Archive for November 11th, 2008

We are about to go into a “phase” as my mother used to refer to my dependence on a specific set of terms, ideas or behavior. That phase is going to be around for awhile and it’s going to drive us nuttier than a 4 year presidential election campaign. It is a ‘racism’ phase and it will end up giving the neocons apoplexy, the centrists gout, and the make the left wingnuts tongue-tied.

No. racism doesn’t have to be black vs. white. If you think that you haven’t had to be paying attention. It can be British vs. French, Indian vs. Pakistani and a hundred other real or imagined lines of descendence that we think makes a difference. It is all the same racism.

And it is now open verbiage to be applied to uncritical street cred and maniacal approaches to everything imaginable. You are racist if you want secure boarders. You are a racist if you don’t care one way or another. You are racist if you want a strong UN. You are raciest if you want your children to go to public – private – parochial or military school (pick).

As for those that think we have a black President it must be dead, pleassssseeee! Spend some time in the south, in the north, east, west, in prison, on a cruise ship, in a space program…

Know racism is not dead. It is not even sick. It is alive and well and willing to come out with a joke, a glace, a decision to stay home from the blues concert. It is euphemism expressed openly. It is seen in almost any non- SNL skit where “nudge – nudge, wink – wink” says it all. It is at every eatery you drive thru or opulently satiate yourself at as well as every level of management seeking a vision to hide our primitivism. It is convoluted, reverse, covert, overt and illegal. It is in front of you and it is behind you. Worst of all, it will never die any more than fear that generates it will be die.

In the end, it is an abject announcement that ‘my cave is better than your cave’ and that I am more in charge of my future if and only if I can make some entity less so that I will be more. It is yours for use as long as you are willing to accept ‘Diversity training’ for your transgressions. It is yours for use as long as you can point to your involvement in affirmative action pamphleteering or some absurd “Guilt-be-gone!” behavior equivalent to two wrongs make a right.

As complex interacting humans that are endlessly pressured to define who we are, we need to call people on their use of racism, and be called on ours, in communications of all sorts. Just ask, “What do you mean?” Otherwise, its easy use will morph to an all encompassing modifier to give credence to our position or shock value to our voice.

So, now we need to turn our phasers on and be ready to shoot down, stun or punctuate any conversation or ink that rides the coattails of an Obama victory to profess their new slant on bigotry.

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I’m embarrassed to say I know next to nothing about the history of Southern California.  And it is a most fascinating history that starts with a fascinating culture – The Chumash.

You can gather the history from other sources.  What surprised me was the speed at which the Chumash population disappeared.  In 1769 a Spanish expedition arrived along the Santa Barbara coast and within 60 years this population was a mere 10% of its peak.

No, not a unique tale at that time.

What’s remarkable is that this coastline had been inhabited by  largely isolated bands of Chumash for at least 10,000 years.  In 60 years, poof.

The Chumash society was fairly complex with all the tricked out social things we “expect” – currency, division of labor, geo political systems, etc. etc.  Of particular interest is that this culture was a hunter-gather culture, not yet farming.  Again, not a totally unique tale, but certainly more rare and worthy of study to understand how various aspects of culture play out under less common contingencies.

The language is very cool and is what’s called linguistic isolate – this language was not derived from any other language.  There are many isolates (language has to start somewhere!), so that’s not unique (look at a few more from North America).  What is unique goes back to the idea that this language had basically been developed in isolation for well over 10,000 years.  Again, not unique, but rare and probably worth more intensive study.

Plenty more to research.  I’m working through the first book in this list of publications from UC Press.

Cool stuff.

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