1960s—feminism and the Bomb—fail to explain the profound change that came over the women who came of age during that fateful decade, a change whose echoes resound to this good day. It echoes in ways the mass media are ill-equipped to observe or analyze: for it reverber­ates in the minds of those who were there, and in the secret messages that pass between the generations. Most young women of the 60s probably did not change, or did not change much, but went on with their lives pretty much as they would have. Yet enough did change that a certain tipping-point was reached—the butterfly flapped its wings, and a tornado was born. And it was those wo­men’s openness to change that may very well tip the balance between a future of horror and a future of hope. No ideology drove them, no mass movement swept them along, no legislation transformed those special young women. So what was it, then? What power could arise in this world that is greater than ideology, greater than the Masters, greater than revolu­tion, greater even than fear?
            It’s time to do something we haven’t bothered with yet: ask the women themselves. Let’s see their faces, hear their voices, look into their eyes. Thanks to the wonders of modern tech­nology we don’t have to speculate: we can watch the world change. So let’s watch this.
The place is Shea Stadium, the time is August 15, 1965, and the cause of all this chaos is the four young men who will save the world: John, Paul, George, and Ringo. The Beatles.
            Or rather: it is, and it isn’t. Pay no attention to those men up on the stage. Look instead at those frumpy, plain-jane, beautiful young women. No TV special, no article in Rolling Stone, no coffee-table book can convey as this clip does the magnitude of what came to be called, rather flippant­ly, “Beatle­mania.” Contrary to what you may have heard (and will see here at a passing glance), Beatlemania wasn’t about a bunch of crazed girls charging police barri­cades (and most of the “girls” were in fact women). It wasn’t about young ladies in Dippity-Do curls shrieking their lungs out. It wasn’t about media hype (Justin Bieber, anyone? Or Sarah Palin?), and it wasn’t about mass hysteria, social conta­gion, or the madness of crowds. Women screamed at Sinatra in the 40s, and nothing changed; they scream­ed at Elvis in the 50s and nothing changed; in the 60s they screamed at Frankie Avalon, Tom Jones, and Engel­bert Humperdinck.
(You remember Engelbert. Women used to throw their undies on the stage while he crooned. Probably still big in Japan.) Those jokers were delib­erate­ly sexual, purposefully provocative. The Beatles were deliberately non-sexual, pur­pose­ful­ly boyish: no silky, insinuating voices, no Elvis pelvis. And no, Beatlemania wasn’t about the production genius of George Martin, or the marketing genius of Brian Epstein, or even about appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show. For this revolution could not be televised.

The joy of the happy ending . . . this joy, which is one of the things fairy-stories can produce supremely well, is not essentially “escapist,” nor “fugitive” . . . it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur. It does not deny the existence of sorrow and failure . . . it denies (in the face of much evidence, if you will) universal final defeat and in so far is evangelium, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.
—Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories

            Look again at those beautiful women. They’re not just enthused, or fanatic, or “hysterical.” They’re in agony. Each face is twisted into a rictus of pain; each body is racked with sobs; tears pour out of thousands of eyes. I don’t think we’re at a Phish concert, Toto! Or at a concert with Sina­tra, or Elvis, or even Englebert Humperdinck. Nor is there any drug in the world that could do what those four young men are doing to these women. Meth addicts don’t look like this. Crack-snorters don’t look like this. The gods could not look this beautiful.
            Journalists mockingly claim that at your typical Beatles concert “there wasn’t a dry seat in the house,” and they may well be correct. Yes, you’ll see some­thing like this on the faces of women in the throes of orgasm (or so I vaguely recall). But you’ll also see it at tent revivals, and in de­livery rooms, and even at political rallies—sporadically, in fits and starts, not the hour-long five-alarm blaze of emotion you see here. If you wish to demean this emotion by call­ing it “merely” sex­ual it’s your own beez—but in so doing you’ll dismiss, and therefore miss, the most impor­tant emo­tion­­al sea-change of the past century. Perhaps of a lot of centuries.
            Stout talk? Not to the Masters it isn’t. And I don’t mean the Masters of the 3 Cs. I mean the real Masters, the ones who free slaves, not own them; the ones whose kingdom is not of this world; the ones who’ve shown us a better one. You know who they are, and what they’ve told us: Dante and his vision of the White Rose; Beethoven and the last movement of the last sym­phony, the Buddha and what he found at dawn beneath the Bo-tree, Li Bo listening to his little girl, Tolkien at the shattered gates of Minas Tirith, welcoming the morning. Or the anony­m­ous author of the Chandogya Upanishad:

Praano brahma, kam brahma, kham brahmeti.
Yad vaava kam tad eva kham
Yad eva kham tad eva kam iti (IV.10.4-5)
   God is Truth, God is the Source, God indeed is Joy.
   Joy, indeed, that is the same as the Source.
   The Source, indeed, that is the same as Joy.

Until my lifetime appearances of the True Masters were like meteors streaking across the night, their messages land­scapes lit by lightning. Yet I once heard a Tibetan Master say that sometimes —maybe once in a thou­sand years—a pro­found real­ization can come not just to the gifted few but to an entire gener­a­tion. And this lama believed that during the decade of the 1960s there came such a shock of spiritual electricity.
            I think I know what that bolt out of the blue was, and where it struck. For sometime in New York City, on a hot summer night, thousands of young women felt that lightning in their bones. It was not a vision of happiness, and certainly not of con­tent­ment. It wasn’t even orgasm. That light­ning was Joy: Joy beyond the walls of the world, Joy poignant as grief. And it is that Joy, I believe, that even now, in subtle ways, is working to save the world. . . . TBC

Four Men Who Will Save the World--Part 6


Gentlemen! You can’t fight in here—this is the War Room! —President Mervin Muffly, in Doctor Strangelove


For a long time I thought the big influence unleashed during the 60s was the Bomb. I grew up with the Cuban Missile Crisis, civil defense shelters in the grade schools, duck and cover drills, and movies like Doctor Strangelove. People might scratch their heads nowa­days over the subtitle to that film —“How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”—but that was indeed what everyone had to do back then, like children in abusive homes who must learn to love their abusers. The Bomb taught my genera­tion the meaning of what H. P. Lovecraft called “the oldest and strongest human emotion”—fear. I used to have nightmares about someone dropping the Big One and waves of flame pouring across the world.

                And it was a generational fear. I remember talking to my mom about it as a teenager and realizing that she didn’t fear the Bomb the way I and my peers did. And I remember won­der­ing if her generation had to die before the world could do anything about the nuclear nightmare. My high school buddies didn’t expect to live past 30; we all figured the Bomb would get us. Mom, despite her wisdom, never understood.

                And The Big One is still possible. The under 30s seem to have learned to disregard this most fun­da­mental fact of 21st century existence, and many of their elders have too, but there’s plenty of us who haven’t learned to Love the Bomb and never will. Why do you think Obama got that Nobel Prize? It’s be­cause the people on the Nobel Com­mittee are elders like me, ones who grew up with that fear . . . and then this “funny-looking kid with a strange name and big ears” proposes to outlaw nu­clear weapons, and the world takes him seri­ously. At last! I’ve lived my whole life waiting for that seriousness. Why not give a Nobel Prize for hope? It’s been a long time since we had any.

                But now I think that it wasn’t the Bomb that revolutionized the consciousness of those young wo­men during the 60s. Fear seldom changes anyone or anything. Quite the reverse: fear freezes, ossifies, holds back, strangles. People with a lot of fear don’t want to grow, don’t want to change: they want cozy and comfortable, and they’ll worship anyone or anything that prom­ises to make the fear manageable—even if, in the end, the object of their worship makes things worse. Why do people join the Tea Party, or Al-Qaeda, or the NRA? Why would anyone in their right mind listen to Wayne LePierre?

                And isn’t it interesting that our current Tea Partiers like to play dress-up in Betsy Ross bonnets and three-corner hats when the real Tea Partiers dressed up as Native Americans?


The leader of the Nine [Nazgûl] is known as the Captain of Despair, . . . [but] he cannot induce it in others unless he first feels it in himself. —Paul Kocher, Master of Middle-earth


Fear is another fact of human nature the Masters know well, or they would not spend so much time and effort trying to induce it. Fear makes people into slaves, and how can you be a Master if you have no slaves? And to keep slaves is to be one yourself. The courageous have no need to frighten anyone. Yet a significant number of young women in the 60s—all over the world—seemed less afraid of the future, not more. And their children are still willing to gamble on the chance that the world could be better, or Obama would never have gotten that Nobel.


                But it wasn’t just the Nobel Committee that got him that prize. It wasn’t even the young people who put him in office. It was those four mysterious men who will save the world . . . . TBC

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Four Men Who Will Save the World--Part Five



In that line [“Was she told when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure?”] I was trying to say something about Christianity. The idea that you have to be tortured to attain heaven—I didn’t believe that. –John Lennon, on the song “Girl”
The most obvious candidate for transforming the young women of the 60s is feminism. We’ve all heard of The Feminine Mystique and The Second Sex, and of the profound impact these and similar works have had on modern society. Who hasn’t heard of Gloria Steinem, or Betty Friedan, or Simone de Beauvoir? You can bet Hillary Clinton and Michele Obama have. And neither Hillary Clinton nor Michele Obama would be where they are today—nor would Chelsea Clinton or Malia and Sasha Obama go where they’re going to go tomorrow—were it not for the feminist revolution.
            But femin­ism has been around for a very long time. The current “feminism” is the latest of a half-dozen or more “waves” that have swept across North Atlantic society over the past two hundred years. Just think Mary Wollstonecraft, or Seneca Falls, or Susan B. Anthony, or the suffragettes, or Rosie the Riveter to see what I mean. And that’s just “modern” feminism. If you’re a Muslim you’ll go back 1300 years, and think Hazrat A’isha. Or, if you’re a Hindu, you’ll go back a thousand and think the Bhagavata Purana. Or, if you’re a Buddh­ist, you’ll think Tara/Kannon/Guanyin. Or if you’re Native, you’ll think Pretty Shield, Sarah Winnemucca, Wilma Mankiller, or your own clan mothers. If you’re a Black African you’ll be thinking of the Fanti, the all-women bodyguard of the Asantehene, and the most feared warriors of the Ashanti Empire. And all human beings of whatever background should be thinking (often) of the Bush­men, probably history’s most gender-equal society, and who had no history of rape. Feminism has been around for millenia, and in a myriad of forms, and in many different cul­tures. I sus­pect women have been saying “no” to patriarchy since patriarchy was invented, even if the only ears hearing them were their own.
            But in 1965, the feminist wave that would give rise to Roe v Wade, the National Organiza­tion for Women, no-fault divorce, rape crisis centers, and the end of chattel laws was just getting started. Susan Brownmiller’s Against Ourselves: Men, Women, and Rape was published in 1975; until then, rape was con­sidered a crime of “passion” committed by men who “couldn’t help themselves” instead of  the heinous act of violence it is held now by everyone not a GOP congressman or a gangsta rapper. My own mother did not have her name on a bank account until about 1980; until then she was listed under her husband’s name with a “Mrs.” in front of it. (To her bank’s credit, they did change it after she complained to its president.) Women didn’t start pour­ing into the work force until I was well out of high-school; almost all the kids I went to school with had stay-at-home moms. In 1984 Geraldine Ferraro ran for vice-president and Hillary Clinton was un­known out­side of Arkansas. Much of the gender equality we now take for granted was beyond the horizon in 1965.
            And, for some, it’s still beyond it. For it seems that every time someone tries to valorize women’s contributions to the world’s history, someone else—inevitably a man, and in America, inevitably a Re­publican—can’t handle it. Remember Susan B. Anthony dollars, or those beau­tiful gold-plated coins depicting Sakakawea (“Sakajawea”) and her baby, Baptiste? Where are those coins now? Why don’t you ever see them in the cashier’s drawer at the supermarket, or get them from the teller at the credit union? In each case the coin was introduced during a Democratic presidency (Car­ter and Clinton, respectively) and discontinued by the following GOP regime (Reagan and GW). As far as I know (numismatics experts will have to help me out on this one), the US was the first country in the world to have a baby on its coin­age. In real life that little baby helped keep his mom safe from hostilities on Lewis and Clarke’s journey across the Great America Desert. But alas, Baptiste couldn’t keep his mother’s image safe from the spitefulness of the Republican Party, and now Sakajawea coins, and Anthonys as well, are mostly memories.
            The history of femin­ism is long, fascinating, and extremely complex, and I’m certainly not competent to sum it up in the space of a blog devoted to (among other things) man-eating lions and the Lord of the Rings. Here I’ll simply suggest that, as far as the young women we are analyzing were con­cerned, femin­ism was not a cause but an effect. Feminism did not make them as much as they made it.
            Feminism is an ideology, and like the 3 Cs it is based not only on intellectual analysis but on gut reaction. Most people are dissatisfied with their lives on a deep, emotional level but can’t quite put their fingers on how or why. The power of the Masters lies in their ability to provide a lan­guage in which the dissatisfaction can be expressed and a program offered for how to get rid of it. The program might be illusory to the point of madness, but the need it claims to satisfy is very real. The Masters can’t get their grip on anyone without that dissatisfaction. A soul to be seized must be weakened by weeping.
            Like the Masters, feminist scholars have found a language in which women can both get in touch with and express some of their deepest feelings. Feminists have also offered a (partial) program for dealing with those feelings on a personal and social level. Unlike the Masters, feminists have no intention of anesthetizing that dissatisfaction—if anything, they’re trying to magnify it. Whether this is a truly useful thing to do or not is a question I must leave to others better qualified.
            I’ve yet to meet a feminist who isn’t personally, passionately angry at patriarchy. Would they be feminists if they weren’t? But I know of no one who first sat down, calmly contemplated the many and horrible patriarchal evils and then concluded that they should be angry at it. Emotion drives ideology, not the reverse. I’m simplifying quite a bit here, but it seems to me that the young women of the 60s would not have turned to feminism unless they were already frustrated by those elements of society that feminism eventually taught them to label “patriarchy.” Feminism is the most revolutionary movement to march across the world since the invention of agriculture, but like agriculture it did not spring out of nowhere—its seed had to fall on fertile ground. That fertile ground was the young women of the 1960s.
            But how did they know to be frustrated in the first place? Who taught them they’d been living in a cage? What force knocked them out of their well-trained complacency? What woke them up? Could it have been the four mere males who will save the world?
TBC

Monday, March 11, 2013

The NRA, the Gods, and My Left Armpit



 The Pit 
            In light of the Newtown Massacre and the response it has provoked, I would like to invite any member of the National Rifle Association to insert his nose into my left armpit. 
            No, this isn’t the way to offer insult among the Dwarf-lords of Khazad-dûm. I have a logical reason for extending this invitation to all those who feel the scourge of gun vio­lence deserves no better response than to train several million over­worked, under­paid public servants to kill. Those who dare the adventure of my left armpit will dis­cover something that could make America a better place to live. For deep within they will find a small ring of scar tissue. It is neither a bullet hole nor the aftermath of acne. I got it at the age of three, when I was vaccinated against smallpox.

The Pox
            Once upon a time, there were trillions of soulless little terrorists in the world. They could hide in thin air, no security screen could catch them, bullets wouldn’t stop them. A smallpox epidemic was like the zombie apocalypse, only worse: cutting off people’s heads wouldn’t even slow it down. The situation was so hopeless people prayed to small­pox gods for succor. Sometimes they got it; often, they didn’t. Authorities estimate that throughout his­tory smallpox killed up to half a billion people—and that was just in Europe. Com­pare this to the 200 million world-wide killed by World War II. Even atheists prayed to the smallpox gods.
            “When your only tool is a hammer, every problem is a nail.” And when your only tool is a gun? What would have happened if the NRA had been in charge of dealing with smallpox and not the World Health Organ-ization? For that is the role the NRA wants to take on with their guns-in-the-schools proposals: to spearhead the battle against gun violence (herein, “GV”), as WHO took the lead role in the battle against smallpox. So let’s apply their own logic to see if they could have done as least as good a job as WHO.
            “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”—Wayne LaPierre, millionaire lobbyist for the NRA, will go down in history for these words. His next words, however, are more revealing of how the NRA views the cause of gun vio­lence: “The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters. People that are so deranged, so evil, so possessed by voices and driven by demons that no sane person can ever possibly comprehend them.” Which is to say: GV is caused by orcs.
            From LaPierre’s words we can guess how the NRA would proceed against small­pox. For starters, they’d ignore virus variola. They would have treated the cause of the disease as a recent article in the New York Times treated the madness of Adam Lanza:
Nothing we could have learned from Columbine would have allowed us to prevent Newtown. We have to acknowledge that the human brain is capable of producing horror, and that knowing everything about the perpetrator, his family, his social experience and the world he inhabits does not answer the question “why” in any way that will resolve the problem (NYT, 23 Dec 2012).
According to Wayne LaPierre, and to Andrew Solomon, author of best-seller Far From the Tree and the above quote, the mind of a mass murderer is an eternal mystery, a biz­arre phenomenon beyond the laws of cause and effect, something no one should even try to understand. “At best, these events help generate good policy,” Solomon remarks. Perhaps he has a similar view of the ineffability of global warming. I’m sure the families of the Sandy Hook victims find such know-nothing sentiments a great comfort.
            Having abandoned causal analysis the NRA would then spring into action. Since their only tool is guns, the problem would look like targets, and the solu­tion would be . . . to gun down anyone with smallpox. Such persons are a clear threat to the commun­ity. Kill them, kill the disease. Self-defense, right? Of course, in the early stages of infec­tion the victim is con­tagious but shows no obvious signs of illness, and those with such signs would stay home. So a bloodbath would be unlikly—but so would any reduction in cases. People would just keep dying.
            As it became plain that the disease could not be stopped by staking out schools, theaters, or shopping malls, the NRA would demand the right to conduct house-to-house searches for infected individuals to kill. As the kin of these un­fortunates would likely object (and shoot back), firefights would be common, as would people fleeing to escape “justice.” And in stomping about the bedrooms of smallpox victims, many NRA mem­bers would pick up the disease themselves. The NRA leadership would have a lot of explaining to do to an in­creasingly sceptical public.
            There would, of course, be those who would suggest that smallpox could be stop­ped by stopping its cause. But such voices would quickly be shouted down. The media get a fair chunk of advertising revenue from Walmart—the world’s largest gun retailer —and governments have long been accustomed to finding money for more guns by slashing budgets for schools, roads, health care, and so on. So reports of mass deaths would be­come a staple of the evening news, and the public would be left with nothing else to do but . . . pray. To the Gun Gods. And to their priests: the men of the NRA.

The Perp
            Now let’s turn the tables and see how WHO might attack the plague of gun vio­lence. As they did with smallpox, they’d first identify the cause. And they’d quickly learn that the cause of gun violence isn’t guns—OR the people carrying them. That is, they’d quickly reject LaPierre’s “bad guy” language for a view of GV perpetrators of people who are sick and in need of treatment.
            The media have made out Adam Lanza to be “crazy,” a “genuine monster.” The implication is that no one could have anticipated his rampage. But as Gavin De Becker, one of America’s leading experts on violence, points out in his book The Gift of Fear, the “crazies” who perpetrate heinous crimes can be understood—and their behavior can be predicted. And this is because people, no matter how insane, don’t just “snap”—they always give advance warning of what they’re about to do. Like smallpox, psychopathic hate has its own logic, and follows a particular pattern.
            In other words: Adam Lanza could have been stopped. And not by a bullet.
            I conduct regular safety training sessions for employees at my place of business. In these sessions I point out that:
            a) the 2nd-leading cause of workplace fatality in America is homicide,
            b) such homicides are almost al­ways perpetrated by employees, and
            c) the actions of the perpetrators can be pre­dict­ed and disaster averted by following a few fairly simple procedures.
            Potential murderers show specific signs of their intent to kill. Correctly reading those signs allows others to stop them. I know—I’ve done it. Using the principles De Becker describes I’ve helped head off two poten­tially violent threats to the security of my workplace in the past three years. All it takes is prepara­tion, observation, and appropriate action. But above all, it takes knowledge—and a willingness to use it.
            Someone knew that things were seriously the matter with Adam Lanza—because the evidence assembled by De Becker from similar mas-sacres reveals that someone al­ways does. And if someone knew, someone could have done something that might have saved the lives of twenty small children. Who could have stopped him? I think we can guess —with a little help from news organi­za­tions outside the US, and by reading between the lines of our Walmart-depen­dent newspapers.
            The British Broadcasting Corporation reports that Nancy Lanza took her son out of his senior year in high school because she was “dissatisfied at the school’s educa­tional plan for him.” Individual educational programs (IEPs) are commonly written for kids with special needs: kids with dyslexia, autism, Down Syndrome, and so on. The BBC also reports that one of Lanza’s instructors had to watch him whenever he was solder­ing something in technology club because if he burned himself he wouldn’t feel it.
            A relative described Lanza’s mom to the BBC as “rather high-strung—understand­able under the [unspecified] circumstances.” Mom divorced dad sometime during Adam’s middle-school years; she kept their house in a “secluded” neighborhood and received sizable alimony/child support/trust fund money, so she didn’t work. One gets the impression she was a “social­ite,” a person whose "profession" was throwing cocktail parties.
            Even the US media have hinted that something about Lanza’s re-lationship with his mother was . . . odd. According to an AP article of 19 Dec 2012 she had al­most absolute control over her son: on his monthly visits to the barber he wouldn’t talk to anyone, and would get up or down out of the barber’s chair only when she in­structed him to do so. She was also called frequently to his school to “deal with him” when he did some (unspecified) something that only she could handle. 
 With increasing public understanding of the relationship between criminality and the experiences of early childhood, it is no longer a secret known only to the experts that every crime contains a concealed story, which can then be deciphered from the way the misdeed is enacted.                    —Alice Miller, For Your Own Good






The Puzzle
            All in all, not much to go on. But enough to ask lots of questions:
            If Lanza had an IEP, someone must have diagnosed him. Who was this per­son and what was the diagnosis? Would it have served as a red flag? What did this (hypothet­ical) IEP tell Nancy Lanza about her son?
            What of the rumors Lanza was schizophrenic or autistic? As per­sons with such dis­orders are less likely to commit acts of violence than “normal” people, these labels are probably red herrings. What was his real problem? If it was obvi­ous enough to disturb his barber and his teachers, who else did it disturb?
            Why did Nancy Lanza so control her son? Did he need such a high degree of guid­ance or did Ms. Lanza have a craving for dominance? Taking a kid out of his senior year in high school—an extremely important time in a teen’s life—is a pretty drastic step. Did she really need to take it? What “circum­stances” made her so “high-strung”?
            What incidents required mom to intervene at her son’s school? Are his teachers going to tell us? Lanza’s mother is dead and his father was non- custo­dial, so permission to release confidential records shouldn’t be a problem.
            What were the arrangements Nancy made with her ex for the care of their children, and what impact did these have on Adam? We are told that the boys were “upset” by their parents’ divorce—are we to believe this “upset” drove Adam to kill? And why did Lanza’s elder brother have no contact with him for two years? Why did his father leave town to start a new life? Were he and his elder son running away from something?
            And if his mother knew there was “some­thing the matter” with Adam Lanza, then why—oh gods, why—did she: (a) train him in the use of a Bush­master machine gun, and (b) keep one around the house?
            And why was she her son’s first victim?
            Adam Lanza isn’t the only young murderer whose actions raise questions about how he was raised. In New Mexico recently a 15-year-old killed his mother and then his siblings with a hunting rifle. Then, he waited for his father—a former gang-banger who became a pastor—to come home before pumping him full of bullets with an AK-47. Both wea­pons came from the family broom closet. What kind of pastor keeps machine guns in the broom closet in a house with four children, the youngest of whom was a two-year-old?
            The NRA agrees with the rest of us that guns should be kept out of the hands of the mentally ill. But Nancy Lanza put that Bushmaster into the hands of her son, and in the eyes of society she was perfectly sane. And Greg Griego was a “man of God,” yet his piety appears to have had no influence on his son—though some other aspect of his per­sonality obviously did.
            Adam Lanza and Nehemiah Griego are typical of many mass murderers. Both seem to have suffered from what psycho­log­ists call a “disrupted attachment bond” with their parents. Many factors can contribute to such disruption, but parenting style appears to be the major influence. A parent who is author­i­tarian (e.g., likes to give orders), selfish (e.g., lives off a trust fund), lacks em­pathy (e.g., takes her son out of his senior year in high school), and is ob­sessed with vio­lence (e.g., keeps machine guns around the house) is unlikely to form the warm, nurtur­ing bond every child needs to develop properly. In extreme cases, this lack of bonding can cut the child off from the human race, leaving him isolated and enraged.
            Some historians still wonder why Adolf Hitler did what he did. Yet as Alice Miller shows in her masterpiece, For Your Own Good, Hitler’s hates had clear origins. Why did he send thousands of people with scoliosis to the death camps? Why in an alcohol-drenched culture did he never touch the stuff?  Why did he define a Jew as anyone with a Jewish grandparent? Why did he have his father’s hometown destroyed? Miller’s work shows that it’s no puzzle: we need look no further than his upbringing. I suspect Adam Lanza’s upbringing will be similarly en­lightening—if those who knew him allow us to know anything about it. And if we can get past our culture’s tendency to make excuses for the parents, like those Solomon makes in his article quoted from above.
            Within the last five centuries the human race has learned to make sciences out of many things—the motions of the planets, the origins of disease—that were once left to myth. Within the past century, we have learned to do this with evil: with the kind of psychopathic hate that results in Auschwitz or Columbine or Sandy Hook. There is no need to mystify it, as the New York Times does, or to demonize it, as does the NRA, or to despair of dealing with it, as America has long done and seems on the verge of doing yet again. We know where this evil comes from. And this knowing is the key to defeating it.

The Power
            The fundamental issue America needs to decide in the aftermath of Sandy Hook isn’t about the Second Amendment, or about guns, or about gun owners. It’s about this: do we accept pretend solutions to GV like those offered us by the NRA? What kind of “solution” is it to call mentally ill peo­ple “genuine mon­sters”? Was Adam Lanza a cave troll, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold a pair of Balrogs, the guy who killed Christina Taylor-Green a Nazgûl? What kind of “solu­tion” is it to turn school-teachers into mer­cenaries? How do we know they won’t run amok? Is America so much like Mordor we must all become orcs to survive? Must we become what we hate?
            Have the gentlemen of the NRA never heard of the One Ring?
            I won’t speculate here as to what drives the 4 million members of the NRA to push their nightmare on a population the vast majority of whom have long wanted stronger gun control laws. Nor will I speculate as to why that population has allowed gun-junkie bullying to go on as long as it has. I’ll simply invite the reader to examine the wisdom of my left arm­pit. For in that little ring of scar tissue—and not in any Ring of Power—is proof that miracles don’t need magic to happen.
            In the year of my birth smallpox killed 2 million people. Now, it kills no one. Small­pox is dead. It was killed by an army bearing a weapon more power­ful than any gun: knowledge. Smallpox died because people knew what caused it, knew how to recognize those effected by it, and knew how to mobilize the resources needed to help its vic­tims and to keep it from spreading. The eradication of small­pox is the best proof I know that knowledge really is power, and that despair is not the answer to any question.
            As Gandalf said: “Despair is for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not.” And Gandalf knew a thing or two about weapons that morally corrupt their users.

The Plan
            Fortunately, we don’t need answers to our questions about Adam Lanza to begin tackling the problem of GV. What we need is a plan. Here’s mine. It is simple, uses  existing resources, and can start working for us today.
            1. Ban any firearm that isn’t specifically designed for hunting. There is no legitimate reason for any citizen not a member of a “well-regulated militia” to own an AR-15 full of Teflon-coated dum-dums. And if you think you need such armament to protect your­self from a tyrannical Big Gummint remember the Black Panthers. If anyone in this country has a “right” to fight back against tyranny with guns it would be African Amer­icans, and under Nixon a bunch of them did. And it didn’t work. The Black Panthers didn’t get revenge for racism—nor did they put a Black man in the White House.
            2. Have every child entering school undergo the Ainsworth Strange Situation. This is a simple test that analyzes the relationship a child has with his or her primary care­giver. On the basis of the test children can be assigned to one of four categ­ories accord­ing to their “attach­ment style”: secure, ambivalent, avoidant, or disorgan­ized. A dis­tinct style shows up in the personality by eighteen months, and tends to be fixed by age five. And attach­ment style at age five is predictive of future life out­come, with avoidant and dis­organized children more likely than others to engage in criminal behavior.
            3. Attachment style can change, but only through inter­ven­tion. So let’s assemble the resources to provide avoidant and disorganized children what they need to form secure attach­ments with adults. Rather than blaming people like Adam Lanza’s parents for “bad” parenting, let’s stop identifying with aggressors (as Andrew Solomon does), start ask­ing the hard questions (as our media don’t), and find out what could have been done differently. There are plenty of high-needs children out there, and plenty of parents who struggle to cope with them: let’s give them the re­sources they need to cope more effectively. These re­sources must certainly include paid parental leave, universal health care, and most importantly, destigma­tiz­ing mental illness as we’ve already de­stig­ma­tized Down Syndrome.
            And for children past grade school, or for adults? The older a person gets the more fixed their attachment style becomes, yet even so there are therapies that can mitigate the effects of avoidant or disorganized attachment. The therapies are expensive and take a long time to work (when they do) yet the al­ter­native is to abandon such individuals to a fate that could be fatal for others. We’ll never know about our suc­cesses, for success­fully treated individuals won’t be making the papers. But our failures will be horribly obvious.
            By requiring immuniza­tions for attendance, schools are already the front line de­fense against measles, whooping cough, and other childhood physical diseases. So let’s make schools the front-line defense against childhood mental disease. More money for pro­grams, more pay for teachers, more training for councilors—let the Pentagon hold bake sales to buy bombers. And let’s put the Strange Situation in every school, so that enter­ing kindergarteners can be tested the same way they’re tested for eyesight, hear­ing, and so on. Let’s honor the memory of those 20 little children at Sandy Hook Elementary in a way they themselves would understand and appreciate: let’s give our children the attention and nurture they need. It’s too late for them, or for their killer—but not too late for the kids down the block, or next door, or in our own living rooms.

The Prediction
            The NRA tells us the only way to stop a person with a disease . . . is another person with a disease. What do we call people who actively fantasize about committing mass murder, who stockpile the means to do it, who show no sympathy for the potential vic­tims, and who see nothing wrong in what they’re doing? We call them Jared Lee Lough­ner, or Adam Lanza . . . or Wayne LaPierre. Maybe he thinks it takes one to know one.
            The “good guys vs. bad guys” model of GV doesn’t allow us to predict where, when, and by whom GV will occur. The Ainsworth Strange Situation might. It won’t tell us specifically, “watch this kid—he’s going to shoot up his school someday.” It does tell us, “watch this kid—he needs extra attention. And if he doesn’t get it, there could be trouble.” That extra atten-tion could serve ex­actly the same function as a vaccination, super-enabling the child’s emotional immune system to throw off the loneliness, confu­sion, and rage that drives the mind into the arms of madness. What Alice Miller calls the “sympathetic witness” may be all a troubled kid needs to fend off the despair that leads the child to a disastrous life and shapes a culture that can eradicate smallpox but can’t say “no” to guns. We can fight the orcs—by keeping them from becoming orcs in the first place. We can train adults in the art of sympathetic witness. We can immu­nize against hate.
            And maybe after we’re healed enough of the children, we’ll have the leisure to turn our attention to their elders, and heal the bitter, frightened, mean old men of the NRA. They can shake off their priestly vestments, throw that Ring into the Cracks of Doom, and breath free at last. And the Gun Gods can join the smallpox gods in the ash-heap of history.

The Proofs
Some easily-accessible resources on the Internet

On attachment theory and the Strange Situation:          
http://www.parentingscience.com/strange-situation.html

On the relationships between insecure attachment and criminality:

May all sentient beings benefit
#



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Barack Obama---Son of Bigfoot!

Truth will out! After years of painstaking research, I, m g meile, have uncovered America's most AWFUL SECRET! Let facts be presented to a candid world: Barack Husein Obama is NOT the legally elected President of these glorious United States of America. For that living fiend, that monster of iniquity, that Barack Husein Obama, is not only a Muslim---and we all know how they are!---but that dreadful montebank, that crafty trickster, that traitorous Barack Husein Obama---no it's NOT an Irish name!---was NOT---oh, the humanity!---was NOT born in America.      But he wasn't born in Kenya, either.
      He was born in . . . Tasmania.

For millions of years a strange being roamed the lost continent of Sundaland. Slinking and solitary, it was never very numerous, or very noticeable. Shaped like a dog yet stalking its prey like a cat, a meat-eater yet not a carnivore, striped like a tiger yet the size of a dog, pouched like a kangaroo but with its pouch facing tailwards, this bizarre creature was still there when Sundaland sank beneath the waves, leaving behind what is now known as Australia. It was there when the human race first arrived 40,000 years ago, and became extinct in the 1800s. It survived into living memory in Tasmania, where, isolated from the world, it lurked in the island's forests until the coming of the White Fire.
     The Fire made short work of Tasmania's 30,000 or so humans: within 80 years of European contact the last full-blooded Aborigine was dead. It took longer to kill of the hunter, yet it happened quickly enough that there was no time for the Whites to find out what the Natives called it. To this day the creature that lived so long and so lightly has no common English name. Because it ate meat the Whites sometimes call it the "marsupial wolf"; because of its stripes some call it the "Tasmanian tiger." Here we will use its scientific title: Thylacinus cynocephalus, or in short, "thylacine."
      The last thylacine died of neglect in the Hobart Zoo on the seventh day of September in 1936. The grainy black-and-white photos show a rather uncomely beast, with a mouth like a viper's and a tail like a rat's; no one seems to know the animal's gender, or how in later years it came to be nick-named "Benjamin." With the passing of Benjamin the thylacine joined the dodo and the dinosaur, never to walk the earth again.
     Or did it?
     For to this day farmers on isolated farmsteads, ranchers watching over their sheep, travelers through Tasmania's still-thick jungles, and even dwellers on the edges of Tasmania's cities report seeing thylacines. And believing isn't just seeing: they've taken casts of paw-prints and gathered up suspected droppings, all in an effort to prove the creature they affectionately call "the tiger" yet lives. One website logs over 350 sightings  since Benjamin's death; others detail efforts to clone the beast.  And along with maps and logs and calculations there are---as always with such things---rants against public indifference and fiendish government conspiracies. Reading through these one is reminded of tweedy eccentrics dunking cameras in Loch Ness, or "cryptozoologists" trying to sound scientific in the pages of Yeti Researcher. But this blog is not the place to get into any of that.
       My interest here is the mind.
       For there is, I believe, a single mental process that underlies most if not all the sightings of thylacines reported over the past 75 years---as well as sightings of Bigfoot, Nessie, ivory-billed woodpeckers, Mothman, and the skunk-ape, not to mention UFOs and their LGMs. I think this same process motivates most of America's conservatives, especially those in the Tea Party and its wholly-owned subsidiary the GOP. And it is reason #1 for the existence of the birther movement. In fact, the similarities between cryptozoologists, birthers, and media hack(er)s like the late, lamentable Andrew Breitbart are so striking that many people might be tempted to find in them evidence of---dare I say it?---a vast, global . . . conspiracy!
     But I'm not one of them.
     I'd rather not devote a lifetime to debunking moon landings or building over-unity engines, or to hunting things that the overwhelming preponderance of the evidence says aren't there. I'd rather devote my life to meditation. And when you go to that school of hard knocks we call Buddha Bootcamp, the first thing you learn is to meditate on is your motivations.
     Motivations---not intentions. Everyone's intentions are honorable, and we all know what the road to hell is paved with. Intentions are what lie ahead of deeds; motives are what lie behind them. Finding your intentions is easy, finding your motivations less so: most of us are pushed through life far more powerfully, and more unconsciously, than we are pulled. In Buddha Bootcamp we're taught that motive is the mainspring of human behavior, the lynchpin of karma, the truth behind the appearances of our behavior. And so, instead of Howard Baker's famous questions---"What did the president know, and when did he know it?"---meditators ask: "what did the president want, and why did he want it?" Had voters asked those questions early enough, America might have been spared Watergate. Or Kent State.
     So what do the thylacine hunters want, and why do the want it? The "what" is easy: they want to see a real, live tiger, of course. Who wouldn't? What an amazing experience that would be! And how wonderfully hopeful! For where one, there might be more. . . and there might be Bigfoots, too, and plesiosaurs breeding away at the bottom of Loch Ness, and other highly intelligent hominins lurking about in some Mirkwood somewhere ("Elves, Mr. Frodo!"), and this hot, grey, overcrowded world might be just a bit more bearable. . . .
     But finding more marvel into the world is an intention, not a motive. What motivates the hunters to keep seeing thylacines, Nessie, or Sasquatch when it is virtually certain that none are there? I can't bring myself to believe, as professional "skeptics" might, that thousands of decent, well-intentioned people all over the planet are all either temporary schizophrenics, or victims of an evolutionary glitch in brain-wiring, or just plain liars. They can't be seeing anything, and yet they  are. So what are they seeing? It's a mystery. Or is it?
     No, it's not. They're all seeing something perfectly ordinary. Something anyone can find, anywhere, anytime: emotion.

How can you see an emotion? Here's how: take a walk down a busy street. While you do so, keep in the back of your mind how pleasant it would be to meet someone who is sexually attractive. Whoa, that was quick: there's a hottie already! Whoo-whoo!
     Now look at this lovely person again. This time in the face.
     Oh. Not quite as exciting at second glance, eh? They almost always aren't, are they? You certainly already knew this (if you've gone through puberty), yet still you fooled yourself into thinking that something was there when it wasn't. Were you hallucinating? Was your brain malfunctioning? Or are you just a compulsive liar?
     I think we can be kinder to ourselves and our species by coming up with a different explanation: your initial, barely-conscious glance allowed your unconscious to project your emotions onto the sensory object, so that the object seemed, for a brief moment, to embody the emotion floating about in the back of your mind---in this case, sexual desire. A second glance, however, requires a more focused, conscious decision, and it's not your conscious mind that projects. A second glance is more likely to reveal what's really there---and what's really there is more likely to be someone less desirable than s/he first seemed. The screen is seldom as interesting as the movie projected upon it.
     All adult human beings have had the experience of sexual projection; it's nothing to be ashamed of. But in Buddha Bootcamp we're taught to take control of our projections, and to make second-glancing a habit.
    Cryptozooan sightings are almost always unexpected and fleeting, like that first glance on the street. Planned expeditions inevitably come up a cropper: a rancher minding a fence-line is more likely to see something than a guy with a Thermine field processor and a $200 pair of binoculars. Yet isolation, poor lighting, or extreme weather are no more necessary to sighting Mothman or Mokele-Mbembe than such conditions are necessary to "see" sexual attractiveness where none exists. All that is needed is unconscious emotion, an object to project it onto, and a cultural tradition that allows the viewer to gave a label to the thing sighted. Despite similar environments, no one sights thylacines in British Columbia, and no one sights Bigfoot in Tasmania.
     But thylacine-spotters and loch-watchers probably aren't hankering to pitch woo at the objects of their search. So what does motivate them? What emotion lurks in the backs of their minds? Who is the tiger? Who, for that matter, is Barack Obama? A screen, yes---but for what movie? What unconscious emotion do Obama, and Nessie, and Bigfoot, and the yeti, and the thylacine all unwittingly reflect?
     Guilt.

The destruction of the Tasmanian Aborigines is the most complete example of genocide known to history: a culture 35,000 years old, wiped off the earth almost without a trace. What ice ages, marsupial lions, and lizards twice the size of Komodo dragons could not accomplish British settlers did with guns, disease, whiskey, and social darwinism. Tasmania's modern Whites are well aware of the suffering on which their civilization is built, and like (some) White Americans, they are no longer willing to make excuses for that suffering. Even so, I suspect a certain measure of guilt remains. It's not as if the current masters of Tasmania can un-kindle the Fire, anymore than White Americans can take back those smallpox blankets. Having never known a Tasmanian I'm speculating here, but judging from the people I know best it seems logical to me that a wee bit of guilt would be as much a part of modern Tasmanian culture as it is of modern American culture. And I suspect that White Tasmanians have as many ways of dealing with that guilt as White Americans have.
     Any strong emotion challenges the ego and its defenses. Emotion can be so overpowering that it can leave the mind awash in pain. Remember that unrequited love from high school? Even now it hurts a little. And the worst thing about it was the ping-ponging back and forth among (a) pretending it was only puppy love; (b) insisting it was true love; (c) trying to divert your attention into your studies, or sports, or finding God, or anything else that would let you get away from that horrible, obsessive passion. Anything, that is, but simply acknowledging it and letting it subside by itself---which, with time, it always does. Most of us are no longer in love with our high-school sweethearts--sometimes, even if we married them.
     And if you've ever tried to make a habit of Watching the Mind until those thoughts self-liberate you'll know why we call it Buddha Bootcamp. I know guys who grew up in Tibetan monasteries who struggle with emotion. I know journalists, lawyers, doctors, professors who struggle with it. I know I sure as hell do. But I don't think the Tea Partiers do. They seem remarkably comfortable with emotion. As long as the emotion is hate. Guilt, on the other hand. . . .
     Watching the antics of America's conservatives we can observe the whole range of shell-games that people play to avoid owning up to guilt. And conservatives in modern America have plenty to feel guilty about: racism (of which Obama is a daily reminder), sexism, classism, anti-environmentalism. . . .
     And then there's Lord Georgeamort, the guy who approved of torture, the president who really DID cheat his way into the Oval Office. (Hanging chads---remember?) And if Republicans don't feel guilty about W, why do they never mention his name?
     In fact, you can read almost all conservative attacks on Obama as disguised admissions of guilt. Just about everything they accuse Obama of doing or wanting is something they themselves have done or wanted. Turn the accusations back on the accusers and the process of projection becomes obvious:
     "Obama hates White people" = conservatives hate non-Whites.
     "Obama is a socialist" = conservatives want socialism, but only for the rich.
     "Obama wants to take our guns" = conservatives need their guns to start a civil war.
     "Obama is running up the federal deficit" = conservatives would rather protect their rich buddies than raise taxes to pay for their own useless wars.
     "Obama is for big gummint" = it's the GOP one-party gummint that approved the Patriot Act, created the Homeland Security bureaucracy, and approved of extraordinary rendition . . . and, oh yes, torture.
     "Obama is anti-family" = the divorce rate in Red states is 26%; in Blue states it is 22%.
     "Obama is a pro-abortion baby-killer" = under W the US infant mortality rate rose for the first time in 40 years.
     "Obama is the next Adolf Hitler" = I rest my case.

The big issue in modern politics isn't about policy, or the deficit, or who "wins" a primary. The big issue is motivation: specifically, what motivates conservatives to advocate policies that are impractical, unworkable, and just plain cruel. I've concentrated on conservative attacks on Obama here because hatred for America's 44th president is the unifying principle of the conservative movement---they hate him even worse than they hate women. Son of Bigfoot? Try "Son of Perdition," "Son of Satan," or even "Son of Malcolm X"---he's been called all these and then some. Take away that hate and like Roger Chillingsworth in The Scarlet Letter conservatives and their movement would wither like uprooted weeds. Such reckless hate cries out for explanation.
     The explanation I'm offering here is that Obama really is, on the unconscious level, the Son of Bigfoot: not Bigfoot as we'd all like to see him/her, but the more important "Bigfoot" lurking within our minds. The Native people I know all insist that Sasquatch is a "spiritual" being who should not be molested, and whose existence will never be scientifically proven. I think what they call "spiritual" is what White folk would call "unconscious"; whatever we call it, I think the Natives are on to something. Spirits cannot be captured or explained, but they often come to us with messages for our good.
     And one of the people they're bringing that message to is me. For it's not Rush Limbaugh's heart I'm trying to find here but my own. It's so easy to be bitterly angry at the conservative louts who are destroying my planet, raping my democracy, and injuring my children. It's especially easy to be angry when you live in a culture that sees anger as nothing to be ashamed of. So when I hear yet another backwoods boob babbling birther baloney, or some clean-shaven tub-thumper pretending to quote Leviticus though ignorant of Hebrew, I remind myself of something I heard a Tibetan lama say: If there is one problem your hate will solve, then hate is a good thing. Despite years of search I have yet to find that problem. The Tea Partiers haven't found it either. All any of us have found is  tinder for the next Fire.
     And so the motivation behind this blog: to argue myself out of hating the haters. Unlike them I've had the wonderful good fortune of a stint in Buddha Bootcamp, where I've been taught that hate is NOT "normal," or an "instinct," or hormones, or evolution, or something regrettable but inevitable, I've been taught that it is a Fire burning down the house of life---and that when your house is on fire, you don't need to know the name of the arsonist or the temperature of the flames. You need to know how to get out. Yes, conservatives are deluded. But so anyone can be, when hate is the master. And so I watch the hate within myself, lest I too start seeing things that aren't there.
     And I don't mean thylacines.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Four Men Who Will Save the World, Part 4

"Cowgirl" is an attitude, really. A pioneer spirit, a special American brand of courage. The cowgirl faces life head-on, lives by her own lights, and makes no excuses. Cowgirls take stands; they speak up. They defend things they hold dear. --Dale Evans
Perfection. The workers' paradise. Full prosperity. The New Jerusalem. Total well-being. Perfect health. Infinite wealth. Perpetual youth. Joy. In return for obedience, all these were promised--and still are--by the Masters of the 3Cs. Tomorrow.

It was never today, of course. The perfection promised by the Masters of communism, capitalism, and Christianity was always what Thomas Merton called the "proximate utopia," the earthly paradise just over the next hill, just around the next bend. A lovely place, this brand of utopia, where, as Merton puts it, "the last sins are currently being eliminated and when, tomorrow, there will be no more sins because all the sinners will have been wiped out." Once the authorities had managed to get a few hooligans and malcontents out of the way, once those sodomites had been sent to hell, once those lazy, stupid poor people dragging the rest of us down were kicked off welfare and forced to get jobs at Burger King, we, the Sons of Light, would get our just reward. It was all carefully calculated, prophesied, predestined, dialectically synthesized, Ayn Rand approved. It was inevitable. It was only a matter of time. And the time was always Tomorrow.

The final page of Kartinniy Slovar' Russkovo Jazyka, a children's primer, Moscow, 1950

Tomorrow. Soon. Someday. Never today. Today was for diligence, and obedience, and everyone wearing the same hair style, the same height of skirt, the same col- lar on the same shirt, going to the same church, the same job, the same role, thinking the same thoughts. It was the world I and my fellow elders grew up in, raised children in. And it wasn't exactly the nightmare you read about in 1984 or A Wrinkle in Time. Think Ward and June Cleaver, Dagwood and Blondie, the kids in Peanuts all fed, clothed, and sheltered by grown-ups who were never seen. . . . 

No, it wasn't that bad. Not for most people.

But it was what life was like in, say, 1965, and yes it was boring, and uncreative, and limiting, and people died in pointless wars, and people were thrown in jail or killed for their beliefs, and people who didn't conform because they couldn't were blamed for their "failure" anyway and thrown into various dark corners. And not just the poor, or the malcontents, or people with too much melanin. The average life-expectancy for a person with Down Syndrome in 1965 was 2 years. They could have lived much longer (as they do today), but they were shuffled off to those dark corners . . . and those corners were very dark indeed. But the vast majority of their fellow citizens never knew. They were the lucky ones. They were normal.


Normalcy. The ultimate drug, and everyone wanted it. Don't you? Think cozy living rooms and sunny Sunday mornings and watching parades go by. Think of Father Knows Best and I Love Lucy and Bob Hope and Dutch Reagan and his good buddies Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Then don't think about Angel Unaware, the book Dale Evans wrote about her child with Down Syndrome, a child that she and Roy arranged to live in a corner that didn't seem dark until you looked closely. Robin Elizabeth Rodgers died just before her second birthday, and Dale never told us why.

You won't find a copy of Angel Unaware in my home town. Not in the libraries, anyway. Mom didn't have the option Dale Evans had, of being wealthy and well-connected enough to hire a nanny to care for her Down Syndrome baby. Nor did she have the option of building a separate dwelling for the child to keep her away from her other children as Dale did, supposedly under doctors' orders. (The other children might have been "disturbed" by contact with such an odd duck, you see, so Dale didn't let them have any.) 

And Mom certainly lacked the arrogant gall to write a book about her daughter from the child's point of view, and in a sickeningly sweet, pseudo-inspirational baby-voice that in comparison makes Rainbow Brite sound like Vlad the Impaler. No, you won't find a copy of Angel Unaware in my hometown. Mom tracked them all down and burned them. Blame it on her German ancestry, if you will. Or maybe Mom was just being a good cowgirl.

We're told Dale's baby "died of complications from Down Syndrome." My sister also tried to die when she was two. She tried to die when she was twenty. In fact, she tried to die just a couple of weeks ago. But she didn't. And not because of luck, or because of angels, or because "The Bible Tells Me So." (One of Dale's most popular songs--I used to sing it in Sunday-school.) Dale's gone to her grave now, and her husband Roy, and their good buddy Ronald Reagan, along with plenty of other famous rich people. But I wonder about Robin Elizabeth Rodgers, and where her grave is, and if anyone ever visits it.

The young women who grew up in the world of the Masters should have turned out as self-satisfied, narrow-minded and mindless as Dale Evans. That a signifi- cant portion of them did not must mean that something happened to them during that time of life when the mind is most open to influences outside the family: adolescence. The mothers who raised the current crop of under-30s reached this time of life during the 1960s, the decade so often called "tumultuous" by those who either weren't there or have something to sell. To hear pop-sociologists tell the tale, something about the time period itself got into the youth of those days like a virus or an evil spirit or a drug, something coming out of the radio or the TV or the movies or the akasha, something their parents couldn't control and that had even the Masters scrambling, something their dialectics and market analyses and ancient prophesies had failed to account for. What mysterious essence came oozing out of the ether and turned the docile young ladies of the 60s into the mothers of the Obama Generation? And what does this have to do with the four men who will save the world?

to be continued