I seem to have set some kind of a record with this title, Uncle Marshal would be so pleased.
One of the really great things about the blogsophere, it delivers the most unanticipated sources of in-spiration to your front blogstep. In today’s case the instigatrix is one Clotilda Jamcraker a very interesting lady and blogger from Texas who stopped by recently and ‘liked’ one of my posts.
I am inspired today by the opening rave [as opposed to rant] on Ms. JamCracker’s regular website ClotidaJamCracker.com, [as opposed to her blog]. What is interesting that this is the second time she has inspired me to post, this either means that there is some deep synergistic resonance happening between our two websites – or – basically anything anyone says can trigger a thought response in me that immediately flows through the creodes of my normal though process towards what you are about to get.
On a personal note, Clotilda [or who ever she really is] reminds me of a very much of a very dear urban-organic-gardening-fruit-tree-produce-reclaiming friend of mine also from Texas, so Clotilda is undoubtedly benefiting from a certain amount of psycho-emotional transference on my part.
Off-topic, and offered completely as an aside, one thing I really like about Texans is that they seem, to have a strong collective remembrance [and appreciation] of being something other than a tax collection district of the United States Government or one of its former territories. As a Connecticut Yankee I really like that. Over the course of the last few hundred years the notion of any real state sovereignty has been almost completely bred out of most other Americans in general and New Englanders in particular.
Be that as it may.
Today’s case began with the introductory article on the JamCracker home page, which seems to be some kind of a personal manifesto. After a series of very nice hand drawn images she begins:
I am the Punk Rock PTA
Punks and Thugs Allowed
I have the right to be civilized.
I have the right to say no to all that is disorganized and chaotic.
I have the right to clean my house and teach my kids the ways of the sophisticated.
I have the right to wear unfashionable dresses.
I have the right to practice thinness.
I have the right to make my children wait to eat at desireable [sic] hours of the day.
I have the right not to serve sweetened and flavored beverages.
I have the right to ignore the telephone when it rings.
I have the right to avoid those who are rude, disgusting and talkative.
I have the right to withhold use of electronic devises from those who refuse to take part in civilized practices such as dental hygeine [sic], washing and folding laundry, and other household duties.
I have the right to refuse to give away my money to those who refuse to work for it. I have the right to have a clean house
I have the right to avoid and prevent my children from associating with controlling people, irresponsible people, foolish people, or masochistic people, or people who way or do things that anger me and make me anxious.
I as I continued to read the rest of the page I was struck by a kind of contradiction in the first two statements and everything that followed. I began to wonder if the opening two lines were meant merely in some poetic sense, or what did she really mean??
It seems to me that “Punk Rock” and “Punks and Thugs” might be the epitome of everything that Ms. JamCraker listed as what she was striving against, namely “all that is disorganized and chaotic,” and that if one were to examine the behaviors of punks and thugs dispassionately one would probably agree that punkish and thuggerly behavior, is exactly the type of behavior that she was trying to train her children to avoid and would be most likely to drive her up a wall.
I began to wonder if this apparent contradiction was the result of the tension between Clotilda’s more creative and more managerial natures – or – was it something else?
In popular culture there does seem to be a real hankering to romanticize, magnify, and reenact certain hip and edgy groups and lifestyles, for instance the current wild popularity surrounding the neo-lifestyle-anarchist-Johnny Depp-rock’n’roll-pirate meme that we see so much of these days. Where as in all honesty, if you make a careful examination of: pirates, piracy, and pirate societies you have to come away with the realization that despite their pretensions to a [primitive] kind of egalitarianism, that they were probably less directly violent than Hollywood supposes [actual use of violence being risky to a criminal enterprise], and that they often preyed upon the rich [seen as a virtue by many] there is not much there in genuine piracy that modern people would really want in their own homes most days of the week.
To be accurate and honest, pirate culture, real pirate culture, was and is to this day a very slope-browed-retro-troglodyte affair, that organized itself around personal enrichment at the expense of others and that produced nothing. The pirate way of life, its economy and culture being based upon – well, piracy a kind of kleptoparasitism. Piracy, you know sailing your heavily armed warship up along side an unarmed merchantman and forcing the crew of that vessel to give up either or both their ship and cargo – or die. You might also maroon, kidnap and hold for ransom, impress, enslave, or simply murder any member of that crew you saw fit. Of course some members of pirated ships’ crews did in fact turn around and enthusiastically join the pirate crew themselves, apparently seeing a much greater opportunity for economic advancement, and prospects for a longer life than by joining the officers of their erstwhile vessel in the long boat as they are pushed out to sea. Everybody wants to be a pirate [sic].
So, what is it that Clotilda found so appealing about punks and thugs, who I am [maybe unfairly] likening to ‘pirates’, that she wished to invite them home?
I’m curious about her response to the question.
I have a theory, I’m not sure how much of my theory Ms. JamCracker would agree with, or would like appreciate having it directed towards her, however gently, but in a not-shall I will boil it down to this; which is that modern people are feeling the impetus towards being allowed to do their own will without having to constantly ask society for permission to look, behave, or feel how they really are. I believe that all of this punk-rock-pirate envy is really about a hankering for genuinely authentic experience, and a life lived authentically. This is the great question of modern life, [actually post-, or post-post-modern life] how does one live one’s own life, and raise a family, once one realizes that ‘culture’ is arbitrary and subject to agreement, alteration, or replacement?
It seems that, possibly unwittingly, Ms JamCracker is actually working on the problem in a serious way, first in her individual life as an artist and secondly as her role as a mother of several. People, adults anyway, should be allowed to be as they actually are, to cut loose once in a while, to let their hair down a little, as long as everyone plays nice, doesn’t hurt anybody and there is still access to the dryer the next day – right? – isn’t that basically what most of us [non-slope-browed-retro-troglodytes] are after? This is a kind of lifestyle anarchism by the way [take a look at the heroine of Clotilda’s fifth image down from the top of the page for the ref.] Of course, our awareness and expectations of what exactly constitutes, “doesn’t hurt anybody” needs some serious attention in my opinion. [This is the other great question of post-post-modern life.]
What I find especially interesting, and admirable, in the way Ms. Jamcracker is choosing to raise her children. Speaking as someone who is a kind of ‘evolutionary dead-end’ himself, but also an uncle of several, I find that there are parents still willing to raise children who put away their toys and pick up their clothes a very good thing. I’m glad she seems to be having some success in this area. Children [and adults who act like them] are in my mind, the exception to the rule about letting people do their own will. It is an adult’s, especially a parent’s, responsibility to impose their wills upon the ‘will-in-training’ of the sub-adult until they learn to be responsible for the application of their own will-power. If done correctly the child, hopefully, winds up an adult-right-acting-anarchist. The trick to the process is not to accidentally crush the spirit of the non-conforming will-in-training.
I wish Ms. JamCracker good luck with the project.
Now that I’ve got the Ms. JamCracker’s search for authentic experience and home tidiness out of the way, I have a few ideas related to the concept of The Pirate, especially as it relates to the search for authentic experience, that I want to touch on briefly [or flog you with heavily]. I’m especially keen on extending the argument today because for first time here at Meme Merchants we will be touching directly on the subject that this weblog and the Meme Merchants Consortium is supposed to be all about, which is to be striving towards, “A science of authentic experience,” ‘science’, in this case, being glossed in the more general sense as a way of knowing, as opposed to the modern empirical–reductionistic method for solving our technological problems.
We make this distinction here, not because we are anti-scientific, but because the scientific method by its nature as being empirical and reductionistic, automatically excludes an enormous amount from the process of the discovery of what it means to be authentically human that one really needs to make any real headway with the project. So, here at Meme Merchants we are proposing a kind of science that, as Uncle Terrence used to say, “Plays with a full deck.”†
Refering back on the point I made above regarding the seeming anticipation of the search for authentic experience in many of the memes of post-modern popular culture, such as the resurgent archetype of The Pirate as alternative lifestyle, or form of recreation – I would like to further bound that notion by describing these post-modern cultural memes as a debased version of authentic experience.
In this case I am not using the term debased principally in either the pop sense of “corrupted or degenerate”, or even the more correct dictionary gloss which would be “reduced in quality or value” – though both of these senses may also be correct in some degree – what I am really pointing towards is the use of the word debased as an indicator of direction. Specifically, I mean direction in the sense of returning to a lower [baser] state or a recursion to a more primitive, or less highly evolved state. This is as opposed to ascending to, or evolving towards a more advanced, sophisticated, or refined state.
As I indicated above, the impulse towards authentic experience has something to do with the exercise of personal will without having to reference [ask permission from] culture to “look, behave, or feel” how you actually are. The actually are part is highly significant here because it is easy to mistake what your agenda of the moment may be for your state of being. This is more than simple nonconformity, “rejection of or the failure to conform, especially to standards, rules or laws.”‡ This especially is not about nonconformism as an intellectual position or meme, which are of course ideas about the thing, not the ding an sich, the thing in itself.
I remember years ago I was visiting Seattle, it must have been around 1992 when grunge was still authentic, posted on the refrigerator of the apartment where I was a guest was a page from the local counter-culture tabloid, The Jet, in the form of a full page boy and girl illustration satirizing ” How to be a Non-Conformist,” in the then terminally hip grunge meme. As I remember the cartoon girl was dressed in that particular 1990’s regime of baby-doll dress, too much eye liner and Doc Marten shoes. You would then walk downtown to Bumbershoot, and there would be hordes of young people dressed as if they used The Jet as their manual of style. The noticeable contradiction, and of course the object of the Jet satire, was how the notion of nonconformity in an adolescent sub-culture is bent around the axle of the adolescent peer pressure and becomes simply another meme to conform to.
The point to take away from this anecdote is to notice that this pressure to conform and psychological need to receive cultural approval is essentially a childhood state of consciousness. It tries hard to break free in adolescence, usually fails substantially, and is carried forward into adulthood slightly rearranged [or retarded]. In adults the pressure to conform to society, to culture out of a psychological need for approval, is an essentially neotenous trait, a childhood trait carried forward into adulthood. Notice how we have established an arrow of development to use as a reference for the term debased. Now you may see where I’m taking you with all of this; which is to point out that in modern society a great deal of what is going on reflects a process of developmental neoteny or debasement.
Returning to the nub of the discussion, which is the urge toward authentic experience, we can now recognize that this urge towards authentic experience is the anticipation of adulthood, maturity. The processes of life and emotional development naturally lead us in this direction, both pushed and restrained by the dictates of culture. Things, of course, can and do go wrong with the process – for everyone but the Dali Lama of course. [sic]
One of the things that goes wrong most commonly, at least in the modern world [as opposed to essentially tribal societies] is that the proper inner authority, the emergent higher-self does not take proper, or complete, control of the maturing process and that in the psyche there is a more or less uneven tug-of-war going on between the higher and lower selves for control of the maturation process.An alchemist friend of mine often admonishes the neophyte, “Don’t pathologize, mythologize!” Taking the adept at his word, these concepts can be recast in mythological terms where the lower order expression we can cast as Pirates and the higher level expression as Graal Knights, where Graal Knights are guided by the higher-self towards right-action, and Pirates are guided by their lower-self and impulses, in a direction where there is the very real danger of pathology and self-destructive behaviors taking over the life.
This is the source of tension that fills many lives, the tension between fulfilling the desire of maturity for authenticity in the expression of our lives, and the real psychological need for acceptance and validation within the context of the cultural worlds we are embedded in as individuals-in-training. The trick in the process is to be guided by the proper inner authority and not to completely mistake the ‘are’ that you are which is pathological, for the ‘are’ that you may yet be which is healthy. This is not easy, this is hard, it may actually be the most difficult of all possible tasks, there are so many factors completely out of your control that seem to work against you. It may also be the only task truly worth doing. All else good in your life will flow from it.