Monday, February 28, 2011

Book review

Stuff that keeps me busy...

2011 Review of The World According to Y: Inside the New Adult Generation. Anthropology Review Database February 28, 2011., accessed February 28, 2011.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

And Feudalism for Everyone Else

The Rich v Them war is well under way in the US.

One thing that bothers me most is when some democratic right is being taken away.  The Wisconsin revolt is about as clear as it can be.  The rich are out to take away the rights of the little people and steal as much public property as they can.  It’s more than pushing back against the abuses of the unions, it is about taking away the right for collective bargaining (and steal some public land on the side).

Currently, anyone can bargain collectively, with or without unions.  We have the right for free assembly in this country.  Now the rich are out to take this away from all of us.  I say Screw Them.

Wisconsin started the process of denying this democratic right, here.  Basically, they are trying to allow a power grab to take place.  Krugman, for once, gets it right.  It’s about taking away rights from the little people, here & here, and giving more power and capital assets to the wealthy class.

The Koch brothers, billionaires, partially funded the Wisconsin governor’s election; they think they are buying democracy.  They also think that they are under attack and so will fight to the bitter end for their rights (to screw everyone else) here & here.  Screaming “rights for me but none for you” is a standard redneck behavior.  Not all rednecks live in trailers.  Trash with cash is still trash. 

Victor Davis Hanson, the faux democrat, tries to re focus the debate on the abuses of the unions.  They have over done it, he says.  Well, yes they have.  That does not mean doing away with unions. It means forcing them to compromise on pay and benefits.  If we do away with the right for collective bargaining then what is next?  Doing away with class action law suits?  Are they going to stop protest marches?

If they can, they will.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, they are striking at abortion by passing legislation that increases the rules and standards that abortion clinics must abide by.  It’s still legal there but the new regulations will force most clinics to close as they likely won’t be able to comply.

The conservatives don’t mind passing heavy handed laws when it achieves their goals.  I assume that if a daughter or wife of a billionaire got an abortion it would be done at home under the most pristine of conditions without any rules hindering the social engineering of their genetic line.

My father has long believed that his mother died due to complications arising from a back alley abortion.  Like it or not, legal or not, women will continue to have abortions.  It is best that a doctor does it with modern technology under sterile conditions rather than some schmuck with a rusty clothes hangar.  I hope that the clinics in VA will be able to adapt and comply.

When the capitalists capture all the politicians, here, so that they can hide their crimes and rule by proxy, we have oligarchy.  When they also steal our homes and public lands, here, we have feudalism.  Take away our right to free assembly, they believe they can live in their big houses and not worry about the growing unrest.  Hire a few more thugs and guard the gate. Let there be no rules for the leadership class; let there be lots of rules for the peasants.

In America, the capitalists are doing their best to recreate all the unfair conditions that Marx once wrote about.  When the peasants get tired of escapism via their computers and idol shows, will they, naturally and 'freely,' assemble at the gates of the Big Houses?

I suspect they will.  Stay tuned in for the next American Revolution.

Until then enjoy some political satire.  In this scene, no one lives in the Big House.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Anthropology: after ‘Bitter’ comes ‘Sweet’

Recently American Anthropologists had a little tiff about “science” in their profession.  A good summary is here and I had a few words about it as well (here).

That discussion is still playing out as some have turned to redefining (and marketing) Anthropology (here and here).  Concurrent with that discussion is a “What does Anthropology mean to me” discussion.  As a Valentine’s Day effort Rex asked folks to write loves letters to Anthropology as a way to get passed the bitterness of the previous tiff.   It is a good idea as it offers catharsis.  Here are some responses:

Living Anthropologically writes Loving Anthropology
Barbara King writes Why I Love Anthropology
There are probably others with more to come in.

My intent here is to be participant observer.

Note that the two web sites Savage Minds and Neuroanthropology are leading these efforts. These two sites, and the OAC, are currently leaders in the Anthropology blogosphere.  Both sites are collaborative projects by people who are roughly in the same age groups, generally known in the US as Generation X.

I cannot reiterate the Generations Model as it would be too long (see here for a summary).  Basically, America is in cultural crisis, a era that will last about 20 years; we have many years to go before it is done [1].  The leadership of one generation, idealists/prophets (in this case Boomers), starts the crisis.  Idealist generations are the recurring polarizer’s of American culture and they have begun every major crisis in our history (Glorious Revolution, American Revolution, slavery debate-Civil War, depression-WWII, and today).

The crisis era closes as the next generation, the reactive nomads, our Gen X, leads the way out. During the crisis era, some nomads become commanders who take pragmatic leadership roles in many institutions and politics.  If they arrive too early and push too hard like autocrats, they eventually get vilified and burned [2].  If they go slow they can become great leaders who will be much admired.  I discussed this for archaeologists here.

However, reactive nomads make poor visionaries.  The one example of a reactive visionary is Hitler, obviously not a good role model for Gen Xers.  Reactive commanders do best when they have a clear destination in mind and are allowed to go after it. They themselves likely will not conceive of the destination but will receive it from another. 

The latter half of the crisis era instills a vision of the future that becomes the founding principles of a reborn culture.  In the past, that vision has always been provided by an idealist known in generational theory as the Grey Champion (John Winthrop, Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, and ??).  In our current national crisis the GC has not emerged; it’s not Bernanke as he is one of the culture destroyers. Maybe Hilary Clinton or Ron Paul will get to play the role but I suspect it will be someone less well known.

Institutions also need their Grey Champions.  Anthropology currently needs one.  Anthropology died and was reborn previously in the years 1925-1945; the Boasians were marginalized as the modernists with their general system theories and evolution became mainstream.  Their GC was likely Ales Hrdlichka.  Today, the modernists have been marginalized but no one is standing up offering a prophetic vision for the future of Anthropology.

I have looked hard at the Boomer class of Anthropologists and none seems to stand out.  Too many of them want to fight the culture wars or they are jaded from the battles.

The title of Lende’s essay sounds like its offering a vision. But, in true Xer fashion, he can only say  

We are pragmatists – we recognize the need to rewrite an outdated long-range plan and the need to be inclusive. We are sadder-but-wiser, ready to get on with things, but not really clear where we need to be getting to...Anthropologists do seem to be searching for a new identity, something to lend us vision, a plan of action for the future.

His essay is more a quest than a revelation. He’ll make a great commander but not a prophet.  

Anthropology needs direction and a destination.  I offer these humble clues to what the destination is.

1. Let the Enlightenment go--it is no longer needed.
2. Say No to Descartes—the mind/body is one system; nature/culture is one system.
3. Embrace chaos and complexity—the world is rarely linear.
4. Embrace the philosophy of Pragmatism
5. Create an inquiry of situational behavior (includes non-situational and desituated)
6. Enjoy the next 50 years of Dionysian dance; Apollo can return after that.
7. Our goal is to develop Old Masters, and, we can enjoy the young geniuses as they do their one-hit-wonder routine (Galenson).

How do we get there?  I don't know; I'm not the GC and don't want the job.

There are Boomers out there that offer a way forward.  Lakoff and Johnson’s magnum opus Philosophy in The Flesh: the Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought is a place to start.  Johnson followed it with The Meaning of the Body:  Aesthetics of Human Understanding.  (Lakoff has returned to being a culture warrior).   The Strauss and Howe model mentioned above is also useful, as is the work of Robert Shiller in economics.  There must be more out there but I don’t see any Boomer Anthropologist that fits the role of GC.  Let’s hope that someone steps forward and publishes the path ahead.

1.  Some argue it started with 9/11/2001, others in August of 2007 with the credit crisis that becomes the global financial crisis.  Either way we have many years to a resolution, circa 2022-2027. And, hell lays in between. Remember, the culture has to ritually die before its reborn.
2. Think of Michelle Rhee for DC and maybe what’s coming for Scott Walker in Wisconsin; and never forget Jacob Leisler, a nomad of the Glorious Revolution. Obama has been less forceful; all he knows how to do is jump from one idea to another, like a fart in a skillet. The GC will have strong convictions and will hold fast when facing hell, something a nomad is unlikely to do.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Angst of Freedom

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Confederacy.  In 1861, eleven states formed a union and would go on to elect Jefferson Davis as its one and only president.  Within weeks, America was in civil war, a war that is still the greatest tragedy of this nation’s history.  I find it frustrating and shameful that we are not embracing the CW anniversary at a national level.  Our political leaders and the mainstream media are ignoring it.  Such is the state of our nation, our culture of denial.  Leave it to the BBC to cover it.

America does need to embrace this tragedy; actually more than that—it needs to wallow in it for a few years because there is catharsis in doing so.  Barack Obama is not your typical Afro American man because his father was from Angola rather than, say, Alabama.  He has no ethos of slavery, no cloud of being the down trodden, and he lacks the soul of the blues, sacred harp, and gospel.  So he doesn’t get it.  His advisers should at least coach him on how to lead--he can pretend that he gets it. That would be a start.

Those southerners celebrating  (and here) today exemplify many of the paradoxes of our times. Let us read the South Carolina Succession Ordinance because it is short and to the point:

“AN ORDINANCE to dissolve the union between the State of South Carolina and other States united with her under the compact entitled "The Constitution of the United States of America."

We, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained, That the ordinance adopted by us in convention on the twenty-third day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and also all acts and parts of acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed; and that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the "United States of America," is hereby dissolved.

Done at Charleston the twentieth day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty.” Source & here

The first source gives all the succession ordinances.  They all read similar to SC’s.  They are Declarations of Independence.

Several states published Declaration of Causes of Succession.  Here are some statements (Source):

“The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.”


“In the momentous step which our State [Mississippi] has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course…Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world.”

These two statements are direct and blunt about their motives—the threat to the institution of slavery was the reason they succeeded.   South Carolina was a little more complicated as they provided a legal history of the conflict and tied their behavior directly to the documents of the American Revolution and the compacts about preserving slavery therein:

“The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue……They [the 13 Colonies in 1776] further solemnly declared that whenever any ‘form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government.’ Deeming the Government of Great Britain to have become destructive of these ends, they declared that the Colonies ‘are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved”

South Carolina argued that several states and the federal government had not upheld their part of the bargain.

“For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution…Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.”


“The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy…Sectional interest and animosity will deepen the irritation, and all hope of remedy is rendered vain, by the fact that public opinion at the North has invested a great political error with the sanction of more erroneous religious belief…We, therefore, the People of South Carolina, by our delegates in Convention assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, have solemnly declared that the Union heretofore existing between this State and the other States of North America, is dissolved, and that the State of South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the world, as a separate and independent State; with full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent States may of right do.”

There you have it.  The causes of succession were slavery and the belief that the constitutionally guaranteed “states rights” about slavery had been broken.  “States rights” about other institutions were not issues of conflict.  That is the truth of the matter from their documents. In South Carolina, 25% of the male population would die during the CW protecting the right to have property called “slaves”.

I rarely pass judgment on issues but I abhor the idea of slavery.  The institution was and is evil--knowing that it still exists in parts of the world.   I say this knowing that many of my ancestors from South Carolina were slaveholders.  I do not apologize for them and I do not condemn them.  It is historical fact and I take it for what it is.  They are also dead, so long ago that their behavior and ideas bears no weight on mine.  

The above documents do reveal some interesting ideas.  First, those people clearly believed in what they were doing.  The anger seething in the Georgia document is hard to miss.  Anyone willing to die for their beliefs is worthy of honor.

Therefore, I say to all Southerners, honor your past, wave your flags and march in the streets.  By all Southerners I include the blacks too because today’s South is a heterogeneous cultural landscape.  The Sons of the South should shake the hands of their black neighbors just as the Confederate veterans did with the Union veterans on the fields of glory in the 1890s.

Today, there would be nothing to celebrate if there had not been slavery, a war to end it, and all the Lost Cause mythology to extend it. 

South Carolina reminds us of another idea—that…

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…” here

Notice how they left out the statement all men are created equal.  The people of South Carolina didn’t believe in equality in those days of 1860.  My question for all Southerners is:

Do you believe in equality now, for all men and women, regardless of color?

The answer will help determine if we are any wiser in this country.

BTW, lets not forget that when a form of government becomes destructive of the ends for which it was established, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government...

Pay attention DC and Wall Street...Egypt is closer than you think.