"...The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity...

...And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?" —William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), THE SECOND COMING

Despite everything, millions of Americans still thrill to Obama’s silky chords of rhetoric every time he stands at the podium. From there they are taken on a heady ride, where style supplants substance and all’s right with the world.

The problem is, it’s going to take more than lip-service to effect a change that will turn this empire back into a democratic republic and the planet back to health. Campaign rhetoric, while the planet parboils at 392ppm CO2, is not enough to get the job done. Mother Earth does not care about the insincere blatherings of politicians, or what your charismatic leader promises to care about while crossing his fingers behind his back.

No. It’s going to take more than business as usual. For one thing, ordinary people will have to get damn angry enough to demand responsible government, and demand it in loud, kvetching, furious, complaining tones.

The women who fought for the vote did not wait for an Obama, nor did they worry about being labeled as extremists, or radicals, or commies, or socialists, or threats to the all-American, patriarchal family. Nor did they feel they needed to couch their demands in nice, lady-like, diplomatic terms, to avoid seeming like angry hussies, which I’m sure they were called. Instead, their Declaration of Sentiments has a list of seventeen complaints, each beginning with “He has”, and so forth, a list of human rights abuses done for so long by men against women that anger had to be the only proper tone of their declaration.

Today we face equal and worse threats to human rights, democracy, economic security, and, most troubling, the very life of the Earth. You would think the people would wake up and take to the streets. But no. We are too well-schooled in the life of denial and distraction, and badly schooled in civics. As well, we have been long-conditioned to the uselessness of acting out. Our recent Democratic and Republican Conventions were witness to gross violations of First Amendment protections, where protesters were caged in “free speech zones,” out of sight and mind of those the protesters would petition for a redress of grievances; but, where protesters managed to get closer to exercise their Constitutional rights, SWAT police cornered them, fired pepper-spray, pepper balls, rubber bullets at them, injuring many.

Conservative Democrats and Republicans in Congress ...not to mention the FBI... categorize progressive activists as “extremists,” “radicals,” “persons of interest,” possible terrorists. The media ignore them. Barack Obama treats them with affable condescension, unperturbed and unmoved. Last April in San Francisco at $5,000-a-plate breakfast fundraiser, when protesters interrupted Obama’s speech, singing a song and holding up signs that read “Free Bradley Manning,“ Obama said, ““That was a nice song. You guys have much better voices than I. Thank you very much.” Then he turned back to his speech with, “Where was I?” adding, “Now there’s an example of creativity.”

Well, Obama can afford to feel secure. He is solidly established as the “velvet glove on the iron fist” of empire, as some have aptly noted. He does not have to resort to crude asides as did the former White House Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, who famously described the progressive base of the Democratic Party as “f**k’n retards.”

And so we get the same ol’ same ol’ crap—politicians posing as sweet-talking progressives, likening themselves and their supporters to heroes of the past, “liberals” who then make a sharp turn to the right, as soon as they’ve nailed the election. Thus, nothing changes, and here we go again, but this time slouching toward extinction.

It’s a puzzlement, this seemingly hopeless situation, but it’s also damn scary. MLK may have felt the “fierce urgency of now,” but it was nothing compared to this. You may think there’s time to “show up,” effect a slow take-over of the Democratic Party by progressives and turn this thing around, but there’s not. Thus, I refuse to pretend: I am going to remember that fears for the planet, disgust about over-population, or anger over our ever-growing list of political, economic and social ills, is not a sign of depression or yet another new psychological disorder (“Post Perky Negativity Disorder”?) needing the latest pill. Instead, perhaps it’s a sign we’re gaining in courage and losing our slouch.

Waking Up to Wisdom:

As science has it, learning —change— sometimes happens in a most mysterious way—by epiphany.

In Harper’s Magazine’s August 2011 Findings section, we find this nugget: “...babies learn language not through gradual habituation but in epiphanies.”

Imagine it—no need for rote memorization, for flash cards, for the stern nun looming with punishing ruler in hand...no sir. Baby brains, instead, absorb, leap ahead, then, lo and behold, they’ve got it.

I believe growth by epiphany is not limited to baby development. Is it not our constant enabler throughout life? I certainly can identify important epiphanies in my own life, and lesser epiphanies, those near-imperceptible growth spurts, allowing skills to proceed toward mastery, or at least competency, where trying too hard had never worked.

This may also work for entire societies. Others have noted it. They named it collective epiphany. Thus, someday, when a series of events converge in the midst of chaos, the American people will suddenly comprehend what is being done to them and their world, and who is doing it. When the catastrophes of empire, or tyranny, or plain ol’ incompetent governing, produce enough intolerable misery, the people’s consciousness just might take a leap. Then all it will take is one galvanizing event, and —flash!— the change we’ve been waiting for will no longer be a cliché, but a reality.

It’s an old story—death and resurrection.

Certainly, the Arab Spring, was initiated by epiphany, yes?

One question for me becomes, however, whether localized rebellion will be sufficiently profound for us, where the issue of global climate change must be addressed along with our pet projects of civic and political life? We don’t want to dawdle at door knobs, while the planet fades on a stretcher in the emergency room, or we could be facing not an American Spring, but a worldwide sizzling summer that has no end.

Thus, the sort of epiphany we need is a sudden change of our collective mind-set, one not limited to progressives, but one including those powers-that-be we love to blame for everything, one where, suddenly, masculinist ideology gives way to a balanced approach, blending both masculine and feminine ideals, where suddenly no other choice is possible but sustainable living, where all things cruel (war profiteering, industrial farming), stupidly dangerous (nuclear power, off-shore drilling, fracking), or selfish, wasteful, and immoral become impossible, because to choose them is to choose extinction: resurrection denied.

Under the radar, the signs appear:

If Ray Anderson, CEO and “recovering plunderer,” could manage it, why not the others?

And this: “Why The Insurance Industry Gets Climate Change”


“We all have the extraordinary coded within us, waiting to be released.” —Jean Houston

Comments

dhavid 6 years 49 weeks ago
#1

One thing is for sure, resurrection can occur only after death, not before. In this sense, america must die before it can have it's resurrection, it's epiphany. The death of it's military would be a gift to the world. God bless the navy seals and all who died in the recent helicopter shootdown, and God bless all of the thousands upon thousands of innocent people we have killed over the last decade. So odd that no one even mentions the thousands upon thousands on the media, except as a statistic. Why are we without guilt, shame? Are we a nation of psychopaths?

Certainly a shift in the mindset of the people is possible, remember the 60's? Personally I am not optimistic, but who knows? Time will tell. If karma is true for nations, as it seems to be with people, then we are doomed. Enslaving one race and destroying another in the name of manifest destiny was not a good start. Having been the military bully of the world, with our history since WW2, seals the casket. If what goes around comes around, we're screwed.

My epiphany will come when I never have to see men such as John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Mitch McConnell on television. They, and people like them, make me sick. Rather than being the 'salt of the earth' they are it's arsenic, and if there is a hell, they will surely go there. Ugly, ugly, ugly men, unworthy of the name 'human being.' Over there they throw shoes at people as an insult. Here, if I could be granted one wish, it would be to get so close to each that I could spit in their face. After being detained and arrested, I would clearly have no defense, much like the pie thrower in England. When asked why I did such a thing I would tell them that it was from all the traumatized and slaughtered children of Afghanistan and Iraq. They have never had a voice, so I would be theirs.

(Sorry I am out of order, Alberto, I was editing.)

Alberto Ceras 6 years 49 weeks ago
#2

Maybe there wouldn't be enough spit to go around but try to save a little for South Carolina's darling, Lindsey Graham. As for the Seals a good many innocent people who are constantly in America's crosshairs would hardly say "god bless them" rather "good riddance." How is it possible to be against the war and the killing and ask for "god" to bless the seals? Makes no sense to me.

Zenzoe 6 years 49 weeks ago
#3

I am eager to see how Wisconsin’s recall elections go today. Certainly, that effort hopes to hock a big loogie, as my kids would say, in Scott Walker’s eye. If they pull it off, that’ll be a big WOW! It’ll be one more example of collective epiphany, I do believe, in the sense that things got really really bad, and, shwoosh, the people woke up all mad as hell and off their butts to rid their state of its psychopathic-killer political machine.

Another sort of epiphany could happen, maybe in a slower mode (relative to lightning striking), when people like Scott Walker and the other bo’’ne’ heads you guys mentioned become like second-hand smoke became to be known in society—i.e., something to avoid. One used to get extra-cool-points for that smoke ring circling one’s head and the cigarette between the fingers, right? Now it just looks like idiocy —Sorry, if you smoke, but that’s a fact. :)

Conservatives work so hard every day to earn bastard points, it would not be surprising if a majority wakes up to it. When that happens, you won’t have to spit in their eye, though I get the satisfaction of imagining it; they’ll just become pariahs and will have to slouch back to their dingy old ideological barcaloungers in their rickety old ideological houses, forever. (oh, I’m on a roll now...don’t mind me...:)

Well, let’s hope if the military dies it is not resurrected, but you can be sure somebody will think of it, even after nature’s most stern punishments for our (humanity’s) transgressions. The boneheads are like weeds—you pull ‘em up, but they just pop up again.

The sad thing is that many more innocent lives will be lost before we come into balance. I watched a lecture yesterday on UCTV by a professor of earth sciences. It was a rather dry presentation by a rather sober scientist, but it covered the realities of global climate change, the human and other causes, world-wide ice-cap melts (earth heating is the cause, not rain), and, without an alarmist tone, what the earth will look like and how much suffering will inevitably be our fate, if we don’t do something soon.

It’s strange, this climate change thing. We, here in San Diego County, have been experiencing a super-unseasonably cool summer. I mean, it’s downright weird for July and August here, to have these cool nights and mornings, with temperatures only rising to, say, 75 degrees in the warmest part of the day. Hello, IT’S NOT NORMAL FOR US. (not that I’m not enjoying it.) But does the local weather report mention how abnormal this is? Nope. Thus, the rich folks who live here in Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla can go on denying global warming. That’s the trouble—we’re cool here (as the lecture pointed out), but the rest of the planet is sizzling. For us here, nature does not give us reason to change our greedy, selfish habits (my neighbors turn on their air-conditioners, regardless). You aren’t going to have an epiphany, if you’re still comfortable as hell.

Alberto Ceras 6 years 49 weeks ago
#4

Several days ago two long time friends and I began a conversation prompted by Meditations on Hunting, an extended essay by Ortega y Gasset. We humans tend to forget that we are animals, that we aren't exempt from this simple yet fundamental law of nature: We only survive as a species if we reproduce. We can trace almost anything that we do - whether as individuals, societies or species, no matter how irrational it may seem - to that fact. It's no wonder that the strongest drives that we have are the most ancient - to survive and to reproduce. And so it seems natural to me that we humans generally look upon suicide and homosexuality as aberrations. But are war and killing aberrations or are they deep down in our being extensions of the drive to survive and reproduce? From those ancient drives spring the will to dominate, the desire to kill other men, to capture and rape their women, to plant our particular seed. Taken to extreme these same two animal urgings, far from insuring the continuance of the species, will ultimately end it. They may finally lead us mortals to destroy ourselves unless we begin to truly use our brain - that distinctly human organ that has, as it developed, aided procreation and survival. We must call upon the brain now in order to subdue and direct these ancient animal urgings that we have allowed, perhaps unconsciously encouraged, to escape our control.

(I'm going to post this in a new blog to see what the reaction might be)

Zenzoe 6 years 49 weeks ago
#5

Quite eloquent and true, overall, Alberto.

Not that I wish to detract from the essence of what you’re saying at all, I however think some of the science implied within your assumptions is science that has been updated. Specifically, I’m referring to the notion of human aggression as a genetic predisposition: Wrong. For example: Beyond war: the human potential for peace, by Douglas P. Fry. Do you know the work of Professor Robert Sapolsky? If you get a chance, please read his forward to Fry's book, for starters.

I also recommend Sapolsky’s class lectures on human aggression, which you can find in their entirety on YouTube. Most interesting side tidbit for me was the fact that testosterone does not CAUSE aggression; it only exacerbates it, or enhances it, if you prefer, where there was an aggressive environment to begin with. Also, testosterone is not the sole factor involved in aggression; it —aggression— is really quite complex, as you probably know. Anyway, human beings, according to the most recent science, are every bit as capable of altruism, cooperation and care as we are capable of killing each other. Without cooperation, we would have died out as a species long ago.

It is especially important to debunk the myth of human aggression, because, as your sentence here demonstrates, “From those ancient drives spring the will to dominate, the desire to kill other men, to capture and rape their women, to plant our particular seed,” folks tend to infer from this myth that violence against women is instinct, not learned criminality, and that men have permission and an excuse, via biology, to rape. Such behaviors are not, as science now reveals, biological drives; but they are taught, most importantly, by culture and myth. The same with war.

Anyway, your basic point is so true: We may be primates, but we are human primates. This means we have a lovely frontal cortex, which is endowed with the power of new creation. We are not simple life forms. We can think and change. We can decide what is in our best interest.

“Biology is not destiny,” as they say, and as I’m sure you agree. But biology is also not what we thought it was, either.

Also, there’s this: The first law of nature, which we cannot forget if we are to survive, a law ahead of reproduction, is the necessity of water, and all that water means. Without water, there will be no reproduction, no survival. And understood within that law, is the law of balance and bio-diversity. Either we learn to live in balance with the rest of nature, or we will go extinct.

Zenzoe 6 years 49 weeks ago
#6

From the foreword by Robert Sapolsky in Beyond war: the human potential for peace, by Douglas P. Fry.

Quote Robert Sapolsky:

“People often get a bit nutty when considering ideas about the “inevitability” of human behavior. Such notions come in many forms. For example, there’s the idea that it is preordained that females will be inferior to males at math. Or that certain genes determine certain behaviors. Or that it is inevitable that a guy will take a hostile view toward his dad having a penis.

Some of the time, these conclusions arise from confusing correlation with causality, or problems with discerning statistical relationships, or failing to understand the idea of biological vulnerability and interaction with the environment. And some of the time, they are just plain weird, complete with fin-de-sécle Viennese froth.
...
One of the truly well-entrenched realms of It-Is-Inevitable-That is that it is inevitable that humans will be violent and that human societies will wage warfare. Sometimes a view like this comes with a pretty foul agenda. Consider Konrad Lorenz, co-founder of ethology, expert on bird behavior, and Nobel laureate. In the 1960’s, in his hugely influential book On aggression, Lorenz proclaimed that human aggression is universal and inevitable. The stance he took makes considerable sense—Lorenz was a venomous racist, a man who used his academic pulpit in Germany to write Nazi propaganda poisonous enough to turn one’s stomach, a man who went to his death insisting that he spent the thousand-year Reich communing with the little birdies that he studied. Don’t blame people if they’re violent—they’re just following their inevitable biological orders.

But you don’t have to be Lorenz to believe in the inevitability of human violence. Anyone noticing the blood-drenched world we live in would have to take that idea seriously. And academics of various stripes have as well.

Students of primatology and human evolution sure thought this. The 1960s saw the rise of the Robert Ardrey/man-the-territorial-hunter/big-cojones school of human evolution. Drawing upon the social system of the savanna baboon as a surrogate for our formative history in the savanna, the conclusion was that we are by nature a violent, stratified, male-dominated species. Jane Goodall’s work with chimps seemed to confirm this further, demonstrating murder, cannibalism, organized group violence, and something resembling genocide among our closest relatives.

The game theorists were awash in the inevitability of violence and noncooperation as well. The heart of game theory, the Prisoner’s Dilemma game, repeatedly showed that good guys finish last, that the first individual who spontaneously starts cooperating in the game is competitively screwed for the rest of time, as the noncooperators snort derisively at the naiveté.

Neuroendocrinologists weighed in also. Testosterone increases aggression, as it increases the excitability of parts of the brain relevant to aggression; girls inadvertently exposed to testosterone prenatally become more aggressive.

And, naturally, none of this is true.

Even those violent chimps and baboons can reconcile after fights, have cooperative, altruistic relationships, can even establish and transmit cultures of low aggression. Then there are the bonobo chimps, a separate species that is as genetically related to us as are chimps, a species that is female-dominated, has remarkably low rates of aggression, and solves every conceivable social problem with every conceivable type of sex. The game theorists, meanwhile, have spent recent years revealing the numerous circumstances that select for cooperation rather than competition even in competitive games drenched in realpolitik. And normal levels of testosterone turn out not to cause aggression as much as exaggerate preexisting social tendencies toward aggression; without the latter, testosterone doesn’t remotely translate into inevitable aggression.

In this superb book, Douglas Fry gives lie to the inevitability of violence by surveying another set of disciplines, namely, cultural anthropology, archaeology, and human paleontology. He trashes the urban myth of inevitable aggression in numerous ways.

And from an interview with the author:

Quote Douglas Fry:

Douglas Fry: “For a long time, I simply took for granted a war-plagued evolutionary past. I guess I got this idea by seeing how war ravages the planet today. Why would prehistory have been any different? Then about 10 years ago, I read an article by anthropologist Les Sponsel in which he concluded that warfare had been rare or absent for most of human prehistory, the nomadic hunter-gatherer stage of human evolution. I thought Sponsel had gone off the deep end! I’ve now reviewed the evidence myself and have arrived at two conclusions. First, Sponsel got it right. Archaeology provides another important line of evidence that humanity is not essentially warlike. Second, it can take a while to change one’s mind! We sometimes hold assumptions that we never consider questioning. Beyond War explores both these topics.

OUP: So are you arguing that humans aren’t violent? How do murder and individual violence differ from war?

Fry: Humans have the potential to be violent, but also the potential to be peaceful. Potentially, any of us might commit murder, but in reality, most of us never do. Beyond War makes the point that we tend to take our human potential for peace–our ability to deal with most conflict without violence–for granted. It has come as a surprise to some people that Beyond War” acknowledges the role of evolution in human aggression. I guess they are accustomed to hearing an anthropological mantra about the importance of learning and culture. Learning and culture do have huge impacts on human behavior, of course. What I attempt to do in Beyond War is to develop an evolutionary perspective on human aggression that is consistent with the evidence–and avoid an ostrich head-in-the-sand approach to the facts, in other words. The new angle is to focus on what nomadic hunter-gatherer societies can teach us, by analogy, about conflict management in the human past. The key finding is that this simplest and oldest form of human society tends not to be warlike. This is yet another line of evidence against the presumption of a warlike human nature. The disputes that do arise in nomadic hunter-gatherer societies tend to be personal and rarely resemble anything akin to warfare.”

(emphasis mine)

Robert Sapolsky is the author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers and is Professor of Biological Sciences and Neuroscience at Stanford University.

dhavid 6 years 49 weeks ago
#7

If you have ever read "Keep the River on Your Right," the conclusions you must draw fly in the face of Robert Sapolsky's ideas. (I just found out it was made into a movie, and is on Netflix.) A dude (Tobias Schneebaum,) goes deep into the South American jungle and comes across an isolated and ancient tribe, who he lives with for a period of time. Specifically, after the tribe had raided another tribe and killed all of the men, they took 6 gutted carcasses home, each one tied to a pole which 2 men carried, made a big fire, and ate them. They were light hearted and jovial. There was no guilt among them. It seemed to be just another meal.

I am not sure which conclusions to draw, but the book is unique, and very interesting.

Alberto Ceras 6 years 49 weeks ago
#8

"And, naturally, none of this is true." How utterly, incontrovertibly "scientific." You wouldn't mind, would you, Zenzoe, if I use it to refute Fry and Sapolsky?

dhavid, Schneebaum's book "Keep the River on the Right" might not be all that unique, at least in some regard. You have also read the much earlier "Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life" by Herman Melville?

I wonder, Zenzoe, why you posted here instead of following up on your comments (and my response to them) on my "Meditations on Hunting?" blog.

Not everyone, naturally enough, agrees with Fry (who would like to turn his fondest hopes into reality using shaky science). He follows in Leibniz's footsteps while I prefer Voltaire:

Voltaire satirized Leibniz's idea in the novel Candide through the character of Dr. Pangloss, who often uses the phrase "best of all possible worlds" and remains humorously optimistic even after enduring numerous hardships.

Yes, I believe that I noted earlier, as man has a brain and the potential for reason, he COULD use his brain to eliminate war. But which is stronger: primitive instinct or modern reason? We haven't the answer and there may be no one around to give it when it's finally resolved.

Here's one person's critique of Fry's contention:

"In short, Fry's study of the human potential for peace is well intentioned but problematic from top to bottom."

http://www.politicalreviewnet.com/polrev/reviews/PECH/R_0149_0508_202_1006520.asp

Mark Goodale

Therefore, it does not give me any pleasure to have to say the following: despite the real accomplishments in the book, it is deeply flawed at a number of different epistemological, structural, and even stylistic levels. Let me start with the first of these. The book's two major theses are that "violence and warfare are neither natural nor inevitable," and "cultural beliefs about the naturalness of violence and war continue to bias interpretation, affect our views of human nature, and may even close our minds to the possibilities of developing alternatives to war and violence" (xiv). The problem with both of these propositions-or "themes," in Fry's more ambiguous phrasing-is that the unit of analysis is not at all clear. At one level, Fry seems to be using a biosocial approach-which is anthropology's expression of "sociobiology" without (yet) the ideological baggage-in order to make universal claims about all humans living in all human societies. In other words, he is saying (in his first thesis or theme) that violence and warfare are not "natural" to any humans living in any human societies. (Like all biosocial anthropologists, by "natural" he means something like "an essential part of human nature.") This universalist epistemology is also reflected in his second thesis: cultural beliefs about violence and war bias interpretation (everywhere and all the time), affect our views (where "our" must mean "all humans"), and close our minds (again, the same meaning). And the book is filled with claims that are clearly intended to be universally applicable: "warfare is not an evolutionary adaptation" (i.e., all warfare, everywhere, at all points in human history; p. 4; emphasis in original); "certain types of aggression and associated behaviors, but not warfare, were favored by natural selection over millennia" (p. 145; emphasis in original); "the data suggest that humans, while capable of engaging in warfare, also have a strong capacity for getting along peacefully" (p. 246); and so on.

But then at different points in the book, Fry refers to one or both of his major themes in a way that suggests he doesn't have all humans in mind at all. In fact, his second theme appears to apply only to a relatively minute subset of the class "all humans": Western scientists, philosophers, and policy-makers who have been responsible for developing and then acting on a false understanding of "human" nature. So on the one hand, Fry argues that cultural beliefs shape human understanding, which is an obviously true and hardly novel assertion. But on the other hand, he is much more concerned with "our" cultural beliefs about war, violence, and the potential for peace, where "our" refers to that tiny, but influential, group of "some Westerners" (p. xiv). Yet he implies that the erroneous view of human nature is much more widespread, even universal, and indeed the effects of this pervasive misunderstanding are at bottom what he wants to counteract. This ongoing contradiction is something that plagues many biosocial accounts of violence or social phenomena more generally: the theory of knowledge that underpins them demands universal claims about "human nature," human "society" (some abstract human grouping that can't actually exist because it's an ideal, not empirical, category), and the like, but these claims are based on what is always a selective interpretation of a selective cross-section of cross-cultural data.

Structurally, the book is organized into twenty chapters that do not form a coherent whole or, by and large, serve to develop his arguments. They are a real hodge-podge, from chapters that feature anecdotes (not really "case studies") drawn from that parade of cultural diversity I've already mentioned, to nearly disconnected diversions into idiosyncratic disputes in the history of anthropology, to an entire chapter devoted to proving academic fraud on the part of individual authors involved in the Freeman-Mead controversy. And who knew a chapter could be three and a half pages long?

Finally, the book presents some stylistic challenges. While I understand the desire to make a book of this kind accessible to both academic and general readers, Fry's need to address both audiences led him (or his editors) to produce some bizarre graphics. The most egregious example of this is Box 5.1 (pp. 63-65), which lists 86 "internally peaceful societies" through completely decontextualized names that will be unfamiliar even to most anthropologists (the in-text Box is a common feature of introductory anthropology textbooks). Each "society" (e.g., "Norwegian"; Question-who are these Norwegians that comprise this homogenous Norwegian society, and does this include Norwegians of Somali or Albanian origin?) is then followed by a superscript indicating a footnote, all 86 of which immediately follow the list of societies in a massive blur of authors' last names and italicized ratings from something Fry calls the "cross-cultural peacefulness-aggressiveness continuum." In short, Fry's study of the human potential for peace is well intentioned but problematic from top to bottom.

Zenzoe 6 years 49 weeks ago
#9

Dhavid, I’m sure that’s an interesting book, but I wouldn’t count it as sufficient evidence to debunk Sapolsky’s insights. It’s only one example, for one thing. Regardless, even if the examples of human idiocy could stretch from here to the moon, the examples of human altruism, cooperation, care and collective honoring of peace could also stretch that far, or farther. By believing ourselves to be born stupid, warlike, and cruel, we not only defy the evidence to the contrary, but we doom ourselves to perpetual war.

TO BOTH OF YOU: Why rage against the killing of innocents in Afghanistan and Iraq, or against John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Mitch McConnell for that matter, if such things and people are driven by hard-wired biology? Honestly, I don't know why you guys want to resist this science.

You know me—I would never take one so-called expert’s opinion as absolute and irrefutable. I BELIEVE in questioning authority! But, darn if Sapolsky isn’t interesting. Before you dismiss him, I hope you’ll go to YouTube and watch his lectures. (have you yet?!) The ones on aggression are fascinating. It’s only information. You don’t have to agree with it, but it’s there to consider. Much of what he has to say supports liberal positions too.

Anyway, all he’s saying is that there’s no INEVITABILITY about human aggression. He isn’t saying it doesn’t exist.

And Alberto, I came here to post the Sapolsky and Fry info, because I didn't want to shove it in your face or argue with you about it. The information was relevant here, anyway. It belonged here as support for my previous comment on the subject. I could also ask you why you didn't answer me here, but it doesn't really matter to me. Like I said, I'm not interested in arguing with you. I value you and see that we're not always on exactly the same page. But that's okay.

And, darn, Michigan didn’t quite get there—but almost! I guess Rove hasn’t had his epiphany yet. Whatever, someday he and his ideology will be dead, and the world will be a better place.

Alberto Ceras 6 years 49 weeks ago
#10

Zenzoe, I thought that I did answer you, both here and on my own post.You constantly erect straw men. As for humans being driven by "hard-wired" biology neither dhavid nor I made such a claim. Biology drives us but we have the ability to reason, to moderate and direct those primitive insticts. All too often our insticts prove more powerful than our reason. Nor did I anywhere claim that humans are born "stupid, war-like and cruel." That would be a stupid assertion indeed. I look at the history of our species and I see it linked to our nature.

I responded to dhavid (on the other page) in this way:

Yes, dhavid, empathy and compassion may exist just as altruism may exist - but they may be the names we apply to acts that serve the primitive instincts of survival and reproduction. The example that you give of Buddha in a former life is fiction, although beautiful fiction, just as much of what we "know" about Jesus is surely fiction. My contention is that all human behavior is intimately linked to the most ancient and most powerful instincts present in all of us - survival and reproduction. We have allowed those instincts to run amok while unable or unwilling to bring them under control of our reason.

As for epiphany. No novel has had more lasting impact on me than Joseph Conrad’s short work “Heart of Darkness.” In my opinion no author, in any language, has had a more profound insight into man’s nature than Conrad nor has anyone expressed it so eloquently. Herman Melville came closest, Dostoevsky not too far behind. Here’s one person's take on Conrad and epiphany:

Epiphany in Heart of Darkness

http://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=7697

Marlow, in the novel "The Heart of Darkness," experiences an epiphany, or a dramatic moment in which a character intuitively grasps the essential nature or meaning of some situation.

The moment in which Marlow experiences his epiphany is right after the helmsman gets killed by natives, which are associated with Kurtz. The thing that Marlow realizes is the savagery of man and the corruption of the ivory trade. The actual change takes place when Marlow sees the helmsman die. Marlow sees the death take place and is shocked. "The side of his head hit the wheel twice, and the end of what appeared a long cane clattered round and knocked over a little campstool. ... my feet felt so very warm and wet that I had to look down. ... It was the shaft of a spear that...had caught him in the side just below the ribs. I had to make and effort to free my eyes from his gaze and attend to the steering. ... I declare it looked as though he would presently put to us some question in an understandable language; but he died without uttering a sound, without moving a limb, without twitching a muscle. ... 'He is dead,' murmured the fellow, immensely impressed. 'No doubt about it,' said I." When this happened, Marlow realized the savagery of man, horror of death, and the corruption of the ivory trade. He realizes that in the ivory trade, that the ivory is more valuable than human life and that traders will do almost anything to get it. Marlow also realizes man's savagery in the event that man puts greater value on riches than on human life. This is the epiphany of Marlow in "The Heart of Darkness."

The epiphany of Marlow in "The Heart of Darkness" has significance in the overall story. The theme of the story is how every man has inside himself a heart of darkness and that a person, being alienated like Kurtz, will become more savage. Marlow, in his epiphany, realizes the savagery of man and how being alienated from modern civilization causes one to be savage and raw. This savagery is shown especially in the death of the helmsman, which is where Marlow's epiphany takes place, but the savagery is also show in Kurtz. The link that Kurtz has to the natives and the death of the helmsman is that the natives work for Kurtz. This also shows how Kurtz has become more savage--that killing and death has no effect on him anymore. His savagery is shown by how the natives will kill to get what they want and Kurtz wants. This savagery shown by the natives and Kurtz in the death of the helmsman, links both Marlow's epiphany and the theme of "The Heart of Darkness" together.

This, overall, explains the significance of the epiphany and the theme of "The Heart of Darkness" and how they are linked to one another.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:

"Marlow's Epiphany in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness." 123HelpMe.com. 10 Aug 2011

<http://www.123HelpMe.com/view.asp?id=7697>.

Alberto Ceras 6 years 49 weeks ago
#11

I brought these comments over from my post "Meditations on Hunting" to avoid going from one to the other.

I prefer to observe and to contemplate what actually is and has been, not what might be. I've not implied science at all and I have made no scientific assumptions. You have misread my post or rather read into it what isn't there. It is both simpler and more profound than you credit it. We are animals and we conduct ourselves as the animals that we are, tempered by our ability to (sometimes) reason. We follow the leader, we conform to group norms and in those ways we survive to reproduce.Talk of testosterone or aggression I'll leave to the scholars and the classroom. History is a much better teacher. The Marquis De Sade, too, had us humans pegged.

I don't suppose you viewed the video that I suggested some weeks back. BBC thought it important enough to air after debating pros and cons. It probably has been erased from YouTube (no, it's still there, I just checked), it was only to be allowed for 2 hours:

http://www.youtube.com/v/Rz_eCLcp1Mc

Also the incident at El Mozote

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Mozote_massacre

will never, ever be erased from my mind. What the Wikipedia account omits is the manner in which many babies were killed. Soldiers, having been given a demonstration by their superior, tossed the (living) babies into the air then caught them on their bayonets. There are many, many similar or even more horrible stories - recently and currently - from Africa, from the Middle East and from Latin America.

No need to mention the horrors of the Holocaust. Or My Lai? Or, much earlier, the Roman circuses? Would you have laughed and cheered and applauded? Don't be too quick to answer.

Then there's Abu Ghraib. Was the young lady's testosterone running high? You'd have to ask the scholars.

People, virtually anyone - you, your neighbor - can be persuaded to commit the most vile, inhuman acts immaginable. To believe otherwise would be naive.

Top

9. August 2011 - 18:26#4Alberto CerasYou might read this Mark

You might read this Mark Danner account of El Mozote. Far more detailed than the brief Wikipedia synopsis. Although it fills 12 pages I found no mention of testosterone, no science implied or otherwise, but there's a lesson to be learned about human, animal, conduct:

http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people/Danner/1993/truthelmoz01.html

There's also Cormac McCarthy's book "Blood Meridian." No science, but instructive.

And of course, you might read (the title of this post): Meditations on Hunting by Jose Ortega y Gasset:

http://www.amazon.com/Meditations-Hunting-Jose-Ortega-Gasset/dp/1932098534

Top

10. August 2011 - 5:43#5dhavid There is a story about a

There is a story about a former life the Buddha lived. He was a prince, and lived on a large estate with his family. One day he and his 2 brothers were on a walk and came across an emaciated lioness with her cubs. The 2 brothers ran away. Filled with compassion, he chose to give his own life as nutrition to save the lioness and her cubs. He lay down in front of the lion, but she was too weak to even move. Ever-filled with compassion he took his knife and cut his arm, to expose the smell of blood. He was eaten. His motive, compassion, runs parallel to the life and death of Jesus.

Empathy, compassion, love; uncommon traits in this world, but present nevertheless.

I have known men hunters who wept at the death of their conquest. They killed for their family to live, out of necessity.

If America were really a compassionate nation, would it's foreign policy be what it is today? Nah.

Top

10. August 2011 - 7:16#6Alberto CerasYes, dhavid, empathy and

Yes, dhavid, empathy and compassion may exist just as altruism may exist - but they may be the names we apply to acts that serve the primitive instincts of survival and reproduction. The example that you give of Buddha in a former life is fiction, although beautiful fiction, just as much of what we "know" about Jesus is surely fiction. My contention is that all human behavior is intimately linked to the most ancient and most powerful instincts present in all of us - survival and reproduction. We have allowed those instincts to run amok while unable or unwilling, up to now, to bring them under control of our reason.

Top

Zenzoe 6 years 49 weeks ago
#12
Quote Alberto Ceras:

Zenzoe, I thought that I did answer you, both here and on my own post.You constantly erect straw men.

You said, Alberto, "“From those ancient drives spring the will to dominate, the desire to kill other men, to capture and rape their women, to plant our particular seed,” which implies (ancient drives) genetics, assumptions about human aggression. And you didn't respond to this, but rather insisted on posting criticism of Fry's book, a book that denies your assumptions.

To notice what you say is not to "erect straw men." It is to tell the truth. Am I allowed to be truthful?

As I said, I'm not interested in arguing with you. If you wish to believe every human being is at heart a savage, feel free. I think that's poppycock, but I refuse to release the flying monkeys over it.

Right now I'm enjoying the glow of having seen my youngest son's latest batch of incredibly beautiful photographs. He's a scientist and an atheist, but, man, what a spirit. This is what he is at heart. I wish I could show his photos to you guys.

Sometimes I think art is the only answer. It's so quiet, so opposite the public clatter and turmoil.

Alberto Ceras 6 years 49 weeks ago
#13

zenzoe I didn't say this, you did. "If you wish to believe every human being is at heart a savage, feel free."

And am I supposed to respond to my own statement? I have made no "assumptions about human aggression" and I didn't imply ancient drives. I only stated what is factual. These drives exist and they are powerful. Do you deny the existence of the primitive instincts - survival and reproduction? Do you reject their power? How did you get to be? Your son? All of us? "You said, Alberto, "“From those ancient drives spring the will to dominate, the desire to kill other men, to capture and rape their women, to plant our particular seed,” which implies (ancient drives) genetics, assumptions about human aggression. And you didn't respond to this, but rather insisted on posting criticism of Fry's book, a book that denies your assumptions.

And why do you say insist? And again you bring up my "assumptions." These are not assumptions. I posted one person's citicism of Fry's book, there are others. I thought - apparently I was wrong - that a reasonable person, seeking the truth, would welcome informed, unbiased criticism of a book that they have read.

What are your comments on the BBC video "Sri Lanka's Killing Fields?" and Mark Danner's account of the El Mozote massacre, of Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" or Ortega y Gasset's "Meditations on Hunting?" I'd welcome your informed, unbiased criticism of their "assumptions" - or similar criticism of others.

Zenzoe, I wonder if you have ever considered that you might be mistaken, ever once admitted that you might have erred..

Zenzoe 6 years 49 weeks ago
#14
Quote Alberto Ceras:

Zenzoe, I wonder if you have ever considered that you might be mistaken, ever once admitted that you might have erred..

Doth the fellow project too much? Methinks he doth—projecteth himself upon mythelth in most unfair manner.

Ah, back to my canvas...

Alberto Ceras 6 years 49 weeks ago
#15

Just so.

dhavid 6 years 49 weeks ago
#16

To relate our differences to psychology, Alberto, you would be similar to Freud and I to Jung. Today, I am not sure how popular Jung is. Freudian theory, on the other hand, always seems to remain. Each to their own. :)

Zenzoe 6 years 49 weeks ago
#17

And I would be in the Carol Tavris camp:

"Hrdy's work, nonetheless, shows that theories depend, first and foremost, on what an observer observes, and then on how those observations can be blurred by unconscious expectations. Hrdy initially regarded those "wanton" female langurs as aberrations because their behavior did not fit the established theory. Not until researchers began to speculate on the potential benefits of female promiscuity did they come up with different questions and answers about female sexual behavior than had sociobiologists."

Just an example of her stuff, and not a suggestion for a whole new subject. ;-)

But honestly, Alberto, I didn't mean to be rude by my last comment to you; I simply wasn't in the mood for a fight. And, if you're sincere in your invitation to debate and discuss these topics (an invitation which I am highly grateful for), then it would help if I didn't encounter ad hominem insults about me. ;-)

It would also help if I weren't busy with other stuff right now. For one thing, I have company coming tomorrow, and, just between us "girls," you know what that means.

I still have a few things to add here, and also at your other blog post (Hunting - - that last comment I noticed of yours piques my imagination, the one about art, music and literature), but I need to get busy here with the domestic goddess side of my life.

Tah tah for now, dear people...

dhavid 6 years 48 weeks ago
#18

"Hrdy's work, nonetheless, shows that theories depend, first and foremost, on what an observer observes, and then on how those observations can be blurred by unconscious expectations."

This implies total relativity, in the sense that there is not truth that can be discovered or at least theorized. Where did Einstein come up with his theories? How about the Higgs bosom theory? Socrates said somewhere that we don't learn but rather remember what we already know. I would suggest that some theories are pure intellectual compartmentalization and some related to and preceded by truth.

Some would say, "But thats the hard sciences, psychology is pure theorization, a soft science." I would point to Carl Rogers, who said that if 4 basic qualities are present in the therapist, the patient will grow, experience positive change. As I recall they are respect, congruence, empathy, and unconditional positive regard. That means a genuine person who listens with respect and love. Respect and love are two transcendental qualities that people possess in varying degrees. They are living, eternal, and incomprehensible. Like finding the Higgs bosom.

Just food for thought.

Alberto Ceras 6 years 48 weeks ago
#19

I don't suppose you viewed the video that I suggested some days and weeks back. BBC thought it important enough to air after debating pros and cons.

http://www.youtube.com/v/Rz_eCLcp1Mc

You might read this Mark Danner account of El Mozote. It is far more detailed than the brief Wikipedia synopsis. Although it fills 12 pages I found no mention of testosterone, no science implied or otherwise, but there's a lesson to be learned about human, animal, conduct:

http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people/Danner/1993/truthelmoz01.html

What are your comments on this BBC video "Sri Lanka's Killing Fields?" and Mark Danner's account of the El Mozote massacre, of Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" or Ortega y Gasset's "Meditations on Hunting?" I'd welcome your informed, unbiased criticism of the "assumptions" you might find in all or some of these, or similar criticism or comment on them from others.

Alberto Ceras 6 years 48 weeks ago
#20

dhavid, was that a Freudian slip? It should be Higgs boson, not Higgs bosom.

dhavid 6 years 48 weeks ago
#21

Your only comment to a whole post is a grammar correction?

Alberto Ceras 6 years 48 weeks ago
#22

Better than none at all perhaps. But here's another opportunity:

I don't suppose you viewed the video that I suggested some days and weeks back. BBC thought it important enough to air after debating pros and cons.

http://www.youtube.com/v/Rz_eCLcp1Mc

You might read this Mark Danner account of El Mozote. It is far more detailed than the brief Wikipedia synopsis. Although it fills 12 pages I found no mention of testosterone, no science implied or otherwise, but there's a lesson to be learned about human, animal, conduct:

http://globetrotter.berkeley.edu/people/Danner/1993/truthelmoz01.html

What are your comments on this BBC video "Sri Lanka's Killing Fields?" and Mark Danner's account of the El Mozote massacre, of Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" or Ortega y Gasset's "Meditations on Hunting?" I'd welcome your informed, unbiased criticism of the "assumptions" you might find in all or some of these, or similar criticism or comment on them from others.

Alberto Ceras 6 years 48 weeks ago
#23

But I'll make a deal with you, I'll respond to your "whole post" and wait to see if you extend me the same courtesy by responding to my Sri Lanka/El Mozote post (I've posted it several times - maybe 4 or 5 - without response from anybody). I'm beginning to feel very, very neglected. OK, on to psychology:

I'm neither Freud nor Jung. Once upon a time when I was very young I foolishly enrolled in a graduate psychology program. I lasted only the couple of weeks it took me to understand that, according to my exalted "lecturers," any psychological problem that a female (well, sexually attractive female) might suffer could easily be cured by a good, wholesome sexual gambol. But not any old sexual frolic with just anyone, it had to be a healthy romp with her "therapist" or, in this instance, with one of our very own "lecturers." The lecturers even arranged a weekend camping adventure for the class in order, I believe, to teach us males - and the psychologically challenged females - the efficacy of the therapy. Having sex waiting at home, and in no immediate need for therapy, I struck my tent well before the first lesson began. Many, many years later I became interested in the life and writings of Anais Nin. Maybe you've read that Nin's psychotherapist, Rank, prescribed the same "therapy" for her. After nine days of fervid sex together Rank declared Nin cured. Maybe Nin was, I can't say, but I suspect that Rank wasn't.

If I ever feel an urgent need for psychotherapy I'll look up the most attractive female crystal gazer/card reader (and Rank disciple) I can find hoping, of course, that she will willingly foot the nine day hotel bill.

I could have made it simpler: I believe psychology to be pure nonsense. Dream interpretation? You're kidding me Siggie, go back to sleep.

dhavid 6 years 48 weeks ago
#24

Sounds like quite a school you went to, Alberto. They espose a theory I have never heard of. In terms of having people read other people to try and understand what you are saying - WHY DON'T YOU SAY IT IN YOUR OWN WORDS? This is a discussion forum and not a college class.

Alberto Ceras 6 years 48 weeks ago
#25

I believe you meant "espouse", dhavid. People reveal themselves in everything that they write. I had begun to anticipate that this discussion would sooner or later sink to the level of rabid, incoherent personal attacks. It's what frequently passes for reasoned discourse these days. And Sri Lanka, El Mozote? Yes, I noticed some time ago that this forum had no relation at all to a college classroom.

Zenzoe 6 years 48 weeks ago
#26
Quote Alberto Ceras:

I'm neither Freud nor Jung. Once upon a time when I was very young I foolishly enrolled in a graduate psychology program. I lasted only the couple of weeks it took me to understand that, according to my exalted "lecturers," any psychological problem that a female (well, sexually attractive female) might suffer could easily be cured by a good, wholesome sexual gambol. But not any old sexual frolic with just anyone, it had to be a healthy romp with her "therapist" or, in this instance, with one of our very own "lecturers."

I'm surprised you don't see such "therapy" as explainable, given those “...ancient drives...the will to dominate...to capture and rape their women, to plant our particular seed...” and, therefore, fully understandable on those grounds. ;-)

No, such behavior would never be understandable on those grounds, because the grounds you espouse are fallacious to begin with. However, the myth of “the will to reproduce,” i.e., “males are driven to plant their seed in as many females as they can get their hands on,’ is the rationalization held not only by your unethical “therapists,” but also by pedophiles, rapists, and every stripe of politician, from Bill Clinton to Anthony Weiner to Newt Gingrich. We’ve been suffering from this misconception (no pun intended) for quite awhile now. It’s a myth that creates not only foolish behaviors, but misery, cruelty and suffering, and it is driven, I believe, not by a valid look at humanity, but by myopia.

The problem with the point you made about “ancient drives” is one of emphasis: As Carol Tavris explains in many ways, what you see is what you get, basically. One’s particular lens, one’s bias, absolutely influences conclusions. Science is not about absolute truth, but it is about scientific evolution, from guessing, to testing, to taking a new look, to adjusting for facts, and, finally, getting closer to a valid theory. Science is not an absolute truth; but it is worth considering and preferable to accepting invalid assumptions.

If one decides that reproduction and survival are basic drives, one cannot look at the subject strictly from a masculinist point of view—aggression & “seed planting.” What [some] males do [because not all ancient cultures and tribes were aggressive or warlike] is not the whole damn picture! How about adding the entire community to the picture—is not survival enhanced by cooperation? We share our cave; we gather together to share the warmth of the campfire; we gather nuts and berries, and we make shelter and participate together in the life of the community—together in cooperation and, yes, love.

I tell you, Alberto, life among the ancients was not all about rape, killing and war. Just because you can come up with a history of man’s inhumanity to man —and woman— does not mean this is who we are. In short, humanity is not men.

Do you think, when I held my babies, I enhanced their survival via any sort of aggressive act? Hardly. Care was everything. Naturally, yes, I would kill to protect my child, as would a father, but, what baby humans thrive on is care —given by mothers, fathers, or others— and they respond to such care with the same—love, touch, empathy, smiles, giggles, and joy. This is survival too.

It’s not that I think you don’t know any of this. It’s just that I mean to remind you of the whole of “ancient human drives.” It’s really more balanced than the aggression/reproduction (male-centric ideology) myth would have us believe, and act upon. It's time to bring the care principle into the mix, individually and collectively.

Yin-yang, all the way!

Alberto Ceras 6 years 48 weeks ago
#27

Well, no one wants to look at the video “Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields” so I’ll provide a few highlights. Anyone (that anyone happens to be male in this demonstration) who chances upon a naked, freshly beaten and raped young lady kneeling on the bare ground would first of all want to know how to kill her. No problem. Here in this do-it-yourself film an officer instructs a subordinate in just how to go about it, at what point exactly in the head to aim, etc. The subordinate then demonstrates his learning and the young lady falls over, dead as a doornail. Lesson learned and brilliantly repeated by many of the young lads.

Now once all these naked young ladies have been converted to naked corpses the boys have to load them onto a six by six. To ease the job they engage in a bit of masculine drollery, like: “This one has the best figure. Ha ha.” Male bonding you know.

Now, these are only a couple of examples of what you can learn from this film. For instance if medicine is scarce and the hospital is overflowing with the men, women and children your soldiers have just wounded you might need to know how to conserve the short medicinal reserve. You call in the artillery and wipe out the whole bloody hospital – wounded, everything. You see how easy?

There’s lots more to learn from this truly educational, real life and death (actually mostly death) film. You might even learn that humans are savage animals.

But, no, I guess not.

Now, El Mozote. I’m going to paste random pieces from Mark Danner’s account. I’ve suggested that you read the entire essay but you’ve remained mute. Maybe you’ll read these excerpts but I’m not betting on it.

These officers, of course, had Salvadoran history on their side. "They had a 'kill the seed' mentality," Professor Stanley told me. "After all, what happened in 1932? To this day, when someone wants to make a threat here, why do they invoke the name of Martínez?" -- the author of the Matanza. "Because he is an icon, that's why. The idea of going out to the zones and killing everyone is not a new idea. It's a proved idea."

Putting that proved idea into practice would become the mission of the Atlacatl Battalion. Hoping to insure that at least one unit of the Salvadoran Army was adequately prepared to fight, the Americans sent Special Forces instructors in early 1981 to train the first recruits of the new Immediate Reaction Infantry Battalion (biri). Yet, as the American advisers well knew, the epithet of "élite, American-trained" that was hung on the Atlacatl by the press was a bit of a joke. "They had no specialized training," one of the original Special Forces trainers told me. "They had basic individualized training -- you know, basic shooting, marksmanship, squad tactics. I mean, the difference was that the Salvadorans basically had no trained units in the country, so this was going to be a unit that would be trained."

Late that Thursday afternoon, the men of the Atlacatl trudged into El Mozote. They found the streets deserted. For the last two days, the thud of the mortars, the firecracker staccato of the small arms, and the roar of the aircraft had been coming steadily closer, and that morning helicopters and planes of the Salvadoran Air Force had strafed and bombed the area around the hamlet, terrifying the inhabitants. "Everything was closer every day, louder every day," Rufina Amaya told me, "and finally, by that day, the people were hiding in their houses."

The strafing ceased not long before the men of the Atlacatl entered the hamlet, dragging with them civilians they had found hiding along the way. Tired and impatient, the soldiers swarmed about the houses of El Mozote and pounded on the doors with the butts of their M16s. "Salgan!" they shouted angrily. "Get out here! Get out here now!"

Hesitantly, the people came out into the twilight, frightened, bewildered, unsure of what was happening. The soldiers, cursing and yelling, pulled them forward, hustled them along with the butts of their rifles, herded everyone into the center of the street. Rufina and her husband, Domingo Claros, emerged with their four children: he was carrying three-year-old Marta Lilián and leading Cristino, nine years old, while Rufina had five-year-old María Dolores by the hand and carried at her breast María Isabel, eight months old. "They told us all to lie down in the street, boca abajo" -- literally, "mouth down" -- "and they began pushing some of us down," Rufina says. "As my husband was setting the little girl down, a soldier pushed him to the ground. The girl started to cry. By then, all the children were crying."

The entire town lay like that, perhaps four hundred people face down in the dirt, as darkness fell. Between the wailing of at least a hundred children and the shouting of the soldiers -- hundreds had entered the hamlet by now -- the din must have been unbearable. The soldiers marched up and down the lines of people, kicking one here and there, striking another with a rifle butt, and all the while keeping up a steady rain of shouted insults and demands. As Rufina tells it, a soldier would stop next to a man or a woman, kick the prone body, and bark out a question: Who were the guerrillas? Where were they? Where did they hide their guns? The men and women of El Mozote insisted that there were no guerrillas there, that they knew nothing of guerrillas or weapons. "If you want to find guerrillas," one woman shouted tearfully, raising her head from the ground, "go out there" -- she waved toward the hills -- "outside town. But here, here we're not guerrillas."

This only made the soldiers angrier. "All you sons of bitches are collaborators," an officer said. "You're going to have to pay for those bastards."

At one point, as Rufina tells it, the wealthy and influential Marcos Díaz, lying in the street beside his wife and their sons and daughters, raised his head. "Wait!" he pleaded. "They promised me nothing would happen to the people here. The officer told me so."

At that, the Atlacatl officer laughed and said, "No, motherfucker, you all have to pay. Now, get your face back in the ground." And he raised his black boot and pushed Marcos Díaz's head down into the dirt. Now the women began to hear shouting from the church. "We could hear them yelling -- the men," Rufina says. "They were screaming, 'No! No! Don't do this to us! Don't kill us!' "

When she heard the screams, Rufina, who together with her children had been sitting on a bench with her back to the front wall of the house -- the wall facing the church -- climbed up on the bench so that she could look out a small window high up in that wall. Through the window she saw soldiers leading groups of men from the little whitewashed church -- blindfolded men whose hands were bound behind them. Each pair of soldiers led five or six men past the house of Alfredo Márquez and took them out of the hamlet in various directions. After a time, she saw her husband in one group, and as she watched, along with young Cristino, who had climbed up next to her, eager to see what was happening, they both saw him -- Domingo Claros, twenty-nine-year-old woodcutter, husband of Rufina and father of Cristino, María Dolores, Marta Lilián, and María Isabel -- bolt forward, together with another man, in a desperate effort to escape the soldiers. But there was nowhere to run. The men of the Atlacatl levelled their M16s and brought both men down with short bursts of fire. Then the soldiers strode forward to where the men lay gasping on the ground, and, unsheathing their machetes, they bent over them, grasped their hair, jerked their heads back sharply, and beheaded them with strong blows to the backs of their necks.

"I got down from the bench and I hugged my children to me," Rufina says. "My son was crying and saying over and over, 'They killed my father.' I was crying. I knew then that they were all being taken away to be killed. I just hugged my children to me and cried."

At about eight o'clock, "various of the men who had been gathered in the church were lifted off the ground and decapitated with machetes by soldiers," according to the Tutela report. "The soldiers dragged the bodies and the heads of the decapitated victims to the convent of the church, where they were piled together." It must have been at this point that the women in the house across the street began to hear the men screaming.

Decapitation is tiring work, and slow, and more than a hundred men were crammed into that small building. After the initial beheadings -- it is unclear how many died inside the church -- the soldiers began bringing the men out in groups, and it was from one of the first of the groups that Domingo Claros had attempted to escape.

While Rufina huddled with her children in the crowded house, mourning her husband, other women climbed up on the bench beside her and peered out the small window. From here, they, too, saw the soldiers taking groups of men from the church and marching them off in different directions.

Outside the hamlet, on a hill known as El Pinalito, the guides from Perquín waited in the company of several corporals -- the officers had ordered them to stay there, lest they become confused with the townspeople during the operation -- and throughout the morning the guides watched the soldiers pass. "I saw them marching along groups of maybe ten each," one guide told me. "They were all blindfolded, and they had their hands tied behind their backs. Then we would hear the shots, the bursts from the rifles." Out in the forest, the soldiers forced the men to the ground and ordered them to lie flat, with their faces against the earth, as they had lain, with their families, the evening before. Then the soldiers lowered their M16s and fired bursts into each man's brain.

"All morning, you could hear the shots, the crying and the screaming," Rufina says. In the house of Alfredo Márquez, some of the children had become hysterical, and no one knew how to calm them. Cristino begged his mother tearfully to take them out of the house, lest they be killed, as he had seen his father killed. Rufina could do nothing but point helplessly to the guards and try to calm him. None of the women had any idea what would happen next. "We just cried and hugged one another

Around midday, a group of soldiers came into the house. "Now it's your turn, women," one of the soldiers said. They were going to take the women out now in groups, the soldier explained, and then, he said, the women would be free to go to their homes, or down to Gotera, or wherever they liked.

With that, the soldiers began picking out, one by one, the younger women and the girls, and pulling them toward the door. "The girls would hang on to their mothers, and the soldiers would come in and just grab them from their mothers," Rufina says. "There was a lot of screaming and shouting. Everyone was screaming, 'No! No! Don't do this!' But the soldiers would hit the mothers with the butts of their rifles, and they would reach behind and grab the girls and pull them along with them."

From the house of Alfredo Márquez, the soldiers marched the group of young women and girls -- some of them as young as ten years old -- out of the hamlet and up onto the hills known as El Chingo and La Cruz. Before long, the women in the house could hear screams coming from the hills.

The guides, on El Pinalito, nearby, also heard the screaming. "We could hear the women being raped on the hills," the Perquín man told me. "And then, you know, the soldiers would pass by, coming from there, and they'd talk about it. You know, they were talking and joking, saying how much they liked the twelve-year-olds."

Around this time, the soldiers returned to the house of Alfredo Márquez. "I was still sitting on the bench with my kids," Rufina says. "When they came back, they began separating the women from their kids. They pulled the mothers away, leaving the children there crying. They took one group of women and then in a while they came back and took another. That was the saddest thing -- little by little, the mothers disappeared, and the house became filled mostly with crying children."

Rufina found herself in one of the last groups. "It must have been five o'clock. There were maybe twenty of us. I was crying and struggling with the soldiers, because I had my baby on my chest. It took two soldiers to pull the baby from me. So when I came outside into the street, I was the last in the group. I was crying and miserable, and begging God to help me."

The soldiers marched the women down the main street. They passed the house of Marcos Díaz on the right and, on the left, that of Ambrosiano Claros, where Rufina and her family had spent the previous night. Ambrosiano Claros's house was in flames. "I saw other houses burning, and I saw blood on the ground. We turned the corner and walked toward the house of Israel Márquez. Then the woman at the head of the line -- we were in single file -- began to scream. She had looked through the door and seen the people in the house."

What the woman had seen was thick pools of blood covering the floor and, farther inside, piles of bloody corpses -- the bodies of the women who only minutes before had been sitting in the house with them, waiting.

Finally, when the screams and the gunfire had stopped, some of the soldiers went off. A few minutes later, they returned, pushing along the last group of women, and now Rufina heard the sequence -- the cries of terror, the screaming, the begging, and the shooting -- all over again. After a time, those sounds ceased. In the sudden silence, scattered shooting and fainter screams could be heard echoing from the hills. A few feet from where Rufina lay hidden behind the tree, nine or ten soldiers laid down their guns and collapsed wearily to the ground.

"Well, all these old bastards are dead," one said to somebody farther off. "Go ahead and burn the house."

The soldiers watched the fire and talked, and Rufina, frozen in her terror a few feet away, listened. "Well, we've killed all the old men and women," one said. "But there's still a lot of kids down there. You know, a lot of those kids are really good-looking, really cute. I wouldn't want to kill all of them. Maybe we can keep some of them, you know -- take them with us."

"What are you talking about?" another soldier answered roughly. "We have to finish everyone, you know that. That's the colonel's order. This is an operativo de tierra arrasada here" -- a scorched-earth operation -- "and we have to kill the kids as well, or we'll get it ourselves."

"Listen, I don't want to kill kids," the first soldier said.

"Look," another said. "We have orders to finish everyone and we have to complete our orders. That's it."

At about this time, up on the hill known as El Pinalito, Captain Salazar was shrugging off a guide's timid plea for the children's lives. "If we don't kill them now," he said angrily, "they'll just grow up to be guerrillas. We have to take care of the job now."

After a time, when the soldiers seemed to have finished drinking their sodas, Rufina heard crying and screaming begin from the house of Alfredo Márquez: the screaming of the children. "They were crying, 'Mommy! Mommy! They're hurting us! Help us! They're cutting us! They're choking us! Help us!'

"Then I heard one of my children crying. My son, Cristino, was crying, 'Mama Rufina, help me! They're killing me! They killed my sister! They're killing me! Help me!' I didn't know what to do. They were killing my children. I knew that if I went back there to help my children I would be cut to pieces. But I couldn't stand to hear it, I couldn't bear it. I was afraid that I would cry out, that I would scream, that I would go crazy. I couldn't stand it, and I prayed to God to help me. I promised God that if He helped me I would tell the world what happened here.

"Then I tied my hair up and tied my skirt between my legs and I crawled on my belly out from behind the tree. There were animals there, cows and a dog, and they saw me, and I was afraid they would make a noise, but God made them stay quiet as I crawled among them. I crawled across the road and under the barbed wire and into the maguey on the other side. I crawled a little farther through the thorns, and I dug a little hole with my hands and put my face in the hole so I could cry without anyone hearing. I could hear the children screaming still, and I lay there with my face against the earth and cried."

Rufina could not see the children; she could only hear their cries as the soldiers waded into them, slashing some with their machetes, crushing the skulls of others with the butts of their rifles. Many others -- the youngest children, most below the age of twelve -- the soldiers herded from the house of Alfredo Márquez across the street to the sacristy, pushing them, crying and screaming, into the dark tiny room. There the soldiers raised their M16s and emptied their magazines into the roomful of children.

Carrying his little brother, Chepe went with the soldiers and walked along with them as they searched house to house. "We found maybe fifteen kids," he says, "and then they took us all to the playing field. On the way, I heard shooting and I saw some dead bodies, maybe five old people." When they reached the playing field, "there were maybe thirty children," he says. "The soldiers were putting ropes on the trees. I was seven years old, and I didn't really understand what was happening until I saw one of the soldiers take a kid he had been carrying -- the kid was maybe three years old -- throw him in the air, and stab him with a bayonet.

"They slit some of the kids' throats, and many they hanged from the tree. All of us were crying now, but we were their prisoners -- there was nothing we could do. The soldiers kept telling us, 'You are guerrillas and this is justice. This is justice.' Finally, there were only three of us left. I watched them hang my brother. He was two years old. I could see I was going to be killed soon, and I thought it would be better to die running, so I ran. I slipped through the soldiers and dived into the bushes. They fired into the bushes, but none of their bullets hit me."

Lying amid the maguey that night, Rufina Amaya heard the chorus of screams dwindle to a few voices, and those grew weaker and weaker and finally ceased. She heard the officers order that fire be put to the house of Alfredo Márquez and the church and the sacristy, and from the maguey she saw the flames rise and then she heard faint cries start up again inside the buildings and the short bursts of gunfire finishing off a few wounded, who had been forced by the flames to reveal that they were still alive.

Soon the only sounds were those which trickled down from the hills -- laughter, intermittent screams, a few shots. On La Cruz, soldiers were raping the young girls who were left. On El Chingo and El Pinalito, other soldiers busied themselves making camp. Down in the hamlet, a few troops walked about here and there, patrolling. Not far from the still burning house of Israel Márquez, two soldiers halted suddenly, and one of them pointed to the patch of maguey. He lowered his rifle and fired, and after a moment his companion fired, too. In the patch of brush, the stream of bullets sent a dark-green rain of maguey shreds fluttering to the earth. Then the soldiers charged forward and began poking among the weeds.

There was one in particular the soldiers talked about that evening (she is mentioned in the Tutela Legal report as well): a girl on La Cruz whom they had raped many times during the course of the afternoon, and through it all, while the other women of El Mozote had screamed and cried as if they had never had a man, this girl had sung hymns, strange evangelical songs, and she had kept right on singing, too, even after they had done what had to be done, and shot her in the chest. She had lain there on La Cruz with the blood flowing from her chest, and had kept on singing -- a bit weaker than before, but still singing. And the soldiers, stupefied, had watched and pointed. Then they had grown tired of the game and shot her again, and she sang still, and their wonder began to turn to fear -- until finally they had unsheathed their machetes and hacked through her neck, and at last the singing had stopped.

Now the soldiers argued about this. Some declared that the girl's strange power proved that God existed. And that brought them back to the killing of the children. "There were a lot of differences among the soldiers about whether this had been a good thing or whether they shouldn't have done it," the guide told me.

As the soldiers related it now, the guide said, there had been a disagreement outside the schoolhouse, where a number of children were being held. Some of the men had hesitated, saying they didn't want to kill the children, and the others had ridiculed them.

According to one account, a soldier had called the commanding officer. "Hey, Major!" he had shouted. "Someone says he won't kill children!"

"Which son of a bitch says that?" the Major had shouted back angrily, striding over. The Major had not hesitated to do what an officer does in such situations: show leadership. He'd pushed into the group of children, seized a little boy, thrown him in the air, and impaled him as he fell. That had put an end to the discussion.

Hours earlier, when the chill of the night came on, Rufina Amaya had shivered, for the maguey had badly ripped her blouse and skirt. The thorns had torn the flesh of her arms and legs, but at the time she hadn't noticed. Now she could feel the cuts, swelling and throbbing, and the blood, dried and prickly, on her limbs. And as she lay sobbing amid the thorns, listening to the soldiers pass, her breasts ached with the milk that had gathered there to feed her youngest child.

Marching past the church, which was burning still, past the carcasses of cows and dogs, and out of El Mozote, the men of the Atlacatl did not see the dark shape in the maguey patch, the heap of dark-green leaves. Their minds were on their work, which on that Saturday morning in December lay ahead in the hamlet of Los Toriles.

In Los Toriles, "the soldiers pulled people from their houses and hustled them into the square," the guide told me, "and went down the line taking money and anything of value out of people's pockets. Then they just lined the people up against a wall and shot them with machine guns. The people fell like trees falling."

Even so, the killing in Los Toriles took much of the day. Some of the residents, having seen the columns of smoke rising the afternoon before from El Mozote, had fled their homes and hidden in caves above the hamlet. But most had stayed, wanting to protect their homes: they remembered that on a previous operation soldiers had set fire to houses they found empty, claiming that they belonged to guerrillas.

By afternoon, the streets of Los Toriles were filled with corpses. "It was so terrible that we had to jump over the dead so as not to step on them," the guide told me. "There were dogs and cows and other animals, and people of all ages, from newborn to very old. I saw them shoot an old woman, and they had to hold her up to shoot her. I was filled with pity. I wished we had gone out and fought guerrillas, because to see all those dead children filled me with sadness."

As night fell, the soldiers walked through the town setting fire to the houses. It was dark by the time they left Los Toriles, to march south toward the guerrilla stronghold of La Guacamaya. They made camp in open country, rose at dawn, and, as they prepared to move out again, Captain Salazar motioned them over. The men of the Atlacatl gathered in a circle, sitting cross-legged on the ground as he stood and addressed them.

"Señores!" the Captain said angrily. "What we did yesterday, and the day before, this is called war. This is what war is. War is hell. And, goddammit, if I order you to kill your mother, that is just what you're going to do. Now, I don't want to hear that, afterward, while you're out drinking and bullshitting among yourselves, you're whining and complaining about this, about how terrible it was. I don't want to hear that. Because what we did yesterday, what we've been doing on this operation -- this is war, gentlemen. This is what war is." And for perhaps half an hour the Captain went on speaking in his angry voice, and the men shifted uneasily.

You, dhavid, and you, Zenzoe, will not have gotten this far. But on the off chance I’m going to betray my resolve and talk about myself. I went to Korea as a volunteer the day after the Chinese crossed the line. I stayed long enough for three battle stars and a presidential unit citation but I left early when I received an unexpected appointment to West Point. I was in Saigon when Time Magazine broke the My Lai story. Earlier, before going to Vietnam, I had decided that I could not in conscience refuse to participate in the civil rights struggle and so I did. In Jackson I waited in our tiny office with Michael Schwerner’s wife for his long overdue return. We got word late at night that he had been brutally killed along with Chaney and Goodman. There were no words adequate. All I could do was hold her in my arms as we cried. I’m old now, you can judge just how old from my service in Korea. I suffer from a failed operation designed to correct a fractured vertebra that had gone untreated for many years. I left the United States because, rather than righting itself, it was growing progressively vile. I began posting here because I thought that there might be intelligent people, concerned for others, who wanted to understand. I was wrong. This is my last post here.

I’m tired of your egocentric feminism, Zenzoe, so here’s a parting shot, the words of one of my heroes, Emma Goldman:

This is Emma Goldman from vol. 2 of her “Living My Life,” pages 556 and 557.

This incident reminded me of a similar occasion when I had lectured on woman’s inhumanity to man. Always on the side of the underdog I resented my sex’s placing every evil at the door of the male. I pointed out that if he were as great a sinner as was being painted by the ladies, women shared the responsibility with him. The mother is the first influence in his life, the first to cultivate his conceit and self-importance. Sisters and wives follow in the mother’s footsteps, not to mention mistresses, who complete the work begun by the mother. Woman is naturally perverse, I argued; from the very birth of her male child until he reaches a ripe age, the mother leaves nothing undone to keep him tied to her. Yet she hates to see him weak and she craves the manly man. She idolizes in him the very traits that help to enslave her --- his strength, his egotism, and his exaggerated vanity. The inconsistencies of my sex keep the poor male dangling between the idol and the brute, the darling and the beast, the helpless child and the conqueror of worlds. It is really woman’s inhumanity to man that makes him what he is. When she has learned to be as self-centered and as determined as he, when she gains the courage to delve into life as he does and pay the price for it, she will achieve her liberation, and incidentally also help him become free. Whereupon my women hearers would rise up against me and cry: “You’re a man’s woman and not one of us.”

Zenzoe 6 years 48 weeks ago
#28

My epiphany for today: I just caught 3 minutes of Jerry Springer, and now I don't give a damn if 90% of humanity goes extinct. ;-)

Alberto: my response, again—you're cherry-picking examples to support your thesis. Let it go.

Zenzoe 6 years 48 weeks ago
#29
Quote dhavid:

This implies total relativity, in the sense that there is not truth that can be discovered or at least theorized. Where did Einstein come up with his theories? How about the Higgs bosom theory? Socrates said somewhere that we don't learn but rather remember what we already know. I would suggest that some theories are pure intellectual compartmentalization and some related to and preceded by truth.

Some would say, "But thats the hard sciences, psychology is pure theorization, a soft science." I would point to Carl Rogers, who said that if 4 basic qualities are present in the therapist, the patient will grow, experience positive change. As I recall they are respect, congruence, empathy, and unconditional positive regard. That means a genuine person who listens with respect and love. Respect and love are two transcendental qualities that people possess in varying degrees. They are living, eternal, and incomprehensible. Like finding the Higgs bosom.

Just food for thought.

I don't know if you noticed, dhavid, but tonight Thom interviewed Mishio Kaku on his Big Picture TV program? It kind of gave me the goose bumps, when Thom mentioned Mishio Kaku's having had epiphanies during his life, then the mention of Higgs boson and a number of things about the universe, like dark matter, stuff you mention from time to time in your comments. But anyway, it reminded me of your comment, above, which had caught my eye the first time, but which I hadn't been able to quite grasp, so I had let it go. Just wondered if you saw the show.

And I'm still not sure I grasp the entirety of your comment. Some of it, yes. But not all.

Zenzoe 6 years 48 weeks ago
#30

My son (physics degree) told me yesterday that the Higgs boson hasn't been found yet—they're just conjecturing. If I understand the basic idea, it's a particle that will satisfy a missing piece in the puzzle of string theory, a theory MK spoke about on Thom’s show last night. (I love that guy!)

Anyway, dhavid's comment at #30 deserved a better look, and I feel bad that I allowed Alberto’s contributions to divert my attention from what was, indeed, “food for thought.”

As for your (dhavid) first point, re Carol Tavris’ saying that “theories depend ... on what an observer observes...,” it’s important to understand that she was talking about evolutionary biology, which has had a history of male bias, leading to grossly subjective, and, therefore, wrong, ideas about human beings. Her book, The Mismeasure of Woman, Why Women are not the Better Sex, the Inferior Sex, or the Opposite Sex, contains a great deal of truth, yes truth, about the practice —”in the social sciences, medicine, law, and history— of treating men as the normal standard, women as abnormal.” Specifically, in the section of the book I quoted, she was talking about the Myth of the Coy Female, which was the darling theory of evolutionary biology for a long long time; that is, “men are promiscuous, but women just sit there, being coy and looking pretty to attract the male,” a theory that has now been debunked—because there was just too much evidence to the contrary, evidence they’d overlooked before in their subjectivity.

It’s not that truth has a fixed definition, either. I can say “The sky looks blue to us...” and that would be one kind of truth. Or, you could say, “if there are 4 basic qualities present in the therapist, the patient will grow, experience positive change...” and that would be another kind of truth, a truth that is not of the same absolute veracity as “the sky looks blue.” That’s because somebody can come along and say, “Well, no matter how I treated him with 'respect, congruence, empathy and unconditional positive regard,' he remained stubbornly attached to his paranoid delusions and continued to add great loads of manic verbosity to the land fill of his obsessions,” and you might have to take a second look at whether positive change is possible for some individuals. (Sapolsky gives us the truth about how damage to the amygdala can cause behavioral changes) But I don’t know. I could be wrong. (something I have said before on this forum, which AC has apparently missed)

It seems to me, dhavid, if you’re saying that “truth” is somehow embedded someplace in the universe, and the Einsteins of the world are conduits of that truth —they just happen to tap into it— then I don’t know what to say about that. Who knows? Maybe that’s what epiphanies are! Maybe that’s how some of our art, music and literature come to be. I have said to myself, when experiencing a particularly perfect piece of music, "This seems to have been music that was there all along; it existed in whole form already and only had to be played, or sung." I don’t know if that makes any sense to you, or if that’s a kind of truth. I am no philosopher, or mystic, so I cannot add much to that.

dhavid 6 years 48 weeks ago
#31

Like that last paragraph, just omit maybe. :) I was reading something about Taoism and the author found it similar to Hindu mysticism and vedanta philosophy. They are on the same page as you without the maybe. That is where I found AC preposterous in asserting base instincts as the foundation of art, literature, etc. Life really is magic, and it's roots are in the eternal, it just doesn't seem so most of the time.

Zenzoe 6 years 48 weeks ago
#32

It’s really hard to apply words like magic and eternal to this life, here in America, where everybody has to go around acting perky. And I am not saying I’m any different. It’s probably why I have to say Maybe all of the time.

But I have to say Maybe, dhavid, even while I chuckle over the way you put that. I just don’t want to be positive about something that I haven’t experienced as real yet. Or maybe it’s just that I don’t want to own something that, if I were to own it, I wouldn’t be as humble as I should be. Does that make any sense?

Actually, if this isn’t too prideful of me, I think I can own the concept of tapping into the magic, eternal nature of the universe (a notion I usually scoff at, you know), but only in the context of painting (art). I have noticed here and there a feeling of timelessness when working on a painting, and an unselfconsciousness that only happens there (if I become self-conscious, the results show it), as well as a sense that “I” —me, myself, and I— had nothing whatsoever to do with the creative part. It’s like, Where’d that come from? It’s not that I think I’m channeling God, either. It’s a place, though. Anyway, I don't know why I don't go there more often than I do. It's kinda where I belong.

AC’s attachment to our more primitive drives as fundamental to everything seems rather stuck in macho to me. It’s like, “Me big hunter man...watch me pound my hairy chest...me want kill antelope...me draw it to kill...” (art as blueprint/planning) But then, I’m too stupid, apparently, to comprehend the subtlety and genius of his thinking. So I agree with you—there’s so much more to it all. I think he makes the mistake of trying to fit art in the logos aspect of our nature, when it doesn’t belong there; the logos aspect does not produce such things in the first place—mythos does. We’ve discussed that before, though.

The scene in the following link says it all, doesn’t it? (about hunting, at least, and maybe a little bit about logos and mythos too? ;-) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMjwiP29cg4

dhavid 6 years 48 weeks ago
#33

Nice clip.

Add comment

Login or register to post comments

Democrats Should Steal Trump's Thunder on Trade

It's time to run bigger, better and harder on trade policies.