Thursday, July 19, 2018

Very Likely Yes

I guess you actually have to occasionally answer the telephone on the off chance it's one of those surveys that grant an opportunity to combine your opinion with the opinion of others and contribute to an Opinion Poll. It was in the early 1990's when I was last asked to contributed to an Opinion Poll, something about NAFTA. The questions were so simplistic I had a poor reaction to being treated like a halfwit and when the survey taker finally suggested I should just answer the question with a yes or no I was hung up on. For reasons that totally escape me I remember the exchange with a degree of clarity. When I got off the phone, the Artist had suggested I might like to lie down for a bit.

An Opinion Poll I'd wish to participate in would contain no question such as "Do you think NAFTA is a good idea?" with option of either saying yes or no. However, an Opinion Poll which first asked how much I knew about NAFTA, where I got my information about NAFTA from and then suggested I give a rough précis of how NAFTA would work, that's what I call a request for an Opinion. But if today I was asked "Has the former Soviet Union's Comintern finally discovered the honey pot that produced a bridgehead in the United States and is that bridgehead the GOP and can we anticipate another aggressive reach for territory by the Russian State before the USA's November Midterms and will there be a pogrom of suspected US assets within Russian State?" Then the answer is "Very Likely Yes."

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Helsinki

In 1943 Stalin officially dissolved the Comintern so as to make nice with his allies Roosevelt and Churchill. The Comintern can politely be thought of as Leninist outreach with strings attached soon followed by a power hungry and pragmatic iron fist. Meanwhile there's Finland, which in 2015 ranked top in the world for Human Capital, education and stuff, and was rated the Most Stable country in the Index of Fragile States for the years 2011-2016, in 2018 the index rewarded the USA with the status of Most Worsened.  So it's a good day to talk about the word Bromance. It's a relatively recent introduction to the English Language. We're talking the 1990's, early 2000's. The definition includes "non-sexual," so it's not about boys banging boys or wrestling in leotards. But the definition does include the word  "homosocial," which means it has to do with some kind of relationships between boys. In the old days, and we're talking the good old days, a bromance was usually referred to as a Romantic Friendship, and in the good old days the word Romantic and Friendship when both were applied to boys raised eyebrows all over the place, made boys blush, and any suggestion that a homosocial relationship between boys was intense and/or emotional resulted in deep dives into sacred texts for suitable punishment, followed by reeducation and possible jail time. My first point would be why invent the word Bromance when Romantic Friendship covers the whole area of discourse perfectly. The obvious answer, we boys are very fragile and we need our own word that doesn't sound sissy when we're conjoined in the task of sighting our AR 15's.

My second point has to do with Tyrants, from the old Greek word meaning an absolute ruler upon whom there are no restrictions. Picture if you will a Romantic Friendship, or a Bromance, between two Tyrants. Not easy to do. Real Tyrants tend toward an attitude that eschews anything that might be tainted by personal weakness, something like trust is out of the question, what Tyrants prefer is complete pathological control over any relationship. To find a better understanding it might be necessary to go to another aspect of the homosocial which has to do with the relationship between Master and Apprentice, more recently framed in the fruitier terms of Mentor and Mentee. Generally in this relationship the Master regards the Apprentice as a hapless idiot but useful, he makes the tea, fetches the wrench, carries the bag and as long as he does so he might learn something about plumbing or delivering milk, or whatever. The Apprentice on the other hand regards the Master in a more adoring manner, not so much a God who must be obeyed, rather an Apprentice's passion is a deep, purring admiration for his master. The other thing to recall is that as far back as the 1920's the Soviet Comintern was very busy in the USA and in Europe endeavoring to undermine the very idea of Democracy. They had big plans for the USA. Back then US industrial unions were deemed unfruitful, too middle class, self interested and dull, it was the founder of the AFL Sam Gompers with his suspicion of politicians and socialism and his acceptance of "the business of business is business" that defined US labor best, still does. So for paradise to happen in the USA it was a Race War the pragmatists in the Comintern wanted. We snowflakes of course would have been sent the Gulags of the Midwest.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Circumstantial Evidence

In some places it's called Tradecraft, and you go to school to learn it. There's homework, books to read, tests, field trips and everything. The art of the Honey Trap is more than likely on the syllabus, and you might even learn that this art is not all about what's politely called a romantic liaison. Rather, honey is better thought of as Temptation, and we people are prone to all sorts of temptation. The secret is little by little, slowly, slowly, insight by insight until all of a sudden there's a hook in the flesh and the subject is pulled into what should be if properly done an invisible net. Call it seduction, if you like. In the end the art of the Honey Trap works on that part of each of us which has to do with cognition, the processes by which we understand ourselves in relationship to the world, a judgment that usually requires a half truth or two to combat dissonance so as to make any one of us feel better about ourselves, believing down right lies can make us feel wonderful. And here, you may have an Asset in your net and your opposite number in Tradecraft will be on the hunt for what has often been called a Traitor, which sadly in a US court of law is an offence that requires a mens rea, the act is not culpable unless intent can be proved.

Once in the net some will flop about, fall prey to doubt. Some might realize the net and try to escape. But early on in the process of developing an Asset you'll learn to recognize signs of anything like integrity in your subject, and in discussions with others of your kind you'll come to a decision about whether the effort and resources spent is worth it. So if you're looking for art here, you'll find it in those first impression of your subject. Does he lie easily? Does he think he's cleverer than others? Does he have an unreasonably high opinion of himself? Is he more creepy than he is slimy, or is he just a maggot head? It's kind of like a really well researched personality test for a total bounder and utter rotter. Old hands of course have the quick and ready eye, they can spot them at the other end of the bar. And if your subject has potential, you make room in the filing cabinet, you open a file, you gather your clan to find out as much as you can. Little by little, slowly, slowly you recruit your volunteer so that one day you might get a pat on the head for having mastered your cynical craft. It's a job, some do it for war, some do it for world peace, most do it because it's more fun than betting on Cockroach Races.

Friday, July 13, 2018

King Lear.

I don't know about King Lear. He was very, very old certainly, he preferred flattery to anything remotely associated with honesty, and he got terribly aggravated when one of his three daughters, the one named Cordelia, instead of flattering him to get her share of his kingdom like his other two daughters, chose to speak the truth when her father asked her to tell him how much she loved him and what a brilliant person he was. And too there was a whole thing with slimy, ambitious boy courtiers plotting, and as the King lost his influence he had nowhere to go. Flatterers were all about flattery and they were entirely unreliable scoundrels who were only interested in their careers. The old fool's last hope was with Cordelia who'd been honest with him, otherwise he was just old, unwanted and dotty, an all round whining pain in the neck with absolutely nothing useful to contribute. Oddly, I feel that way sometimes too, it's the Bean Beetle.

But the thing is, in my view, toward the end of the story Lear began to realize that he might have made a mistake, he died of grief clutching Cordelia's hanged corpse. Not sure our very own King Lear is emotionally capable of that. The point is Shakespeare's King Lear was a story, designed to entertain, tug at the heart strings, teach a lesson, send the audience home nodding their heads wisely. The reality of course is always a little different. In exile Napoleon didn't really think he'd made any mistakes, it was his destiny, he'd been chosen. Herr Hitler, for his part, preferred to believe that his people were just not worthy of his unique variety of extraordinary genius, they had failed him, so it was entirely their fault, not his. Meanwhile for our own King Lear there's still a month or so to go before his courtiers think in terms of adopting "Russia – our sacred state, Russia – our beloved country. A mighty will, a great glory – Yours forever for all time!" as their anthem. There's a line in there somewhere, that goes "From the Southern Seas to the Polar Islands."

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Doublethink

 "Air Strip One" was Oceania's name for the British Isles in Orwell's 1984. "It was a nice day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen." Some might recall the story, and the first line of the story. Of the many interpretations of clocks striking thirteen the one that lasts is not that somehow the clocks had been set to military time, rather that something fundamental had changed. Everything that had preceded was suddenly in question and normal was soon to be rewritten.

 Our hero worked in the Ministry of Truth, and there was a moment when he reckoned there was a chance at love, but that was taken from him by deception, and at the end of the story following a very painful visit to the Ministry of Love our hero was reduced to facing his greatest fear, there was no alternative he was in love with Big Brother. Either way, double-think, being able to believe in two contrary things at the same time without being aware of the conflict, is already alive and well. Maybe the clocks are striking thirteen.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Soccer

Your correspondent might not remember where he was when anything important happened like Kennedy and Martin Luther King being shot or the moon landing but for some reason he does remember where he was when the English Soccer Team last won the World Cup. The English Team had defeated Germany. Can't remember the minor details, but I do remember accidently hearing the results of the game in the earpiece of a hand made crystal radio that was sometimes able to receive the BBC World Service so long as the wire mosquito netting that functioned as the radio's aerial was properly located for radio waves and incorrectly located for keeping the Mosquito at bay, a happenstance described as wanton vandalism which under questioning required truly gymnastic explanations from me. I tried everything from blaming others to falling off chairs, without any kind of success and then it hit me. Meekly and with a little foot pointing, I handed over the precious radio and explained that I was listening out for the results of the World Cup Final.

"Who Won?" was the obvious question and reaching into the wealth of English History and tradition with as much pride as I could put into my shinny little eyes I answered "England!" It was a rock of ages moment. With all my faults and desperate flaws I was a patriot doing what patriots do, rooting for the team, hell bent on victory no matter the personal cost. "What was the Score?" At a young age a person gets a reputation and mine was far from fair. "England Four, Germany Two." In my reply I put a slight cross in my eye, an innuendo wrapped up in a sinister suggestion that my inquisitor might not be all in for England, a foreign grandmother, an aunt who married an Italian, possibly a Baptist or a Catholic, a fifth columnist in English ranks. But desperate times require certain often unappealing and sometimes loathsome tactics. Had my inquisitor known I'd been trying to hear if Bob Dylan and the Band singing Rainy Day Woman had made it to the BBC's half hour pop music program when the program was rudely interrupted by an unhealthy wave of nationalistic fever things might have gone poorly for me. Yes indeed, back when I was a callow youth I'd have been prime material for a job as legal advisor to the current administration.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Pindar

I was going to talk about boys dressing up in leotards, embracing each other, grunting and rolling around on rubber mats. I'm sure it's perfectly natural yet I remain of the opinion that it should be an activity reserved for the privacy of a bedroom and not something that requires not only a coach but also locker rooms, community showers, universities and spectators. Fortunately the morning was cool enough for Compost Piles so I was able to discuss the matter with Pindar, the Poet from Thebes, whose odes to the Gods and to Olympian Athletes are difficult to tell apart.

He reminded me that in his day there were no leotards, boys wrestled naked for the edification of older men. The thing about Pindar is his degree of faith in the capacity of us people to achieve a degree of harmony through the grace of the gods. We come into the world as sinners and are free to chose but it's the gods who reward and doing stuff like lying or making things up or not following the facts so as to fool the gods is not only a grave, grave long term error, it's also unsporting. The sad fact is that it's always rather boring when Pindar starts preaching. Some of us had to wait for the Romans before we could do things like toss people into cages full of hungry Lions.