Cosmos Café [1/22] - "Anger and the Road to Hell," a selection from Election 2016: The Great Divide, the Great Debate by Mark Jabbour

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(Ed Mahood) #21

Given that almost 3/4 of all illegal immigrants enter the USA via airports, it would seem that what you need over there is to build a ceiling. My suggestion would be a dome, then the bubble would become reality, in a sense. :wink:

Mixed feelings is what I have about the paper. Oh, he has a point, don’t get me wrong, but advancing a political agenda in the name of science is a bit disingenuous. However, he did make it clear where he was coming from, so he gets points from me for making his assumptions clear(er than most similar writers). I thought it was cute that he was Australian (or at least writing from down-under). I know I pick on America a lot, but what lies deeper than that is the English-language and a lot of those “typically American issues” (like this whole identity-politics debate) is much more English-language based than most people recognize or would like to admit.

Well, at the expense of repeating myself, again: words like “cruel” and “hostile” are value-judgments and can only come from humans. Nature may be “harsh”, though I find even that characterization a bit overstated, but at bottom, it is just is the way it is. We humans are part of that Nature, to be sure, and putting an infant in the field is cruel. We know what happens to our young when we leave them unattended or if we decide to no longer help them. It’s not Nature being cruel, it is we who are so, because we know better and decide against acting accordingly. It’s, to my mind at least, a human thing.

And one of the things that it seems to me that we have real difficulties coming to terms with is the fact that we are human.

Personally, I don’t know exactly what “progress”, so I can’t say. Since you say we haven’t, I’d be very interested in knowing what you consider progress to be so that we have some criteria against which to judge whether we have or not. There are many things – good things, in my mind – that we humans have accomplished (like in the areas of hygiene and medicine, just as examples chosen at random), but like anything else in the universe, as Yogurt points out in “Spaceballs”, there’s an upside and a downside. And you’ll have to explain “reverse Darwinism” to me … I don’t think that most of what is passed of as Darwinism is an accurate portrayal of what the poor man wanted to say, and he’s been terribly abused for purposes other than he may have ever imagined. Of course, if you’re right, you’ll be up for a Nobel: there’s a whole side of Darwinism that no one’s seen yet. And I’ll sign the petition that you get it.

Mr. Rogers was from Pittsburgh. I grew up near there. I can assure you, however, that I didn’t grow up in his neighborhood. I grew up on a top-soiled-over strip mine in a little community that wouldn’t have existed at all without coal and radon. By the time I got there it was considered a suburb of the sprawling 20,000-soul metropolis a mile up the road. But the whole area was just coal and steel.

When I showed up it was more or less expected that you’d find the toughest kid around and more or less call call him out. He would decide whether he just kicked you ass our deigned to take you as you were. Odds were, however, if it was the latter, you’d be required to show your mettle at a future date, most likely with someone outside the community. It was a kind of initiation, if you will, but without any of the higher, inspiring results such acts should bring. Of course, once accepted into the group – your back was always covered. We “surburbanites” were not necessarily welcome in the in-group of the little big-city up the road where we had to go to high school.

And, no, 20m or 138m … show me one problem than money solved. I think Mr. Rogers had a chance, but we didn’t take it.

Ms Pelosi is the rule, not the exception. America is represented by millionaires though the vast majority of their constituents will never be anywhere close. The demographics of representation (including the Senate) reinforces the notion that at heart the US is a plutocracy. She’s just another one.

And that’s good for you, and I’m glad you did. I sincerely hope it’s not what does you in.

But, to come back to Darwin, your thoughts about him, and our online conversation: nothing in any of that truly addresses the consciousness side of things. I know, I know, our intrepid cognitive-psychological explorers are just another brain-scan away from cracking that nut, but I’m guessing they’ll get there just about the time AI goes from ignorance to intelligence. To my mind, the purely material view is just too limited. To my mind, we have the consciousness we have as humans today because nature/evolution/… thought it had survival value. The biology and the chemistry and the physics (as currently put forward) doesn’t get you there. I think there’s more in play than many are willing to admit, whereby not everyone who has a broader view has something reasonable or worth-listening-to to say.

And just for the record, don’t you find it illuminating that the man who first said he’d be proud to shutdown the government and who then did and put the onus on the “other guys” because we absolutely, positively needed that wall, just said (about an hour-and-a-half ago, as I heard it) that he – they – never intended to build a wall all the way along the border anyway? For wanting to be the non-politician-in-chief, that certainly sounds to me like he’s playing (or is trying to play) that game as poorly and all the rest of them.

So, just why should I take him any more seriously than any of the rest of them?


(Mark Jabbour) #22

Hey @achronon, just ever so briefly as I’m engaged in the day-to day: I, also lived in Pittsburgh, played on top of coal piles (1954). Twas where my father got his MBA (night school). I was four.
Cheers,
NJ
that be the University of Pittsburg. (photo, Solana Beach, 1980)


(Ed Mahood) #23

'Tis odd how paths (almost) cross more than once, is it not? I didn’t know a lot about the city then either, as I too was a mere four.


(Mark Jabbour) #24

So, the first review of my book is in. Three stars, which basically means conflicted. A good thing? Maybe. “stirring the pot” @achronon, yeah, for sure. A good thing? For whom? Remains to be seen?


(Ed Mahood) #25

Stirring the pot is not in and of itself a bad thing.

Regardless of the number of stars, that first reviewer invested a good chunk of his own time reviewing. He certainly didn’t take anything you said lightly. That’s admirable of him, and it should be encouraging for you.


(Marco V Morelli) #26

It’s a book in praise of a cult leader, written by a true believer.

What a well-considered and excellently written review. I would love to re-publish in on Metapsychosis, if Mike is willing and interested.

He points to the heart of darkness—the underbelly of the will to power, which Nietzsche called nihilism—in the arguments that I have heard Mark (you, sir, Mr. Jabbour) make in support of the current president. One the other hand, he’s appreciative of the literary qualities of your text and the personal complexity of your views.

He doesn’t merely disagree with you ideologically—he shows exactly how your views are existentially incoherent, how you’re operating in what Sartre would technically call, with respect to the ‘authenticity’ of consciousness, “bad faith.” It is a really insightful review, imo, all the better for him knowing you personally—and certainly a testament that he gave the text such deep consideration. I hope you feel good about that, even if it only got 3 stars.

But I have not read the book myself, nor reviewed this recent Café. I’m waiting for my hand-signed copy from the author, and to discover how horrified I should feel for being included in the story.

Cheers, mate. :beers:


(Mark Jabbour) #27

We are friends, one of the very few who did not disaffiliate (unfriend, etc.) with me. He is an adamant Trump hater and somewhat fearful of blowback from his many other friends. Three stars was very brave of him. It takes courage to even be seen reading the book, much less review it thoughtfully. That we disagree is fine, he made an effort which speaks very highly of him.


(Mark Jabbour) #28

Yes, well, your book sits on a table, wrapped in pretty paper, for over a month now. I’ll ask Mike if he’s fine with his review being published on Metapsychosis. You need not be fearful, you and @JDockus are represented accurately, as is your meditation “The loneliest road”. Drip by drop others are beginning to dive in. See you later alligator. Do you have Super Bowl plans? @madrush. I’m having a party … there’ll be salsa.


(Marco V Morelli) #29

That’s a possibility. Let me see how the week goes.


(John Dockus) #30

Greetings Mark:

I’m taking a break from these forums, and will continue to do so after this, but, seeing what has turned up in my email in-box, I return for a moment to thank you for reaching out to me not long ago in that other comment board in follow-up of our past exchanges, definitely memorable to me, and for including some of that in your book.

I read your friend’s review and am mighty impressed at what Ed Mahood suggested and Marco Morelli highlighted he has achieved in sensitively distinguishing where he strongly disagrees with you while also recognizing what has value in what you appear to have poured your heart and soul into during a period of intense creativity. I myself retain an appreciation for the whole hog and even kamikaze gusto with which you express yourself, and, when all is said and done, for the literary merit in what you have left behind, as wild and crazy as you sometimes appear to be. One can never accuse you of not being entertaining!

A more apt title of your book or perhaps subtitle might be: Defiant Devotion.

I wonder if your book’s genesis came around the time you and Marco were involved in that book club exploring David Foster Wallace and his Infinite Jest. You appear in some way to carry in your own writing the spirit (for lack of a better word) which was in David Foster Wallace. You share something of that way of writing he had, and it appears to come natural to you. What you do is not just imitation. Trump was no doubt the explosive catalyst for rapid and monstrous growth in franken-soil, but was the seed of the idea for your book planted when you were first discovering and exploring the writing of David Foster Wallace? Hunter Thompson and Charles Bukowski and other iconoclasts you could probably name are other guiding spirits whom it strikes me you occasionally follow off the beaten path, before striking out completely on your own and blazing your own trail.

Anyway, Mark, you strike me as a man who finishes what he begins even to the bitter dregs. If you plant a seed, you stay with it even if it grows to sprout wiry branches and jagged leaves and bears the ugliest and bitterest fruit. Making yourself into the guinea pig or the site for conducted experiment, to your credit you are the first to sample that possibly fatal fruit, and you appear to do your best to let nothing go to waste. You squeeze a few drops of the juice into your salsa, and with a bowl of crispy-fresh tortilla chips you pass it around not with the intent to poison anyone, but because you are an adventurer at heart and have an expansive palate and are always hunting for new and unusual textures and flavors, and you sincerely desire to share what you have discovered with others.

I detect also a unique strain of dark humor, thick and black as oil, operating in what you do, and what is surprisingly endearing, what makes one feel one can hang out with you even despite the most radical disagreement, is that whatever you dish out one feels you also don’t spare yourself. You allow that you yourself are fair game. I think this is actually your saving grace and what keeps the playing field fair and level with you. A closer reader sees there may be something frighteningly ugly at the center of what you do and give expression to, but it is still a life there, even when to distract attention or merely to provoke you hang on its branches empty beer cans and raccoon tails and the pelts of roadkill.

I wonder if in five years or so you will write a sequel to your book. I wonder in what ways you will have changed. I can’t imagine as more time passes, and the more his circle narrows and tightens into a noose around his own neck, you will continue banging a drum for Trump with as much fervor as you did before, yet, I say again, I do see why presently you are still voicing support for him. It has much to do with what you have wagered and the friends you have sacrificed and how much of your heart and soul and time and energy you have put into your book. It’s to where you cannot cut parts out now without killing the whole organism and perhaps severing a vital nerve or artery in yourself.


Every author who completes a book becomes afterward like the captain of a ship. When the ship springs so many leaks it is no longer recoverable and it begins to sink fast, he is faced with a life or death dilemma, a damnable choice either way: either abandoning it, saving himself and being considered by a certain constituency a coward and a traitor, or going down to his death with the ship and being considered a hero and possibly a martyr.


To end, and on a positive note, Mark, congratulations on the completion of your book. I sincerely mean this. Any grueling creative process one engages in and sustains through a period of time, wrestling in deep isolation with both the angel and the devil, often not being able to tell one from the other and consequently speaking in tongues sometimes and looking crazy to others, deserves some recognition and respect at least from other creative spirits who have been through their own grueling creative processes, all the private and largely inexpressible ups and downs, the personal victories and defeats, the painful abortions, the despair and terrors and joys and exhilaration, knowing firsthand how it feels not only to make piles of shit and trash but on those long-awaited and rare occasions how it feels finally to be strong and able enough to dip the pen deep into one’s very heart and soul and to write with blood and controlled fire.


P. S. Ed and Mark - From 1979 to 1983, my young boyhood years, I and my two sisters and Mom and Dad lived in Pittsburgh, PA. Glory days for the Steelers. “One for the thumb in ‘81” My Dad also took me to Three Rivers Stadium to watch the Pirates play. But I was born on the south side of Chicago, so have been indoctrinated from a young age to be above all a fan of the Bears, the White Sox, the Bulls, and the Blackhawks. Mark, I’m still smarting from the missed field goal by Bears kicker Cody Parkey, off the post, which ended their season, after an excellent answering drive in the waning minutes after the Eagles impressed with their go-ahead TD. The table was set for the Bears to walk off in glory on home turf. I’m still impressed however with the progress that team has made. There is some hope for Bears fans in the future. The Saints got screwed with that no-call pass interference at a critical time near the end of their game against the Rams. I also wish the Chiefs pulled it out against the Patriots. Anyway, those games were entertaining. An objective fan, pulling for no one in particular, always wishes for games to have razor-sharp tension-filled moments and sudden dramatic swings of momentum and to come down to the wire. I figure Mark, you might be pulling for the Patriots to beat the Rams in the Super Bowl because, after all, a “Make America Great Again” hat like you possess was spotted in the past in the locker of Patriots QB Tom Brady.


(Mark Jabbour) #31

You got that right, buddy! Go Patriots! I’m having a Super Bowl party at my “gated community” of which I invited @madrush to. I have no political friends. I damn near near have no friends. I am a writer, a conserved observer, which seems to be, if not extinct, an endangered species. I very much appreciate your thoughtful response. You should come … I am making my home made salsa, always different. Thanks, buddy.
cheers,
go Pats,
mark


(John Dockus) #32

Hi Mark:

I’d join you to watch the game if I lived near you. I hope it’s a good one. Tom Brady, love him or hate him, has certainly made a case for greatest QB of all time.

Here’s a song which captures a sentiment we perhaps share. I love Iggy Pop, especially Stooges era. Beat Em Up is not one of his best albums. The edge and danger in the godfather of punk has disappeared in hard rock power chords; the “street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm” has been tamed by years of hard living and by fame and he in his vulnerability was tainted in this album by the alt-rock becoming popular at the time. Kind of cringy to me, but I still love Iggy Pop, or the man James Osterberg behind the persona. That guy has had quite a life and he’s still active at 71 years old, outliving Lou Reed and David Bowie, and he began living with his parents in a trailer park in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

Cheers in return, Mark.

I’m a football baby
Rollin’ round the field
I’ve been passed and fumbled
Till I don’t know what I feel
Everybody’s the same
They’re all footballs too
Setting up the big play
And trying to score

I’m a football baby
In a football game
I’m a football baby
Run–kick

Life’s a football game
As every chump and champ knows
We don’t touch, we collide
Till we’re worn out inside
We’re kicking each other
Right where it hurts
Setting up the big play
And trying to score

I’m a football baby
In a football game
I’m a football baby
I’m a football baby
In a football game
I’m a football baby
Block–pass
I’m a football baby
In a football game
I’m a football baby
Run—kick—hit—goal


(Marco V Morelli) #33

Hey Mr. J~ I’m not going to make it over to your place for the Super Bowl. I’ve got too much unfinished business and work in precarious progress to spend a couple hours watching sports today. But I would like to see you, and get my copy of your book—maybe in the next week or two? Why don’t we go for a walk, out in the wild, instead of sitting in front of another screen! I’ll also catch up with this Café, which I haven’t listened to yet; then we can walk, and talk—and leap, if you’re up for it. We may never land.

Hope you enjoy the game. Go Team Human. I’ll miss the salsa.


(Mark Jabbour) #34

Thanks John. That’s an interesting take. Football, the American kind, is strictly an American sport. All the others have been adopted by other countries and cultures, which is worth examining. Why is that? I’ve got some ideas but they’ll keep. I think it will be a good game–lots of offense, and close. Go Pats! Too bad ya can’t make my party - lots of home made delicious food, maybe some whiskey, some beer, who knows?


(Ed Mahood) #35

Martin Gannon in his Understanding Global Cultures: Metaphorical Journeys through 28 Nations, Clusters of Nations, and Continents uses (American) football is t-h-e metaphor to describe, more or less, all you need to know to understand American culture. Why should anyone else even think of adopting it? Just a thought. :roll_eyes:


(Mark Jabbour) #36

Yep. Big influences. Thanks for the thoughtful reply, @JDockus. I’m working on a defense of the book, maybe by next week. There is a book out “Ship of Fools” by Tucker Carlson, a pundit I never much cared for, but who makes many of the same points I do. (Maybe not as creatively, though.) Go Pats! Have fun,
cheers


(John Dockus) #37

What a fantastically anticlimactic game, Mark. Rather boring for a Super Bowl. Not at all an offensive shootout like you called it. The MVP I think goes collectively to the Patriots defense. But the Rams D played well too. Edelman was pretty much the entire Patriots offense for a majority of the game. Offensively it finally started to open up a little in the mid to later part of the 4th quarter. I knew at that point the Patriots were in control. Even if the Rams were up by 3 pts. with 2 minutes left in the game, with their track record and experience I still don’t think I’d bet against Brady and Belichick.

Maybe this all points in the direction of a possible next book you might write, Mark. The role of sport, and in particular football, in american culture. Exploring the metaphor to which Ed Mahood alluded. How it coincides or shares something in common with the big corrupt and corporatized political arena. Spectacle which takes over and grows to such monstrous size that anyone who comes in contact with it is reduced to a spectator.

I think of Crowds and Power by Elias Canetti. Bread and Circuses. The mass rally. I think also of Chomsky’s observation in Manufacturing Consent of the jingoism conditioned into people who get hooked like drug addicts on following particular teams. There is a sort of fascist structure built into professional sports organizations. There is a cult-follower quality to the rabid fan. The cult of personality. The idolization of certain players. There is a transfer of that mentality over into the political realm. People are groomed for ideology implantation and for becoming part of a mob.

The commercials that played during the Super Bowl could have an entire commentary devoted to them. There is a remarkable sophistication to them now to where symbols are played with meta-ironically, with tongue-in-cheek, virtue signaling, and all kinds of tricks of emotional manipulation and exploitation to make one feel one is part of a community. But of course it’s all just an illusion and more politics. I think for instance of the Colin Kaepernick controversy and debate, his taking a knee in protest during the National Anthem when he was still on a team, then he being treated like kryptonite afterward and no team signing him, and all the heated fallout and drawing of battle-lines that has led to. Some artists in solidarity with Kaepernick turned down the offer to perform during halftime. But the NFL had their answer, playing politics and attempting to neutralize dissent, making themselves out to be good guys after all, by flashing a presentation in the pregame ceremony which included the image of Dr. Martin Luther King. I felt sick to my stomach.

I really think that sculpture which was displayed in an Israeli museum that recently caused outrage of Ronald McDonald nailed to a cross, entitled “McJesus”, is a logical outgrowth and fitting representation of this wildly grotesque and violent collision of the sacred and profane which we all witness now in one form or another on a daily basis. All that Finnish artist Jani Leinonen did, I think, was hold up a mirror and showed the true face of what we are already daily bombarded with. It’s another way of saying that nothing any longer is sacred and everything is for sale. But as usual the messenger is the first one to be shot at. If only more individuals really examined their souls and where their emotions are coming from they would be more outraged at the kind of society, moving away from democracy and more and more turning into neo-feudalism, which could produce such a state of affairs where everything is turned inside out and twisted and turned away from its original human meaning and then, once transformed into a bastardized and watered down version or some weird hybrid, is put back into circulation with the label “new and improved”, for sale back to people who have already been thoroughly demoralized and are the easiest to exploit. How the NFL used the image of Dr. Martin Luther King, slyly turning him into a brand to represent not humanity at large but them and their organization, made me think of Tony the Tiger and how that character is used to sell boxes of cereal, only in this instance it is civil rights for sale.

It’s all so utterly grotesque and morally outrageous when one considers that all the money that corporations and companies pour into having an advertising slot and in it flashing images which reach millions during the Super Bowl could house, clothe and feed so many poor and impoverished individuals in desperate need in this country.


Didn’t you mention in the past, Marco, that you are interested in and feel an affinity for the work of Don DeLillo? I never read it, but sometime ago I glanced at a review of his book Underworld in which figures prominently the “National Pastime”, baseball. I suppose it could be argued what sports metaphor most adequately represents american culture. I think baseball once was but has been taken over by football and its mix of violence and grace the more fractured and atomized society has become. It may be that gladiatorial games and fights to the death take over football as the National Pastime the more dystopian society becomes and the more people, desperate to feel something, anything, start crying for blood and in their reversion to superstition and barbarity need human sacrifices. There already is an appetite and an audience for extreme fighting.

Think of the human cost to those warriors who run onto the field for the entertainment of the masses. I lived in Pittsburgh, PA, during the time, for instance, Mike Webster played center for the Steelers. He shared in the glory of winning the ultimate in his sport, he was an MVP, but he payed for it after he retired with serious damage to his body and head. It could be said that football gave him fame and glory but it also permanently damaged him and ultimately played a significant part in killing him. Many players pay for that taste of fame and glory later in life by having serious physical and devastating emotional problems. There have been players who due to agonizing complications due to brain damage couldn’t take it anymore and have committed suicide.

(From Wikipedia: “After death, Mike Webster was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease. Webster was the first former NFL player diagnosed with CTE. Bennet Omalu, a forensic neuropathologist, examined tissue from Webster and eight other NFL players and determined they all showed the kind of brain damage previously seen in people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, as well as in some retired boxers.”

“Since his death, Webster has become a symbol for head injuries in the NFL and the ongoing debate over player safety. His doctors were of the opinion that multiple concussions during his career damaged his frontal lobe, which caused cognitive dysfunction.”)


These same thoughts could he applied to soldiers who return home from fighting abroad in war. We see many of them abandoned by society at large and even stigmatized, inwardly shattered and vestiges of the humans they once were and wandering homeless. Can you imagine in that traumatized and extremely weak and vulnerable condition being preached to by a man in a suit who has Fox News Network propaganda playing in his head, never having put in an honest day’s work in his life and inherited all his money, that you must stop being a drain on the welfare system and you must pick yourself up by your bootstraps and get a job? The soldier returns home only to find that he is in another jungle and fighting another kind of war.


Having written all this, despite my criticalness, there is a whole other level which I approach sports in, a grassroots level which involves the purity of sport and the memory of my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood when I played soccer, basketball, baseball, and ran cross-country. I learned some incredibly valuable lessons competing as a part of a team and solo. By extension, Mark, I can appreciate the hikes you have been on in the past, the preparations you had to make, and the skill set, kind of sense and endurance one needs for navigating the terrain. You would definitely have something to teach me if we went on a hike together. The habit of exercise and physical fitness cannot be but a positive for young people to learn. Through sports I also bonded with my father in ways which might not have been possible to us otherwise because in ways we had different natures. We needed something physical to bring us together, an activity, not just words. Words are where so many people get into trouble. My Dad and I used to go jogging together, or played pickup basketball, or simply got out the mitts and tossed a baseball to each other. When I was really young he also coached and in that capacity I saw an entirely different side to him which I love to this day. He was really wonderful with kids and never let be lost that playing a sport on an amateur level should be fun. I think for many people, by extension and vicariously if they can’t play themselves, spectator sports give them an excuse to get together and the occasion is used for a springboard for discussion of other topics. This was definitely the case with my Dad and I. I always looked forward to getting together with him to watch a game. It wasn’t only about the game, it was also, and probably even more so, about simply being together, talking about guy stuff and developing our relationship.

Congrats on your pulled for team the Patriots winning the Super Bowl, Mark. Enjoy it while you can. As my Dad always used to say, with humorous sarcasm when he and I well knew our team was going to suck and it was likely going to be a long season for us as fans, “Hope springs eternal.” What goes up must eventually come down. No king can remain on the throne forever. (Thinking of the American Presidency, thank goodness for term limits.) No champion can remain so forever. There is a time to savor and enjoy, and a time to get back to work. For every team eliminated there is always next season.


(Mark Jabbour) #38

Thank you, @JDockus. You make my heart soar. Terrible game, I/we barely watched - it was just a good excuse for me and a friend to have an honest conversation whist enjoying some damn good salsa!