Friday, October 12, 2012

All falling things broken down the river


To read the whole of this story, please turn to the following link;
http://www.amazon.com/Iquitos-Peru-D-W-Walker/dp/098776151X



I chose to spend my life travelling so I could hope to find the best of all possible lives to live. I'm still on the road, and I have seen the good and the bad to degrees I could never have imagined had I stayed home and lived like others of my own kind in the mountains where I grew up and a place to this day I love.

Compared to other parts of my nation my home is a backward and poverty-stricken place many people laugh at, a stereotype of hillbillies, rednecks, and racist cowboy yokels who don't know nothin'. I am one of them. I travel the world and take my inner cowboy with me as I range from sea to sea, across deserts and forests and steppes and slaglands and savannas. I am now on an island by a river in the jungle. I am at Iquitos, Peru in the Amazon. I ventured down the bank and onto a boat to travel farther still to see yet more.


Life on the Amazon is access to the river itself. In this less than modern environment access is ages old, a climb up and down the mudbank.
I took a walk down the muddy slope and boarded a boat that would take me for days down the Amazon. I have no plan and no expectation of what I might find out on this journey. I do this because I do not know.
The boats carrying supplies up and down the river have changed over the centuries, and the cargo is often now consumer goods from China; but the life of river people is little changed.

The British historian Paul Johnson writes of the "tyranny of distance" and notes that we in the Modern world have conquered it recently with such things as interstate highways and aeroplanes and freight trains. But boats have been with us from the beginning as rivers were our life-lines connecting s to others with whom we could trade and progress from our ignorance to our triumph as Modernists in an affluent and healthy world of man living well. It is sometimes a blessing not so good. All of our stuff has not given us the meaning we should long for, and in some many cases as I see stuff has buried us under waves of despair that we don't have enough. I don't have enough. Therefore I travel in search of the stuff that is the real life I long for.

The water flows into the Amazon from innumerable tributaries till the Amazon is known to us as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. To locals, it's just home, wonderful, but normal.
Most people just live and live as if there is only life.Life is about food and shelter and family. The river supplies much food, and the selva shelter. Nature itself allows for children. In its idiot mercy, Nature allows for death.

As the cargo boats ply the mighty river the boats stop and load and unload goods in trade. People come to the boat in a state of hope that life will be easier for the day, food and money coming.
There is poverty on the riverside that matches that in my little town. I feel almost at home along the river with the traders and fishermen and loggers who are, like my own, living their lives privately. In my little town, of course, we are despicable because we are poor and uneducated and brutish, not aware of our own low class and station, and adding to the affront to our betters, we like ourselves and our lives, pretty much like people on the Amazon.

There is poverty in the world, told to us by those who camp in public spaces in America where people demonstrate and riot over their hard lives. On the Amazon, there is no rioting. There is life and work, family and homeland nation, all of it flowing ever downward to the sea.

All things fall, this too, this sky, this land, this river, it all falls. And as all things fall, all things rise again to relive the Mystery of Life. I see from my rise above the normal of my home town the overview of time spent traveling. I know the fruitless effort of attempted suspension of Life, the frantic effort to stop all things for all kings who would rule as gods.

Birds soar in search of death to feast on as trees grow unaware of their existence.

I have crossed my places in my search of real living. I see it all flowing into an eternal sea of impending rain. There is no good in our attempt to stop the flow. There is only death and living decay as our masters try to make themselves permanent in the world, denying death, ignoring the fall, hating the rise of life over life and the swirl of death whipping ever on the hungry. One crosses.

One crosses the tributaries and brings ones work to the world.
 I took a boat down river to see what there is that I wouldn't otherwise have known.

My boat upriver, Gran Diego, to Columbia.

I saw that people rely on people to live. We survive because we have rules to keep us from harm and violence. We trade. We bring and we take.

Coffins of fish and boxes for life of man on the Amazon
A cargo boat brings people and goods to people with money for trade. The cargo boat brings death for life.

People by the thousands come daily to meet the cargo boats and to trade life for life.

ooooooFish are gathered from the river and placed in boxes loaded onto the boat and are brought to the cityside where others come to buy fish to sell to others to eat. The fishermen come to the city to buy things cities offer to villagers. The process flows daily.


Feeding the city.
From big bags to smaller bags, all things are broken down till everything ends up at some point in the water where it washes down to the sea.



The competition for food is decided by the peace of cash.
Everyone eats daily, and there is peace among the fed because everyone work to make all others able to continue the exchange. It is not dramatic or a matter of social justice. It is ordinary life on the river one day just like the next living. People smile. Life is good.

All things broken down to bits like water drops, bananas cut from trees to be sold by the piece, eaten as bites. Such is the meaning of the words "heresy," "science," and "."Schei├če."
There's little interference in this daily round of buying and selling, working and living. People have needs and people live by tending to others'. It's as simple as life in the mountains where my own despised people do much the same.

A dead fish sells for enough for a family to buy potatoes and rice and oil. A fish feeds a family for a day so they can live to provide for others potatoes and rice and oil.
We fish, we hunt, we cut down trees and buy food and other goods and we live. We kill things to live. Such is life. There is not a hint of social justice in it, and thus we are hated. Privacy is hated. Here in the Amazon, a short walk from the pure jungle, life continues on without rulers, only rules among the people.

Fish eat so fish can spawn so fish can eat so we can eat them.
There is a Natural Law that offends those who hate my own, a law of privacy and independence that infuriates those who would be Nature themselves. But on the Amazon, nature prevails and everyone eats anyway.

Home, an expectation for most, sets down amidst the flow.
It all looks so serene and lovely till one is up to ones knees in the muck and one sees first hand the endless slaughter of nature. The water and the trees hide the brutal cycle of death, glossing over the constant churning death machine of life.

One lives from the river, all things coming and going down, man floating by as well.
One retreats from so much slaughter into a life of direct life, a life of man and men, of family, of friends and city dwelling neighbours. The detrius of life builds up and slides away unnoticed. It is poverty, and it is good among the people living.

Eating, always and ever eating, a dog's life.
the river provides more than enough to eat, and thus one turns to life after dinner, to the life of the mind, to life as Mystery. One makes idols of the river and admires the things of the world of ones home. Beauty reigns.


Movement, constant and private, is public and shared.
Beauty and the constant movement of man from place to place in search of life, man like a fish in the river swimming in search of life beyond himself.

Time crawls in Belen, the 19th Century living amidst the world of super-stuff abundant.
food, shelter, family, community, art and movement, all of it abounds in this little city on the Amazon, though it is stuck in parts in the past covered now with plastic and steel and gasoline and garbage that makes this outpost of Modernity a happy place of healthy people free to live long and to smile.


For all our freedom to move and trade, still we are bound by that binding of life, by our own needs to bind. The alternative is freedom to float.


I too want parts of the world and the earth to call my own. I fill up my pack with stuff no one else can have but me. Some days I can hardly carry all my stuff. It weighs me down and makes me captive of my own need to have what is all around me.I will do this all the days of my life as I travel from here to there looking for the reason for living and the hope of finding it in time to live it well.

As one floats by the river bank one sees the banks collapsing from the rain, the image striking and obvious and eternal, even as it melts before ones eyes, the image of a human skull falling into the river as we pass. 

Moment to moment the image fades and falls. The riverbank collapses into the water moment by moment, the river flowing like the time of ones life. And one can if one so chooses ignore it all in the moment. There it is for anyone to see all things falling broken down the river.

As one floats by the river bank one sees the banks collapsing from the rain, the image striking and obvious and eternal, even as it melts before ones eyes.

Life goes on like the river. All of it falling. I must travel farther still to see yet more.


A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:

http://www.amazon.com/Occasional-Walker-D-W/dp/0987761501/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331063095&sr=1-1

And here are some reviews and comments on said book:

http://nodhimmitude.blogspot.com/2012/04/dagness-at-noon.html

18 comments:

truepeers said...

"It is not... a matter of social justice."

Now don't go all Utopian on us. What i think you mean to say is they are not full of leftist rhetoric, which would surprise me somewhat, if the Maoist crap in the hills hasn't washed down too.

Anyway, since a sense of reciprocity is inherent in the human (hence the ability to trade) a resentful sense of injustice, in face of the limits to reciprocity, is a universal experience too. Your folksy language, like all language, speaks to a a pre-metaphysical sense of justice.

Of course, their sense of injustice may be focussed locally, i.e. they are, as you say, marginal people who are not well incorporated in an exchange with distant imperial authority, though surely the pols in Lima try to buy some favours.

Dag said...

From my first few days in Mira Flores I was stuck by the smile on the lovely face of the cashier at the supermarket. She was quiet and lovely and had a small and gentle smile all the time. I used to stand back in the crowd and watch her. Always that lovely smile, like Garbo. And then I noticed others smiling, many, maybe most, most of the time. I was surprised and somewhat dismayed. Why were people smiling? What was wrong with them? Smiling is everywhere. It frightened me.

In Lima proper I saw it more, the smiling. a lady I liked very much had the same smile, a small thing that one wouldn't notice if it weren't so rare and beautiful. Serenity. I had-- and have-- no explanation.

There is at my current residence a little girl, a year and a half old, who smiles so much and who laughs so often that I am enraptured just being in this place. Her parents and aunts and uncles and others smile quietly, the standard Peruvian smile. The baby is wide open and loud. She is something amazing in her laughter.

Yesterday I walked past a tiny shack on the street and saw in a blanket on the ground a tiny baby, two weeks old, and I knelt down to look at it. The baby smiled at me like a saint. Over and over it smiled at me. It was a conscious and loving smile. I felt like a vampiric character in a Dostoyevsky novel. It was like a wild hallucination. How could a tiny thing like that baby smile and know to smile at me?

This is, as you point out, the same nation and the same area that produced the Sendero Luminoso, the Maoist maniacs who rampaged in the jungle and the mountains for 20 years. Can these be the same people I see today? I keep asking, and have yet to find a satisfactory answer. So, I don't know what people are radiantly happy and yet can be sadistic monsters in the same place.

Dag said...

Trade doesn't explain anything to me. Trade is natural and happened here for a million years before I came along to love this place and its people. But there is something unique here outside of trade, some something about people here that is totally different from others. This serenity transcends the rest of life of man, as I have experienced it in my life of travel over the years. There is something unique about the people here. It might be something in the food or in the air. I have no idea. I do know that I can see photos of myself smiling. I have no explanation for that. I think I'm my usual grumpy self. But I am smiling and happy most of the time. Some of this happiness has rubbed off on me. How the people here were roped into the madness of A. Guzman's neo-Nazi Maoism bewilders me. Why his prison-mate Fujimori tried to exterminate the Amazonians with sterilization bewilders me as well.

I hope to learn more as I continue to stay in Peru and eventually in Ecuador. I came here because I knew 200 Ecuadorians ten years ago, they being like the Peruvian here, so happy and loving and wonderful that my life has been a longing to visit their village. Now I see it extended far. I hope to know what this is about. Solving that will be a good step for me, perhaps allowing me to take some happiness with me when I eventually leave for other lands.

Dag said...

It's not just marginal Amazonians in Peru, therefore, who are this happy people. I saw it in Bolivia as well, remarkably so, and I fell in love with the nation I thought would be a nasty police state run by an idiot dictator. How could it be otherwise if the people voted for the dictator and his gang of idiot thugs? And I have seen some wild violence among the political types, which I detail elsewhere and to come. There might well be a bipolar personality that I haven't seen all of to date. Maybe this is just one wave in the life of the people, and the next wave, as I fear, will be a return too madness that justifies the military and police dressed to kill on every street corner. But I don't see the madness of the Guzman followers driven to madness. I see private people making a living daily and raising families. I see people loving their children and children so happy that at two weeks old the baby smiles like a Madonna.

There is something weird going on here. I wonder if there's something in the water or the air. I wonder how long this beauty can last.

truepeers said...

Far be it for me, thousands of miles and who knows what else away from there to offer a theory. But what you say is not entirely different from things I've heard before. For example, many people say of Africans that they are the most happy go lucky people, until all of a sudden they, some at least, can snap and show themselves capable of barbaric violence. This, the former, must have something to do with the allure of what you have called philobarbarism.

When I said that a resentful sense of injustice is a human universal, I did not mean to say that the level of resentment is the same in all people. There is definitely a historical progression, though perhaps not entirely linear, in such things, and our modern world is a world of much resentment that requires all the arts of consumer culture to mediate. Our productivity and our resentent are chained together in a "vicious cycle".

Socieities that had become sufficiently advanced in agrarian productivity had big men and slavery and empires; they also had human sacrifice, the evidence for which the archaeologists find in the Andes as elsewhere. That is all evidence of resentment, though not on the scale we have today in the West.

But the more simple or primitive th society, the more bound by relatively unchanging rituals that no big man controls, the less the level of resentment there will be, and only occasional paroxysms of violence when things temporarily break down.

Anyway, to say that a people is unique is also to say they are human. We can never solve the paradox of sameness and difference. We can only jump deeper into the mystery. Good luck.

truepeers said...

Resentment, I should say, is what we feel towards those we feel are responsible for alienating us from what is sacred. To be happy, in love, is to feel one is properly related to what is sacred. Trade is an important part of the equation becaus it is how we exchange tokens, and hence proximity to, that which is sacred, be it at a sacrificial feast, in a eucharistic communion, or in a marketplace. But trade takes different forms - a truly free market where everyone gets the same price is a rare thing and it can never do away with the more primitive basis of exchange: the recciprocal gifting relationship. Part of the reason Westerners today are out of kilter is because we have lost our sense of the need for gift exchange - for voluntarism in all kinds of situations - because we have allowed big governmet to monopolize the gifting, patron-client, reliationship and the free market, such as it is, is in bed with big government and does not yet see the need to re-integrate gifting as a regular feature of economic life, outside the philanthropy of retired rich people.

Dag said...

Your last comment brings to mind the image of Obama and co. as Potlatch Chiefs burning down the national patrimony for the sake of showing how generous and therefore how strong and righteous they are, the result being that after we have given them our last dimes we will be indebted to them for the duration thereafter because of all they've done for us.

I am sometimes seriously dismayed by young Westerners I meet on the road, not Modernists at all but kids stuck in a neo-fuedalist understanding-- or lack thereof-- of what it means to live in a world of work and production and distribution and consumption and disposal. I meet kids, so to say, who have no experience in life worth mentioning who are often smug and self-righteous little beasts who have spent a year or so "teaching" the locals this or that as if the locals need some 20 year old European or American to show them how to live. As one put it, and he with a sense of humor, "For $250 a month I teach the natives how to wash there hands and brush their teeth." He knew he was there on a cheap vacation. He had no illusions about his "help." Others are neither so smart nor so honest, and they truly believe they are saving the world by braiding coloured string into girls's hair and so on. I did meet a Peace Corp. girl (not to do with corpses, Dear Leader) who laughed and said, "After two years of this I'm never going to get an honest job again: all my work habits are shot to shit." But more often I hear kids who claim that income equality is of paramount importance to society, and that individualism is a serious bad thing that causes minority people to commit what I see as crimes. Utopianism is cool for kids, I guess, but they also vote for adult manipulators who would shame Voltaire's Muhammad. The idea of gift-giving is for them, mostly, a matter of taxing "the rich," Here in the Amazon there is a reciprocity in that families tend to family. Without family there is little help from anyone or anything else. Public charity is almost non-existent. But things work here, as I see on the ground, where they do not work in America and Canada and Europe: few homeless people, no beggars at all, and criminals are dealt with so harshly that it takes a committed lunatic to risk the penalties.

Family but not familism, from what I can see, and community without tribalism, for the most part. What I see, and I am an outsider asking questions that I often must accept answers to on faith, is a growing drive for families to educate their children in occupations that will allow their kids to become better off than their parents, the Modernity of America that I love so much. People live private lives, as it were, rather than the communitarian pretense of Obamists who demand all conform to the higher state and its Philosopher Kings of the moral. It's about family here. Or so I think from what I hear and see.

Dag said...

If there were any justice in the world the first thing to happen would be the inclusion of philobarbarism in the DSM XXX as a serious personality disorder requiring imprisonment indefinitely with frequent electo-shock therapy. Thing is, those subject to it would almost immediately switch their philo to their tormentors, the masochists finding new masters of pain to worship in place of the barbarians.

Were I to reduce most things to one, I would choose to say that masochism and sadism, the same coin, rule humanness. Here in Peru I see the same sado-masochistic social relationship as anywhere else, and to a frightening degree in the people's passive acceptance of authoritarian government; but at the same time, I see less of the government hand here than anywhere else I have been since I left home 49 years ago. Government here is indeed authoritarian, but it is also limited to what money it can get to interfere with the ordinary doings of ordinary people; thus, government usually puts its limited resources into fighting genuine rivals to its power, not surprisingly, Left intellectuals.

In asking about and getting some pretty unsatisfactory answers to my queries, I find that the Sendero Luminoso, the Shining Path terrorist Maoists were almost entirely school teachers and administrators. The few peasants involved were, from what I gather, upset that they weren't getting their fair share of the wealth. Little good that hope got them, the S.L. shutting down peasant markets as "bourgeois" and thus evil and deserving of death. So, the peasants, eventually, were armed by the government and effectively eradicated the intellectuals. It took so long only because the government of socialists at the time, and at times, were reluctant to actually battle those they essentially agreed with. Fujimori, a criminal and monster of his own kind, also did little to endear himself to the people due to his extermination campaign against the Amazonians with his so-called birth control programme.

Dag said...

Fujimori and Guzman are in the same prison in the south of the country, as I happened to see while I was traveling there almost a year ago now. Evil is evil even if it comes from different poles.

The people here, on the other hand, are almost totally peaceful and family oriented to a degree I haven't before seen in the world. This leads me to a strange conclusion.

The people of, I have to assume based on previous experience, Ecuador, and my current experiences in Peru and Bolivia, are of a variety of ethnic groups, to be sure, many from previously warring tribes, and most dominated for much of history by the Incas. There is some significant smattering of European people, mostly mixed, and thus there is no real "Peruvian" in the sense one might think of Danes, for example, as Danish. But there is certainly Peru and Bolivia and Ecuador and the people who live in these nations. Overall, and significantly and noticeably, they are similar one to another in that they are all visibly smiling in a quiet and natural way, some kind of seeming ethnic trait, as I see it. This is not the case with Paraguayans, Brazilians, or Columbians, from my not particularly happy experiences in those countries so far. This specific part of the world and these general populations are unique in a unique way: they are happy, and so without the imbecility one sees in so many grinning and "happy-go-lucky" Africans who can and do flip to utter animal savagery in an instant. Not the same people, not even like the same kind of people. Thus, in line with the father of "scientific racism' Artur de Gobineau, I am rapidly becoming a Racist. De Gobineau has to be at least as right as his contemporary "scientists" Marx and Darwin, though I might later argue more right than either. Let me include the mentally ill figure of Galton while I'm at it.

All of which, I hope, brings us back to philobarbarism: that some people, naturally driven to masochism, long for a homosocial relationship with strong men, the stronger the better, that giving misery the meaning to life that is lost in the alienation of freedom.

My battery is running out, and I must come back to this tomorrow. I have much to say about philobarbarism, and this is a good place to do so, I think.

truepeers said...

School teachers with guns, eh?

When you say family, What kind of families - is it mostly just parents and kids and the odd survivng grandparent or do they live with cousins and uncles, recreating the village in the city as it were?

truepeers said...

Via catfur: http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2012/09/spanking-ones-own-arse.html

Sounds like you!

Dag said...

Unlike Mexico with its extended family life of uncles and cousins, and the same with Arabs, Peru has nuclear families. This is more like America than America is today.

My computer access has gone seriously bad and I cannot access my blog, so I will be out of it till I can find a repair shop to fix this. For now I hope at least to leave this comment. There are some orphanges in this area, and I will visit one if I can to get more insight into life here.

Dag said...

The link above leads as well to this, about babies, social justice, and ecology. I too have written about ecology, and as soon as I can get settled down and begin typing again I will have another book out to be ignored. So, rather than have nothing from me, here is some great copy from Thompson:

Culling for Gaia

Time for another selection of Classic Sentences from the Guardian. Or rather the Guardian’s Sunday sister paper, the Observer. Until recently, I had thought the Observer’s commentary wasn’t quite as obnoxiously self-loathing as the material that swills all but daily through the piping of the Guardian. Sadly, it seems I was mistaken:

Fewer British babies would mean a fairer planet.

So barks the headline of AlexRenton’s latest exercise in ecological hair-tearing. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. It’s just another overexcited sub-editor and not representative of an otherwise measured and sober article. However, the first line reads,

The worst thing that you or I can do for the planet is to have children.

And besides,

One less British child would permit some 30 women in sub-Saharan Africa to have a baby and still leave the planet a cleaner place.

It continues,

Why not start cutting population everywhere? Are condoms not the greenest technology of all?

Inevitably, we veer tantalisingly close to China’s state reproduction policy:

It was certainly the most successful governmental attempt to preserve the world’s resources so far.

And there’s this little gem.

A cull of Australians or Americans would be at least 60 times as productive as one of Bangladeshis.

So several candidates there – from, lest we forget, a progressive and liberal newspaper.

Deciding not to have a child because of their estimated annual CO2 production is a particularly wretched parental calculus and suggests either pathological self-disgust or pretensions thereof. I suspect Alex Renton measures his moral and intellectual sophistication by the extent to which he loathes his own culture, and by extension himself. That, or he pretends such for the benefit of other, likeminded souls. Happily, he’s found a cause well suited to the cultivation of such feelings. Less happily, he presumes to share his leanings with others, coercively if necessary:

Could children perhaps become part of an adult’s personal carbon allowance? Could you offer rewards: have one child only and you may fly to Florida once a year?

Readers may feel inclined to assist Mr Renton in his totalitarian urges by gnawing off his testicles and tossing them on a fire. And then doing the same to any male children he may recklessly have sired. For Gaia, of course.

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2009/10/culling-for-gaia.html

Dag said...

I often refer to this kind of leftard bullshit as Sado-Masochism. It is also closely related to the homosocial philobarbarism I hate so much. In both cases I see a matter of weak men longing to hang out with strong men. Every aspect of life is in some way sexual and essentially sexual, but that doesn't mean sex, which homosexuals confuse consistently. Homosocial behaviour is about men establishing themselves in a position of strength through submission so they can be part of the fasces, the whole as lead by the strong man. Cheerleading and towel carrying for the captain of the team allows them to be part of something sweaty. Otherwise it would be back to the chess club and wishing they could hang out with real men.

Dag said...

I see some deep elements of sado-masochism in the Andes and Amazon at times, the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia, for example, and the lunacy of the Sendero Luminoso in Peru. but it is less pronounced than in America today with the groveling and leering of homosocial types we find in the media and academia re Obama et al. Here, government authority is either obeyed quietly or is used for favours. It is not an object of self worth. Here, life is about families, and that is specifically about children.

truepeers said...

I hope your computer problems are not too serious.

I think you are right to emphasize the importance of the homosocial.  Culture (especially its generation if not so much its ongoing use) is male-dominated because, according to the most sophisticated hypothesis of human origins, GA, culture is generated from the need, in the first place, to mediate male violence.  Mass murdering psychopaths are almost invariably men. The male homosocial is essentially a dance by which the members control each other.  But why reduce this to S-M?  If the control mechanism is not a zero-sum game but a real solution to the prisoners' dilemma, one by which they all benefit (as they become more productive as a group or better able to defend against outsiders), then it is by its very nature a "control" which no one ultimately controls - all must sign off or become rebels, outsides.  Even in  a society ruled by a big man, a man with a lot of control, the big man ultimately depends on other people respecting him and not making of him a sacrificial victim.  Why reduce that dynamic to S-M?

In the beginning, in the primitive tribe, all men are ruled by the ritual order.  The mask is more important than the man who wears it: the man may soon die, the mask will live on in the next initiate to the role.  Men's first loyalty and love is always to the mask, the role, the sign, and that must be true with the philobarbarist.  Why did so many Westerners love Arafat, the mass murderer who encouraged the development of the Palestinian cult of blood sacrifice?  They loved the mask, the keffiyeh, not the disgusting man underneath it, as would have become clear if the media had ever honestly portrayed the real man instead of romanticizing him.  Thus his wife insists he was poisoned by the Jews, and didn't die of AIDS  If S-M is the essential dynamic, why does it matter if the Emperor has no clothes?

With the rise of agrarian societies and a storable surplus, you get big men who use control of the surplus to control the ritual order. But, again, this need not be seen as a zero-sum game in which the losers simply bow down to the big man because they get a tingle up the leg.  Regicide being a recurring aspect of such societies,  the alliances that go against the big man do not simply base themselves on the claim that we have a better big man: he must be better in terms of representing - playing the role - the gift relationships that they think are proper between ruler and subjects. Continued....

truepeers said...

...

So why reduce the gift relationship to S-M?  It seems to me your idea of human freedom tends towards the libertarian dream, by which relationships of mutual obligation can be denounced as a kind of archaic slavery or S-M.  But can any society really ever exist that does not allow for some mechanism (I would prefer voluntary charity and free contracts) by which the rich and powerful give back to the weak and poor thus creating in turn obligations on the latter to respect productive roles and not go haywire when some resentful preacher tries to stir the rabble? Ultimately, if the rich and powerful don't understand that their wealth and position is built on top of a gift - the creation that must first be a gift before we are able to divide it up and price it with tokens of the sacred (money) - then they will eventually be toppled by resentment.  Gifting necessarily flows from the sacrality of our shared Being.

I would say the essential human dynamic is one in which  the most powerful man cannot control all the others without their consent, i.e. paradoxically recognizing the others' ultimate control.  Hence there is a break with the animal pecking order, which really is based on one to one relations of dominance and submission (and note the animal world is not "homosocial" in the human sense but simply an iteration of one-on-one dominance and submissive roles - the alpha dog never addresses the pack as a whole); and after the break a new dynamic based on reciprocity, which must generate itself in genuine ways at first, even if over time it can become corrupted and unproductive. Why reduce reciprocity to S-M?

One of the difficulties we Westerners have in talking about these things is that thanks to Christianity, which broke radically with the ritual past, leaving most Westerners with little ability to understand ritualized religion (the Christian Eucharist is less a ritual, a sacrificial feast with real physical sustenance, than a spiritual inversion and emptying out of the ritual order).  So the West tends to forget that the basis of human order is the sacrificial feast by which the band distributes its communal kill. Even Christians in the secular realm have to recognize this in as much as they have to kill and eat.

Yet the (post) Christian world is always at risk of a bad conscience in how it kills and eats. And, I would suggest, this is what can lead to Gnostic fantasies as well as overly pessimist "realists" who would reduce reciprocity to S-M.  If the Christian ideal (building on the Jewish covenantal relationship) of a free market where everyone tries to do what Jesus would do does, in any degree (however much it falls short) allows for greater productivity and freedom, even if we struggle to get beyond the Gnostic heresies, how can we reduce that modernity to S-M?  And if you want to make of modernity an exception to the rule, then you are not really explaining the underlying mechanism of human relations.

I would say, think about the sacrificial feast (including the productive relationships that allow for the kill and consumption) as the fundamental human relationship.

truepeers said...

p.s. If the people there live in nuclear families then they are living in a radical product of Wester civiization as you know from reading Stone. The struggle to build up nuclear families by destroying the tribe and clan and creating new kinds of inter-familial relationships of mutual dependency is also something I don't think can be explained in terms of S-M.