Monday Reads: We are still Tribal and Fascinated by FirePosted: April 9, 2018
Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I seem hard wired to avoid the caves and to wander the plains and mountains. For this, I believe I have my mother to thank. I imagine lurking some where in my family are Irish ‘traveller’ genes but who knows. I do not understand people who find one location and surround themselves with sameness. The lily white Midwestern suburbans filled with snotty WASPS were a prison to me. My mother’s insistence we travel frequently was the only thing that saved me, we used to stay at Marriott hotels all the time. It showed me there was more to people and life than a backyard prison.
Later, as a young mother, I unfortunately discovered way too late–because of promises of other things–that I basically married a potted plant who wanted nothing more than to drag to and from work day in and day out. The sofa was the center of life. I got some pleasure in taking my summers off and taking baby Doctor Daughter on the road. That worked until my parents moved back to the prison and I was surrounded by boring sameness day in and day out. It felt like being entombed in a cavern surrounded by slugs, potted plants, and narrowness in a world ruled without color or the discovery of abstract art and erotica. This came home as an astounding lesson with my inoperable cancer diagnosis at 34 and a six month old baby. I was not going to let my children suffer the same fate. They needed more back yard to play about and I would give them that for as long as I could live.
The word that best describes the circumstances of my youth is people attached to “homophilly”. It literally means the “love of the same.” It is the tendency of people with similar characteristics to congregate. That pretty much describes the WASP enclave that ensconced me. Same boring stuff day in and day out. My mother drove us to Pow Wows. She stuck us in station wagons and campers to search the far corners of the American West. We eventually landed in Europe. These were all places where I would dream I would have the courage to run away into so I would never EVER have to go back. My cousin who moved to NYC to do Broadway was my siren. She led me to believe that one day I would escape. History taught the progress of human kind was to leave caves and tribes to build cities. American History taught the American spirit is to get out there to discover and explore and build something new. None of this included the iconography of firmly planted sofas.
But, firmly planted sofas in limited areas show us that our tribal roots are still lurking. These lead to dark times, genocides, war, and oppression. I was looking at the various news items I’ve collected for today trying to find some theme. You’re probably wondering at this point too. I think therefore, I babble. Unfortunately, it all seems to be an expression of our primal fear of other and the desire of so many to huddle into a tribe based on iron age mythologies, the social constructs of race, sexuality and gender roles, and the dark side of homophilly. If we only love the same, do we also have to adapt the hate of the different?
I have two items of interest on the construct of separating humanity by race. First, is this new classification system for Black people living in the USA. How do you elect to be “just black”? From NPR: “2020 Census Will Ask Black People About Their Exact Origins”. Why is this necessary? Furthermore, a lot of us either came or were drug over way back and don’t know, a lot of us are a blend of all kinds of things, and why should the government be focused on which part of what continent spawned our ancestors?
For the 2020 census, the U.S. Census Bureau is changing how it will ask black people to designate their race. Under the check box for “Black or African American,” the bureau is adding a new space on the census questionnaire for participants to write in their non-Hispanic origins, according to a recent memo from the head of the 2020 census. “African American,” “Jamaican” and “Nigerian” are listed as examples of origins on a questionnaire the bureau is testing for 2020.
The change means many black people in the U.S. may have to take a closer look at their family trees to answer what can be a thorny question: Where are you really from? While many black immigrants can cite ties to a specific country, that question is difficult, if not impossible, for many U.S.-born African-Americans to answer.
The bureau has not responded to NPR’s questions about why it is making this change to both the “Black” category and the “White” category,” which will also include a new write-in area for origins.
But researchers at the bureau have said they have been trying to respond to requests for “more detailed, disaggregated data for our diverse American experiences as German, Mexican, Korean, Jamaican, and myriad other identities.” (The bureau was considering an overhaul to all racial categories that would have added check boxes for the largest ethnic groups and a write-in area for smaller groups. But it would require the Trump administration’s approval of an Obama-era proposal to change the federal standards on race and ethnicity data, which census experts say the White House’s Office of Management and Budget is not likely to move forward.)
My WASPY family has our family tree detailed out to when the first of whatever line came from where ever but only because my mother got obsessed with researching it decades ago as a hobby. And, this details one important distinction. Every one of my ancestors arrived here of their own volition. None of them were kidnapped and enslaved. None of them were here already where they were frequently murdered and driven from their lands. How does this information do anything positive?
Sebastian Junger wrote a book called “Tribe” that was published in 2016. He argued that on some level having wars and enemies is something humans enjoy because it gives us a sense of belonging. I can’t imagine needing that enough to be violent and oppressive to others. But, I see it in Trump’s White Nationalist cult and realize it has a draw.
During John Ford’s celebrated western film The Searchers, John Wayne’s character spends years hunting for his niece Debbie, kidnapped as a child by Comanche Indians.
When he finally finds her, she initially wants to stay with her Comanche husband rather than return home.
Although shocking in the film, it’s historically accurate. White people captured by American Indians (author Sebastian Junger’s preferred name for Native Americans) commonly chose to stay with their captors – and the book cites a case of a captive woman who hid from her would-be rescuers.
Even more astonishingly, from the earliest days of Europeans in America, settlers of both sexes ran away to join Indian tribes. This wasn’t just a few people, it was hundreds and hundreds. The practice was so rife that in the early 1600s settler leaders made it an offence with harsh punishments, but over the following centuries people still ran off in huge numbers.
And it hardly ever happened the other way. Indians didn’t want to join white society.
The attraction, argues Junger, was the sense of community, the importance of the tribe, evident in other primates and in primitive human societies. The superficial attractions of American Indian life were obvious: sexual mores were more relaxed, clothing was more comfortable, religion less harsh.
But mostly it was the structure of Indian society that appealed. It was less hierarchical, essentially classless and egalitarian. As the people were nomadic, personal property hardly mattered, since it was limited to what you or your horses could carry.
What changed this natural way of living for humans was first agriculture, then industry. Accumulation of personal property led to people doing what they thought best for themselves, rather than for the common good. But, suggests Junger, we’re not happy like this. We’re wired to the lifestyle of the tribe.
So tribal connectedness really doesn’t need the social construct of race, and yet it frequently and murderously oppressively does. From CBS: “Why 60 Minutes aired photos of lynchings in report by Oprah. The reason behind the broadcast’s decision to show graphic photographs of lynchings in this week’s report by contributor Oprah Winfrey”.
Oprah Winfrey gets an early look at the memorial, which will open to the public on April 26. The memorial contains 805 steel markers, one for each county where lynchings occurred for more than 70 years following the Civil War. The markers are suspended in air to evoke the horror of being hanged.
To tell that story on 60 Minutes, Winfrey and a team of producers felt it was important to show historical photos of lynchings, images that are likely to disturb many viewers. In an interview with 60 Minutes Overtime, Denise Schrier Cetta, the producer of the story, and Jeff Fager, the executive producer of the broadcast, explain their decision to air such upsetting photographs.
“I don’t think the story exists without those photos,” Fager says. News executives have a tendency to self-censor too much, he says, out of concern that viewers will be turned off. For him, the decision to show the photos was about reporting important facts about a little-known but important chapter of history.
“That’s reality; that’s what happened,” he tells 60 Minutes Overtime’s Ann Silvio in the video above. “Our story is about a part of history, really almost 80 years of American history, that isn’t in the history books. We don’t see these pictures. We don’t talk about it.”
One photograph that surprises Fager the most is an image of a crowd that showed up in Waco, Texas to watch the lynching of a man named Jesse Washington. The hanging tree stands in the center of the photograph, Washington’s tortured body lies beneath it, and hundreds of well-dressed white people look on.
“I really thought most lynchings were in the cover of night and Klan outfits, and not that it was a part of life to that degree—that the town would turn out to watch it happen in broad daylight,” says Fager, who feels that many viewers will learn a lot from the story.
The Guardian previews a book written on the idea of how tribe of masculine warps young boys. The author of The Shepard’s Hut is an Australian Surfer. “About the boys: Tim Winton on how toxic masculinity is shackling men to misogyny. In an excerpt from a speech about his new book The Shepherd’s Hut, the author says it is men who need to step up and liberate boys from the race, the game, the fight.”
There are a lot more girls in the water these days, and hallellujah for that; I can’t tell you how heartening this is. But I want to focus on the boys for a moment. For what a mystery a boy is. Even to a grown man. Perhaps especially to a grown man. And how easy it is to forget what beautiful creatures they are. There’s so much about them and in them that’s lovely. Graceful. Dreamy. Vulnerable. Qualities we either don’t notice, or simply blind ourselves to. You see, there’s great native tenderness in children. In boys, as much as in girls. But so often I see boys having the tenderness shamed out of them.
Boys and young men are so routinely expected to betray their better natures, to smother their consciences, to renounce the best of themselves and submit to something low and mean. As if there’s only one way of being a bloke, one valid interpretation of the part, the role, if you like. There’s a constant pressure to enlist, to pull on the uniform of misogyny and join the Shithead Army that enforces and polices sexism. And it grieves me to say it’s not just men pressing those kids into service.
These boys in the surf. The things they say to me! The stuff I hear them saying to their mates! Some of it makes you want to hug them. Some of it makes you want to cry. Some of it makes you ashamed to be a male. Especially the stuff they feel entitled or obliged to say about girls and women.
What I’ve come to notice is that all these kids are rehearsing and projecting. Trying it on. Rehearsing their masculinity. Projecting their experimental versions of it. And wordlessly looking for cues the whole time. Not just from each other, but from older people around them, especially the men. Which can be heartbreaking to witness, to tell you the truth. Because the feedback they get is so damn unhelpful. If it’s well-meant it’s often feeble and half-hearted. Because good men don’t always stick their necks out and make an effort.
So what really got me thinking about all of this and finding thread was this late news and the news of IDF snipers targeting children (male) and journalists in an attack on Gaza during protests near the wall. This is from The BBC about some of the oldest tribes defined by religion still left: “Syria conflict: Israel blamed for attack on airfield”. People of the Jewish faith have been targets of tribal hostilities for so many thousands of years it’s hard to believe. And yet, they are still capable of these things. At first, we thought the US was attacking Syria based on the chemical attacks. Instead, it was a rogue(?) Israel.
Monday’s attack hit the Tiyas airbase, known as T4, near the city of Homs. Observers say 14 people were killed.
Israel, which has previously hit Syrian targets, has not commented. Syria initially blamed the US for the strike.
The incident comes amid international alarm over an alleged chemical attack on a Syrian rebel-held town. The US and France had threatened to respond.
Reportedly, there were Russians and Iranians there. From The Israeli Times a few months back: IDF accuses Iran of setting up air base outside Syrian city of Palmyra.
The Israeli military on Saturday accused Iran of controlling an airbase outside the Syrian city of Palmyra, from which the army said the Iranian drone that was shot down over northern Israel earlier in the day was launched.
“Iran and the [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ special unit] Quds Force for some time have been operating the T-4 Air Base in Syria next to Palmyra, with support from the Syrian military and with permission from the Syrian regime,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement on Saturday night.
So, it likely was an attack based on a response to that. It’s just hard to know these days.
This comes on the back of two items posted to Facebook feeds from two separate Jewish Friends. It’s quite odd, but within in my WASPY cocoon it was quite acceptable for me to have many Jewish friends as long as I didn’t try to have a Jewish boyfriends. My mother actually got a call from an angry grandmother matriarch telling her that I needed to leave them to Jewish girls once in high school. In my neck of WASPishness dating Catholics was much more suspect. Especially, if they came from Eastern European or Southern European roots. I wasn’t even allowed to pierce my ears because I’d look like some immigrant baby. See, the rules of tribalism can be very fickle as well as stupid.
Yaser Murtaja had often filmed from the sky, but he never lived to fulfill his dream of flying on an airplane through the clouds.
The young journalist shot drone images and video for Ain Media, a small Gaza-based news agency he started five years ago. Just two weeks ago, he posted an aerial photo of Gaza City’s port on Facebook. “I wish that the day would come to take this shot when I’m in the air and not on the ground,” he wrote. “My name is Yaser Murtaja. I’m 30 years old. I live in Gaza City. I’ve never traveled!”
It was one of his last posts.
Murtaja, who was married and had a 2-year-old son, died Saturday after being shot the day before while covering protests at the edge of the Gaza Strip.
His work had appeared on networks such as Al Jazeera, and in 2016 he worked as a cameraman for Ai Weiwei’s documentary, “Human Flow,” which covered the global refugee crisis, including Palestinians in Gaza. The Chinese visual artist posted photos of Murtaja on his Instagram account on Saturday.
As violence continues to rage along the Israel-Gaza border, an Israeli reporter shared a photo that could only be described as inhumane.
“Best show in town. Residents of Nahal Oz in the stands,” read the caption for the image that showed a group of young Israeli spectators sitting on an observation tower near the Israel-Gaza border line, watching and waving as unarmed Palestinians got brutally murdered and wounded at the hands of Israeli troops.
The images were later shared by Reuters as well.
From Haaretz: “The Cold Calculation Behind the Israeli Army’s Sniper Fire on the Gaza Border. The politicians instructed the military to prevent a breach of the fence, but it’s doubtful that they held detailed discussions about the means to achieve this.”
Testimonies of correspondents on the Israeli side about the rate of firing and Palestinian reports of 800 people wounded attest to quite permissive orders given to the snipers. Even when the area is divided into sectors, commanded by senior officers, an area commander has no close control over the sharpshooters’ every shot. This situation leaves a lot to the discretion of relatively young soldiers, even though they were reinforced by more veteran police and Border Police snipers. The number of casualties was in accordance with these circumstances.
The number of fatalities yet again underscores Israel’s long-standing failure – commented on by the State Comptroller in 2003 and 2017 – to develop nonlethal measures which would be effective in dispersing demonstrations and marches from a relatively large distance.
There seems to be a huge human cost to feeling that sense of belonging you get from a Tribe. And don’t even get my started about the many other gangs and such I’ve written about in the past.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?