Saturday, September 29, 2007

You Know Who You Are...

(We here at Dialogic feel sorry for disturbed people... but draw the line when they start stalking our friends--as one disturbed person from the online world is currently doing to one of our comrades. We hope that person finds the help and peace that is needed to regain a sense of perspective. May we suggest unplugging for awhile and breathing some fresh air... good luck with your struggles... elsewhere.)

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Repression of Democratic Protests in Burma

Paul Schmelzer over at Eyeteeth has a good series of posts on current events in Burma, including the murder of Japanese photojournalist Kenji Nagai by Burmese Police (captured on video). Make sure to scan down the site for more reports and photographs of the protests.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Michael Haneke: On the Divergent Routes Taken by Hollywood and European Cinema

Rob Sica points out this important quote from the Austrian director Michael Haneke (from the earlier post Minister of Fear ):

Haneke has his own theory for the divergent routes taken by Hollywood and Europe, one in which, perhaps not surprisingly, the darker side of German and Austrian history plays a central role. "At the beginning of the 20th century," he told me, "when film began in Europe, storytelling of the kind still popular in Hollywood was every bit as popular here. Then the Nazis came, and the intellectuals — a great number of whom were Jewish — were either murdered or managed to escape to America and elsewhere. There were no intellectuals anymore — most of them were dead. Those who escaped to America were able to continue the storytelling approach to film — really a 19th-century tradition — with a clear conscience, since it hadn't been tainted by fascism. But in the German-speaking world, and in most of the rest of Europe, that type of straightforward storytelling, which the Nazis had made such good use of, came to be viewed with distrust. The danger hidden in storytelling became clear — how easy it was to manipulate the crowd. As a result, film, and especially literature, began to examine itself. Storytelling, with all the tricks and ruses it requires, became gradually suspect. This was not the case in Hollywood." At this point, Haneke asked politely whether I was following him, and I told him that I was. "I'm glad," he said, apparently with genuine relief. "For Americans, this can sometimes be hard to accept."

Friday, September 21, 2007

International Day of Peace (September 21)

If only the world could have a day set aside where everyone would stop, listen, reflect and share peacefully...



International Day of Peace

Imagine by John Lennon

"You may say I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one."



"What's So Funny Bout Peace, Love and Understanding" by Elvis Costello



"Understanding" by Last Town Chorus



Hi, good to meet you, my personal perspective is a solipsistic distillation resulting from my promentalshitbackwashpsychosis, but what the hell I'll give it a shot and funk them if they can't take a joke.

I've been searching for rare insights that circulate amongst a chosen few. Good news though, I'm using my time wisely here in Lexington, KY searching amongst the Moonshine Clans of the Alphane Mountains for the secret recipe that will allow me to unlock the paradox of a program centered around the mythical "critical theory." So far only manic giggling whenever I mention my desire for answers ... the whispering behind my back almost broke my determination but I hung in there until an elder Magi of the Clans began to take pity on this Lost Boy from the Western Lands. She claimed to have originally come from the City of the Red Night where they teach their young that one cannnot seek "the" answer, instead they must explore the "multiplicity" of questions, for it is in the masking of "possible" questions that power rests upon and the prying free of these nuggets from the earth's moist grasp is the quest of the Moonshine Clans of the Alphane Mountains.

The ancient Moonshine Magi cackled, swigged from her jug, and said "this is where the neophytes can get in trouble." In the act of chasing these shy questions the hunter notices that the landscape often shifts and reshapes each time a question is revealed. It seems that the Clans learned long ago that when one unearths a question revealing its essence the disturbance of the surrounding landscape generally causes an accompanying reveiling of surrounding questions. In fact, she warned that often eager groups of diggers, banded together for strength and safety, often bury smaller groups/individuals digging nearby. This is why a true Digger of the Clans of the Alphane Mountain always stops and retraces their steps reflecting on the pathway they are traveling and seeking to understand what disturbances their digging causes. The Magi seemed to derive much amusement from my comment that the Bushes that cover the Western Lands have long forbidden self-reflective contemplation in order to freeze traditional concepts and to fuel the travel back to the future-past.

I asked the Magi how do the Diggers of the Clan of the Alphane Moon retain their reflective ability while eagerly unearthing large concepts and revealing troublesome questions. "How do they dream the impossible and imagine the unaskable?" The Magi leaned back and swigged from her jug and chuckled at my Western ignorance. She stared at me like an adder stares down a mouse and dared me to think upon it.

After a long uncomfortable two days I unkinked my frozen limbs. The emptying of my mind allowed me to recognize that the best way to build a hearty, enrichening intellectual-spiritual bouillabaise, is to blend it with (an)other body(ies) of knowledge. The clans, following the wisdom of the Dispossessed, require all learners to travel to other realms (physical, spiritual, and mental) in order to experience different realities and to act as multi-conduit translators (within and without their clan)

Its obvious that the Magi is still toying with me. Perhaps I still must quest for these answers on my own, perhaps I still must travel, perhaps I should look into the interstices of our collective understanding for missing clues?

I screamed, "Please help me! What is a traveler to do when there is no map to guide me" ... the Magi just cackles!!! "Foolish Lost Boy of the Western Lands, when will you learn that the quest is the journey and that as soon as you pin down an answer, it only means that you have reveiled other healthy questions--questions that must then be once again revealed."

Shaking and confused, I picked up a large jug of Alphane moonshine and stumbled into the forest to look for questions.........








  • The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.
    These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep, loving concern.
    Beautiful people do not just happen.
    -Elizabeth Kubler-Ross



  • My heroes are those that defend the weak, that challenge the abusive, and seek to deepen our understanding of life upon this world.

    (I'm thinking about my own personal philosophy these days and these are just some thoughts...)

    On Existentialism--what I like about the body of thought ...

    1) As humans we all exist, but it is our essence that makes us unique. What you are (essence) is the result of your choices (your existence) rather than the reverse. Essence is not destiny. You are what you make yourself to be. Our lives are not given to us, but must be developed consciously with care and consideration.

    2) Living in the moment is essential, but we also interact and adapt based on pur past experiences and future expectations. Yes, we are fundamentally time-bound beings, but we are also, much, much more than that. Unlike measurable (quantative), "clock" time, "lived" time is qualitative: the "not yet," the "already," and the "present" differ among themselves in meaning and value. We need to be aware of all of these. The impetus of living in the "moment" is that we should not let the past hang on us like a weight causing us to drown, or allow the possibility of an uncertain future intimidate us to the point of inaction. Remember the lessons of the past, recognize the possibilities of the future, in order to fully live in the present.

    3) Radical Humanism. Existentialism is a person-centered philosophy. It's focus is on the human individual's pursuit of identity and meaning amidst the social and economic pressures of mass society for superficiality and conformism. It is our responsibility, as free and conscious beings, to create meaning out of life and to develop an authentic essense. It is also, in my opinion, in this regard, our duty to help others develop their response-ability to do the same (for me as a teacher this is the core of an existentialist pedagogy). In this we are cultivating free, ethical and responsible individuals who care about their community. My radical humanism does not discount other beings in this world... it is holistic, in the sense of recognizing that humans are just one set of beings that live and share in the development and continuation of the broader ecosphere.

    4) Freedom = Responsibility. Existentialism is a philosophy of freedom. It requires that we step back and reflect/reassess on what we have been doing and what effect our thoughts/actions have on the world. In this sense we are more than just individuals, we are members of larger collectives and our personal ethics always extends beyond ourselves (existentialism is not vulgar egotism). In this we can only be as "responsible" as we are "free." Response-ability, the ability for people to respond to the problems of their society and the impetus for them to care beyond themselves, is only realized by free, authentic and ethical beings. Where there is mindless conformism, shallow consumerism, or brutal oppression, you will see a breakdown in the development of response-ability (both in the ruled and rulers... or, manipulated and manipulators).

    5) Ethical considerations are the primary questions. We all understand ethics and freedom differently, this is a given, and we must bring each of our understandings into play and sharpen our ideas through open/free public discourse. In this we, as individuals, as a community, as a society, and as a global ecosystem, should consider ethical questions. Each individual is responsible to develop and consider the authenticity of their own personal lives and their society.

    Existentialism is a philosophy of living authentically in the world, but in the realization of our authentic self we also have an ethical responsibility to ensure that others have that same opportunity. My authenticism should not be at the expense of your opportunity to realize yourself (for example, we are not bloated ticks that feed off the misery of others in order to realize some twisted sense of self).

    Tuesday, September 18, 2007

    Maya Khankhoje: Review of David Tracey's Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto

    (Courtesy of Danny Mayer)

    Sowing content: Digging deep to find your radical planter within. Be prepared to get your hands dirty
    by Maya Khankhoje
    Rabble

    Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto, by David Tracey (New Society Publishers, 2007; $23.95)



    THE CONVENTIONAL army loses if it does not win. The guerrilla wins if he does not lose.
    —Henry Kissinger


    Guerrilla gardening can be summarily defined as gardening in public urban spaces with or without permission. Gardening by the citizens, that is, by urban guerrillas intent, not on destroying the status quo as such but on restoring the web of life that the status quo has been destroying so wantonly. Why do these citizens feel such a sense of urgency? Consider the following:

    The earth is cultivated more than ever before…swamps are drying up and cities are springing up at an unprecedented scale. We have become a burden to our planet. Resources are becoming scarce and soon nature will no longer be able to satisfy our needs.

    This pressing concern was voiced by Quintus Septimus Tertullian more than 2,200 years ago. This is the very same concern that has spurred urban guerrillas of a gentler, albeit no less radical bend of mind than armed guerrillas, to engage in urban gardening tactics, risking fines and imprisonment. These include fly-by-night plantings in urban wastelands, lobbing “seed grenades” into fenced-off empty lots, planting trees in the middle of nowhere, covering traffic circles with native ground cover, sowing edible plants in school-yards, draping lamp posts with decorative creepers, developing community gardens and empowering disaffected youth by reintroducing them to the joys of dirtying one’s hands in the soil. The list is as boundless as any warrior’s imagination.

    The police, supermarkets, developers and constipated city councillors are often not amused. Some, however, are ultimately inducted into the process.

    What is the city but the people?—Shakespeare in “Coriolanus”


    David Tracey, a journalist and environmental designer based in Vancouver, speaks from hands-on experience as executive director of Tree City, an engaged ecology group helping citizens plant and care for the urban forest. In his excellent manualfesto – both political and practical as the name implies — he traces the history of this movement and offers practical guidelines on how to join it, even as a lone planter of the Johnny Appleseed ilk. He does, however, caution readers that loners might get a task done very efficiently but seldom generate greater group participation. This is why he advocates organized group action.

    To Read the Rest of the Review

    Want to do your own Guerrilla Gardening--check out these tips from GuerrillaGardening.org

    There but for the grace of (insert diety of choice) go I....

    (Just like this song and wanted to hear more... even though I have them at home...)

    "Rise Up with Fists" by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins



    (I highly recommend Jenny's new release "Under the Blacklight" as the lead singer of Rilo Kiley)

    "The Moneymaker" by Rilo Kiley



    "You Are What You Love" by Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins



    "Its a Hit" by Rilo Kiley

    Mike Davis: Home Front Ecology

    (Courtesy of Danny Mayer)

    Home-Front Ecology: What our grandparents can teach us about saving the world
    By Mike Davis
    Sierra Magazine



    DOES THIS GENERATION OF AMERICANS have the "right stuff" to meet the epic challenges of sustaining life on a rapidly warming planet? Sure, the mainstream media are full of talk about carbon credits, hybrid cars, and smart urbanism--but even so, our environmental footprints are actually growing larger, not smaller.

    The typical new U.S. home, for instance, is 40 percent larger than that of 25 years ago, even though the average household has fewer people. In that same period, dinosaur-like SUVs (now 50 percent of all private vehicles) have taken over the freeways, while the amount of retail space per capita (an indirect but reliable measure of consumption) has quadrupled.

    Too many of us, in other words, talk green but lead supersized lifestyles--giving fodder to the conservative cynics who write columns about Al Gore's electricity bills. Our culture appears hopelessly addicted to fossil fuels, shopping sprees, suburban sprawl, and beef-centered diets. Would Americans ever voluntarily give up their SUVs, McMansions, McDonald's, and lawns?

    The surprisingly hopeful answer lies in living memory. In the 1940s, Americans simultaneously battled fascism overseas and waste at home. My parents, their neighbors, and millions of others left cars at home to ride bikes to work, tore up their front yards to plant cabbage, recycled toothpaste tubes and cooking grease, volunteered at daycare centers and USOs, shared their houses and dinners with strangers, and conscientiously attempted to reduce unnecessary consumption and waste. The World War II home front was the most important and broadly participatory green experiment in U.S. history. Lessing Rosenwald, the chief of the Bureau of Industrial Conservation, called on Americans "to change from an economy of waste--and this country has been notorious for waste--to an economy of conservation." A majority of civilians, some reluctantly but many others enthusiastically, answered the call.

    The most famous symbol of this wartime conservation ethos was the victory garden. Originally promoted by the Wilson administration to combat the food shortages of World War I, household and communal kitchen gardens had been revived by the early New Deal as a subsistence strategy for the unemployed. After Pearl Harbor, a groundswell of popular enthusiasm swept aside the skepticism of some Department of Agriculture officials and made the victory garden the centerpiece of the national "Food Fights for Freedom" campaign.

    By 1943, beans and carrots were growing on the former White House lawn, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and nearly 20 million other victory gardeners were producing 30 to 40 percent of the nation's vegetables--freeing the nation's farmers, in turn, to help feed Britain and Russia. In The Garden Is Political, a 1942 volume of popular verse, poet John Malcolm Brinnin acclaimed these "acres of internationalism" taking root in U.S. cities. Although suburban and rural gardens were larger and usually more productive, some of the most dedicated gardeners were inner-city children. With the participation of the Boy Scouts, trade unions, and settlement houses, thousands of ugly, trash-strewn vacant lots in major industrial cities were turned into neighborhood gardens that gave tenement kids the pride of being self-sufficient urban farmers. In Chicago, 400,000 schoolchildren enlisted in the "Clean Up for Victory" campaign, which salvaged scrap for industry and cleared lots for gardens.

    To Read the Rest of the Essay

    Student Tasered for Asking Questions at a John Kerry Event at U of Florida

    (Courtesy of Brian)

    Monday, September 17, 2007

    Alfonso Cuarón and Naomi Klein: The CIA's Love Affair With Shock Therapy

    The CIA's Love Affair With Shock Therapy
    Posted by Cliff Schecter
    AlterNet

    Alfonso Cuarón, director of "Children of Men", and Naomi Klein present a short film from Klein's book "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism."



    This film and book discuss the CIA's experimentation with using electric shock to break people down. Yet, the more important point of these works is that a broader "shock" to the systems of a people as a whole, like say 9/11, can have the kind of impact the CIA was searching for in their tests, one that breaks down a whole society and makes them so fearful they are open to nefarious suggestions.

    I am sure none of this sound familiar, does it? This is very powerful stuff that can explain how a traumatized society may act, and may just explain to you why a certain former Mayor of New York mentions 9/11 4.75 times per sentence.

    In any case here is a description in Naomi Klein's words--Watch the video!:

    "My publisher came up with the idea of a "web trailer" but we ended up with a powerful piece of cinema instead. I never saw the film as a promotional tool for the book, or even an adaptation of it. I always saw it as a companion piece to the book, as a way to enter the same subject matter -- shock therapy, disorientation, torture -- on a different, much more emotional level. The central idea of the book is about the use of shocks to exploit people, whether an individual in a torture cell or an entire society. That is such a visual, physical idea that I felt limited by what I could do with mere words on a page -- I could argue and document but I knew that a true artist could find ways to take that argument and reach people on a deeper level. That's what Alfonso did.

    When I finished the book, I sent it to Alfonso because I adore his films and felt that the future he created for Children of Men was very close to the present I was seeing in disaster zones. I was hoping he would send me a quote for the book jacket and instead he pulled together this amazing team of artists -- including Jonás Cuarón who directed and edited -- to make The Shock Doctrine short film. It was one of those blessed projects where everything felt fated."


    To Watch the Video

    A version is also on YouTube:

    Lexington’s 3rd annual multi-faith Walk for World Peace and Solidarity

    (Courtesy of Rebecca Glasscock)

    Lexington’s 3rd annual multi-faith
    Walk for World Peace and Solidarity
    *slow-walking a way of prayer

    Sunday, October 14, 2007
    3:00-5:00 pm, Downtown, Lexington KY

    2:45 p.m.—GATHER at High Street parking lot
    above Lexington Transit Center
    3:00 p.m.—WALK in and around downtown parks
    5:00 p.m.—END with a simple meal shared with
    our friends in the city

    SAVE THE DATE and JOIN US FOR …

    PRAYER—reflections along the way on Murray Bodo’s poem “slow-walking a
    way of prayer”

    SERVICE—hear about volunteer opportunities from service organizations—volunteer pledge cards available

    BLESSINGS—from various faith traditions

    Please, this walk is an expression of our unity and solidarity as peoples of the Earth and not a protest of any particular political or governmental fraction. Let us walk with the desire for peace.


    Franciscan Peace Center, Inc.
    freeing the fire of compassion

    859.230.1986, FranciscanVision@aol.com

    Friday, September 14, 2007

    Wendell Berry: Open Letter on the Proposed Plan to Clear-Cut 800 Acres of Robinson Forest

    (Courtesy of Rebecca Glasscock. Wendell Berry has long been one of the most important writers/voices of Kentucky, again he demonstrates the power of his vision/words in his support of young activists fighting to protect Robinson Forest.)


    Wendell Berry
    Lanes Landing Farm
    Box 1
    Port Royal, KY 40058


    September 4, 2007


    Dr. Scott Smith, Dean
    College of Agriculture
    Room S 123
    Agricultural Science Bldg. N
    University of Kentucky
    Lexington, KY 40506

    Dear Scott:

    I am grateful to you and your forestry colleagues for your willingness to meet, on August 21st, with me and other questioners of your plan for logging research in Robinson Forest. It was for several reasons regrettable that you had to leave before the meeting ended, but you were there long enough, I am sure, to discover that the questioners were serious and that they were asking substantive questions in good faith. And I don’t doubt that, as a teacher, you were as proud as I was of the excellent young people who are leading the questioners, and who are taking up the burden of patriotism and civic responsibility, exactly as their best teachers have bidden them to do.

    I must also give you my personal thanks for the meeting. Your willingness to talk across differences with critics has endeared you to me. As a result, I have always tried to speak with you openly, as a friend, and I will continue to do so.

    My purpose in writing this letter is to set forth my understanding of the issues, for whatever good there may be in doing so, and it seems right to begin with the issue that is most obscure to me: namely, the suggestion that we can choose only between your proposed experiment, which involves clear-cutting 800 acres of the forest now, and strip-mining the whole forest perhaps in three years. These stark alternatives first came to my attention in an email from John Cox to Garrett Graddy, and then you set them forth with heavy and solemn emphasis in your “last words” to our meeting on the 21st.

    The possibility that the forest will be strip-mined has been plainly in sight for several years, but it is hard to know what to make of it in its new manifestation as an either-or tradeoff. This seems to be a threat, but it is an obscure threat. Does it originate with you, or from somewhere higher in the University administration, or from somewhere in state government?

    In your remarks to us, you spoke of the financial needs of the Robinson Scholars Fund, which has been imprudently depleted, but then you said that the proposed 800-acre clear-cut was driven by research, not the need for income. There can be no such confusion about strip-mining the forest; the only possible motive for that would be financial.

    Strip-mining the forest would be confusing only in light of the University’s strong public commitment to research. How could it earn or maintain respect for itself as a research institution if it destroys, for a financial return, one of its most valuable resources for study and experimentation? If Robinson Forest is strip-mined, one would have to conclude that the University’s business interest (its need for money) had come disastrously into conflict with its research commitment.

    Whatever substance there may be to this threat, the would-be protectors of the forest are obliged to take it seriously. Taking it seriously requires us to suppose that the forest may be both clear-cut and strip-mined. (I asked your people at our meeting if they could confidently doubt that the forest will eventually be strip-mined, and they answered no.) It seems, then, that my side is rightly opposed to any destructive practice in the forest. We must assume that the proposed clear-cut is not an alternative to strip-mining, but instead is the first step in a business plan that will culminate in strip-mining.

    To answer for myself the question I asked earlier, I don’t believe that the threat to Robinson Forest originates with you. And so this letter is addressed to you only as the host of our meeting on the 21st. I am not thinking of our determination to protect the forest as your problem, nor am I thinking of you as our problem. I feel sure, and for good reason, that the pressure on the forest is not scientific but financial, and that it is coming from somewhere outside the College of Agriculture. Because of my uncertainty of the point of origin, I am making this a public letter, hoping that it will reach the persons or powers who will in fact decide the fate of the forest, and wishing to bring into the conversation all who are concerned.

    The questioners’ opposition to the planned experiment may be summed up as their inability to accept, or believe, the proposition that the only way to preserve the forest is to clear-cut it – and this in eastern Kentucky, the scene already of total industrial war against the land, the forest, and the people. This is a paradox that our civilization involves us in from time to time, and your questioners are justly dismayed and frightened by it. You, like some of us, are old enough to remember the village in Vietnam that had to be destroyed in order to save it.

    I of course am older than you. At my age it is hardly conceivable that I
    would be questioning your proposed experiment in my own behalf. I was there necessarily in behalf of younger people. I came partly to see how our University would respond to the good young citizens who had come rightfully and appropriately with their questions, and whose motive is only to preserve what they can of a natural birthright by now greatly diminished.

    Your need to leave the meeting is perfectly understandable to me, and yet I am sorry, not least because the meeting got better and more cordial the longer it went on. Your people responded to the questioners with increasing, and finally with great, generosity. The questioners, for the most part, diverted any hard feelings to their own ulcers and returned kindness for kindness.

    My sense of the meeting (and I don’t think I am speaking only for myself or my side) is that it produced finally a real conversation, which not only did no damage but was good for us all. All the participants agreed that the conversation ought to continue, and that it would do so in another meeting. Your people agreed to have their plan reviewed by a panel of scientists selected by the questioners – as was only appropriate, if we want to be objective in every way.

    Finally, and I’m speaking now just for myself, I began to see our conversation of that day as the sad result of our immensely expensive failure here in Kentucky to hold, ever in the 232 years of European “settlement,” a public deliberation on our relation to our land. That such a discussion might be sponsored or led by state government, even so late, defies hope. But the University of Kentucky could do it. And who might more appropriately begin it than you? Such a discussion would make our University extraordinary, and probably unique.

    As I understand it, the experiment involving the 800-acre clear-cut is to be performed in order to establish a basis of knowledge for sustainable forestry. You would not expect me to quarrel with that motive, and I won’t. But from your own point of view, the most serious weakness of your planned experiment is that it is redundant. Though you have published “Sustainable Management Guidelines” for Robinson Forest, you and your colleagues apparently are assuming that sustainable forestry actually does not yet exist, and that it can begin only with such a drastic experiment as you propose.

    On the contrary, sustainable forestry already exists, and its existence can be verified by records, proofs, and observation; to a significant extent, it is in commercial practice. Apparently it was practiced in Europe at least as early as 1605. Aldo Leopold mentions this date in his reference to the Spessart forest in the Alps, which at the time of his writing had been in continuous production of “the finest cabinet oak in the world” for 337 years. And Leopold goes on to say, much to the point of our discussion: “While the northern hardwood forest, like the Spessart, is injured by violence, it is known to stand up under gentle intelligent use to an extraordinary degree. You can cut a third of the volume of a 200-year-old stand and come back every 20 years and take as much again. . . . This . . . is called selective logging. Its technology has been fully explored by the research branch of the Forest Service.” (“The Last Stand,” The River of the Mother of God, 292-293.)

    Nearer home, the Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin consists almost entirely of forest, amounting to 220,000 acres. This forest has been sustainably logged for a century and a half. It is said to have more standing timber in it now than it had in 1854 when logging began.

    The Pioneer Forest in the Missouri Ozarks consists of 150,000 acres which have been sustainably logged since the 1950s. It likewise has increased in quantity and quality of standing timber. Pioneer’s eleventh forest inventory in 2002 showed that “Standing volume had nearly tripled in the half century . . . while species composition had remained stable except for an increase in the more valuable white oak and pine. . . . In the last six years . . . income has been exceeding expenses by more than 50 percent.” (Susan Flader, “Missouri’s Pioneer in Sustainable Forestry,” Forestry History Today, Spring/Fall 2004, 14.)

    Troy Firth, a forest owner and manager in Pennsylvania, was the subject of an article in Forbes magazine because producing forests managed by him increased so remarkably in value.

    Charlie Fisher, who was a logger in Ohio, and Jason Rutledge, who is still logging and teaching loggers in Virginia, have followed the same principles. I have visited logging operations of both men and found them conforming closely to the Menominee pattern.

    All of these American examples are businesses, constantly answerable to the economic pressures of “the real world.” All of them – with the possible exception (so I hear) of the Menominee forest – would welcome observation and testing of their work and results by academic foresters. They have received almost none.

    Mr. John A. Karel, President of the L – A – D Foundation which administers the Pioneer Forest, told me that they had finally secured the interest of two faculty members of the University of Missouri School of Forestry, and that there is some talk about internships. Also they were visited once by scientists from the Yale School of Forestry, who said, “We don’t understand what you’re doing, but it seems to work.”

    I asked, “Did they ever come back to try to understand what you are doing?”

    Mr. Karel said, “No.”

    I do not mean to imply that sustainable forestry anywhere is beyond question. Human use of the land will never be beyond question, and I think that part of the responsibility of scientists is to question it ceaselessly. The practices will remain questionable, and the standards of practice will probably remain to some degree suppositional. This seems to me to call, not for eventual solution, but for an unrelenting intellectual engagement and dialogue, which will remain an essential part of the work of any responsible university.

    My point is that if the University of Kentucky would send its forest scientists to places where sustainable forestry is being practiced in order to study what is being done, to subject it to rigorous testing and observation, and then to use that knowledge to establish similar but locally adapted practices in Robinson Forest and throughout Kentucky, then our University would not be “top twenty” in forestry research; it would be number one.

    Yours cordially and sincerely,



    Wendell Berry

    Copies to:
    Dr. Lee T. Todd, Jr.
    Dr. Steven Bullard
    Dr. Ernest J. Yanarella
    Dr. Julian Campbell
    Mr. Hank Graddy
    Ms. Tina Marie Johnson
    Mr. Doug Doerrfeld
    Ms. Garrett Graddy
    Mr. Paul Lovelace
    Any others who may be concerned

    dpc



    President Lee T. Todd, Jr.
    Office of the President
    101 Main Building
    University of Kentucky
    Lexington, KY 40506-0032

    Dr. Steven Bullard, Chair
    214 Thomas Poe Copper Building
    Office 106
    University of Kentucky
    Lexington, KY 40506-0073

    Dr. Ernest J. Yanarella
    Department of Political Science
    1659 Patterson Office Tower
    University of Kentucky
    Lexington, KY 40506

    Dr. Julian Campbell
    3525 Willowood Road
    Lexington, KY 40517

    Mr. Hank Graddy
    PO Box 4307
    Midway, KY 40347

    Ms. Tina Marie Johnson
    140 East Haiti Road
    Berea, KY 40403

    Mr. Doug Doerrfeld
    PO Box 177
    Elliottville, KY 40317

    Ms. Garrett Graddy
    Mr. Paul Lovelace
    PO Box 158
    Wellington, KY 40387

    Keith Olbermann: Bush Is Just Trying to Play Us With 'Troop Withdrawal' in Iraq

    Bush Is Just Trying to Play Us With 'Troop Withdrawal' in Iraq
    By Keith Olbermann
    MSNBC and AlterNet

    The following is MSNBC Countdown host Keith Olbermann's special comment addressed to President Bush.

    And so he is back from his annual surprise gratuitous photo-op in Iraq, and what a sorry spectacle it was. But it was nothing compared to the spectacle of one unfiltered, unguarded, horrifying quotation in the new biography to which Mr. Bush has consented.

    As he deceived the troops at Al-Asad Air Base yesterday with the tantalizing prospect that some of them might not have to risk being killed and might get to go home, Mr. Bush probably did not know that, with his own words, he had already proved that he had been lying, is lying and will be lying about Iraq.

    He presumably did not know that there had already appeared those damning excerpts from Robert Draper's book Dead Certain.

    "I'm playing for October-November," Mr. Bush said to Draper. That, evidently, is the time during which, he thinks he can sell us the real plan, which is "to get us in a position where the presidential candidates will be comfortable about sustaining a presence."

    Comfortable, that is, with saying about Iraq, again quoting the President, "stay ... longer."

    And there it is. We've caught you. Your goal is not to bring some troops home, maybe, if we let you have your way now. Your goal is not to set the stage for eventual withdrawal. You are, to use your own disrespectful, tone-deaf word, playing at getting the next Republican nominee to agree to jump into this bottomless pit with you, and take us with him, as we stay in Iraq for another year, and another, and another, and anon.

    To Read/Watch the Rest of this Commentary

    Stanford Prison Experiment

    In case there are some people who are not aware of this important (failed--the reasons why it failed though contribute to our understanding of human nature) experiment:

    Stanford Prison Experiment

    Wednesday, September 12, 2007

    Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman: The Role of the Mass Media

    The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.

    Noam Chomsky and Edwards S. Herman
    Manufacturing Consent (1988)

    Sunday, September 09, 2007

    George Carlin: "It's Called the American Dream Because You Have To Be Asleep to Believe It"

    (Courtesy of Rebecca Glasscock.)

    Carlin, "There's a reason education sucks and it'll never get any better, because the owners of this country don't want it better."

    [This video] clip ... is tough, gruff George Carlin routine from his stand up special, "This Life is Worth Losing." He starts out slamming America's education system and moves on to how the corporations and business interests have Americans "by the balls." Carlin says the people that run this country want nothing more than "obedient workers" and now they want our social security money and retirement. "It's a big club and you and I aren't in it," says Carlin. Check out the video to your right for more harsh but funny truths.

    Watch the Video Clip

    One At a Time

    (Source Chicken Soup for the Soul--passed on by Rebecca Glasscock and BCTC Peace & Justice Coalition)

    One at a Time

    "A friend of ours was walking down a deserted Mexican beach at sunset. As he walked along, he began to see another man in the distance. As he grew nearer, he noticed that the local native kept leaning down, picking something up and throwing it out into the water. Time and again, he kept hurling things out into the ocean. As our friend approached even closer, he noticed that the man was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time, he was throwing them back into the water. Our friend was puzzled. He approached the man and said "Good evening, friend. I was wondering what you are doing."

    "I'm throwing these starfish back into the ocean. You see, it's low tide right now and all of these starfish have been washed up onto the shore. If I don't throw them back into the sea, they'll die up here from lack of oxygen."

    "I understand," my friend replied, "but there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. You can't possibly get to all of them. There are simply too many. And don't you realize this is probably happening on hundreds of beaches all up and down this coast ? Can't you see that you can't possibly make a difference?"

    The local native smiled, bent down and pick up yet another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied, "Made a difference to that one!"

    Saturday, September 08, 2007

    Mitch McConnell Votes Against Making College More Affordable For Kentucky Families

    (As reported by Media Czech at Bluegrass Roots--original link to his post at the bottom of the page)

    McConnell Votes Against Making College More Affordable For Kentucky Families
    Matthew Miller, DSCC

    Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell today voted against the bi-partisan College Cost Reduction Act of 2007, a bill which will benefit tens of thousands of Kentucky students and families and make the single largest investment in student aid since the GI Bill.

    "As the cost of college continues to rise and more and more Kentuckians feel the pinch, Mitch McConnell has turned a deaf ear to the need to make college more affordable," DSCC spokesman Matthew Miller said. "Kentuckians want a leader who will work for their children's education, not one who stands in the way of it."

    The bi-partisan legislation passed 79-12.

    Today, McConnell Rejected Largest Single Student Aid Investment Since GI Bill. The bill McConnell voted against this morning - which passed 79-12 with overwhelmingly bipartisan support - will cut roughly $20 billion from lender subsidies and use the funds to beef up aid to college students and cut interest rates on subsidized loans in half. It also includes a $1,090 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award and debt forgiveness after ten years for certain public-sector employees. "This bill will do more to help students and families in this country pay for college than any effort since the GI Bill," said House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller. [Vote 326, 9/7/07; CQ Today, 9/6/07; Wall Street Journal, 9/6/07; HELP Press Release, 9/5/07]

    New Student Aid Bill Will Benefit Tens of Thousands of Kentucky Students and Families. In the 2005-06 school year, nearly 80,000 Kentucky students received federal Pell grants. Still, though, more than half of Kentucky's college seniors graduate with debt. [HELP Committee, September 2007; US Department of Education, 2005-2006 Federal Pell Grant Program End-of-Year Report]

    Debt Forgiveness Program Will Be a Huge Benefit for KY Nurses, Teachers and Law Enforcement Officials. Under the bill McConnell opposed today, a starting teacher in Kentucky earning $30,619 with the state average loan debt of $15,861 could have loan payments capped at 15% - reducing his or her monthly payments by 29%. After 10 years of teaching, all remaining debt would be forgiven - in this case, a benefit worth $9,049. [HELP Committee, September 2007]

    THIS ISN'T THE FIRST TIME MCCONNELL HAS VOTED AGAINST MAKING COLLEGE AFFORDABLE...
    McConnell Cast Critical Vote for Largest Student Loan Cuts in History. McConnell voted for the final version of the 2005 budget reconciliation bill, which cut $12.7 million from college loans, the largest cuts to the student loan program in its history. The measure was approved 50-50 with the Vice President voting to break the tie. [Vote 363, 12/21/05; AP, 12/19/05; Washington Post, 12/19/05]

    This Is McConnell's Fifth Vote Against Raising Pell Grants In Just Four Years. From 2004 through 2006, McConnell voted at least four times against raising maximum Pell grant awards. [Vote 39, 3/14/06; Vote 268, 10/25/05; Vote 68, 3/17/05; Vote 51, 3/11/04]

    For the Full Hyperlinked Report

    Horace Miner: Body Rituals Among the Nacirema; Le Guin, Vonnegut and Jackson

    (A nod to Amy Schwarz who sent me off on this train of thought...)

    Body Ritual Among the Nacirema
    by Horace Miner
    American Anthropologist 58:3, June 1956

    The anthropologist has become so familiar with the diversity of ways in which different people behave in similar situations that he is not apt to be surprised by even the most exotic customs. In fact, if all of the logically possible combinations of behavior have not been found somewhere in the world, he is apt to suspect that they must be present in some yet undescribed tribe. The point has, in fact, been expressed with respect to clan organization by Murdock (1949: 71).[2] In this light, the magical beliefs and practices of the Nacirema present such unusual aspects that it seems desirable to describe them as an example of the extremes to which human behavior can go.

    Professor Linton [3] first brought the ritual of the Nacirema to the attention of anthropologists twenty years ago (1936: 326), but the culture of this people is still very poorly understood. They are a North American group living in the territory between the Canadian Cree, the Yaqui and Tarahumare of Mexico, and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles. Little is known of their origin, although tradition states that they came from the east.... [4] ¶ 2

    Nacirema culture is characterized by a highly developed market economy which has evolved in a rich natural habitat. While much of the people's time is devoted to economic pursuits, a large part of the fruits of these labors and a considerable portion of the day are spent in ritual activity. The focus of this activity is the human body, the appearance and health of which loom as a dominant concern in the ethos of the people. While such a concern is certainly not unusual, its ceremonial aspects and associated philosophy are unique. ¶ 3

    The fundamental belief underlying the whole system appears to be that the human body is ugly and that its natural tendency is to debility and disease. Incarcerated in such a body, man's only hope is to avert these characteristics through the use of ritual and ceremony. Every household has one or more shrines devoted to this purpose. The more powerful individuals in the society have several shrines in their houses and, in fact, the opulence of a house is often referred to in terms of the number of such ritual centers it possesses. Most houses are of wattle and daub construction, but the shrine rooms of the more wealthy are walled with stone. Poorer families imitate the rich by applying pottery plaques to their shrine walls. ¶ 4
    While each family has at least one such shrine, the rituals associated with it are not family ceremonies but are private and secret. The rites are normally only discussed with children, and then only during the period when they are being initiated into these mysteries. I was able, however, to establish sufficient [504 begins ->] rapport with the natives to examine these shrines and to have the rituals described to me. ¶ 5

    The focal point of the shrine is a box or chest which is built into the wall. In this chest are kept the many charms and magical potions without which no native believes he could live. These preparations are secured from a variety of specialized practitioners. The most powerful of these are the medicine men, whose assistance must be rewarded with substantial gifts. However, the medicine men do not provide the curative potions for their clients, but decide what the ingredients should be and then write them down in an ancient and secret language. This writing is understood only by the medicine men and by the herbalists who, for another gift, provide the required charm. ¶ 6

    The charm is not disposed of after it has served its purpose, but is placed in the charmbox of the household shrine. As these magical materials are specific for certain ills, and the real or imagined maladies of the people are many, the charm-box is usually full to overflowing. The magical packets are so numerous that people forget what their purposes were and fear to use them again. While the natives are very vague on this point, we can only assume that the idea in retaining all the old magical materials is that their presence in the charm-box, before which the body rituals are conducted, will in some way protect the worshiper. ¶ 7
    Beneath the charm-box is a small font. Each day every member of the family, in succession, enters the shrine room, bows his head before the charm-box, mingles different sorts of holy water in the font, and proceeds with a brief rite of ablution.[5] The holy waters are secured from the Water Temple of the community, where the priests conduct elaborate ceremonies to make the liquid ritually pure.

    In the hierarchy of magical practitioners, and below the medicine men in prestige, are specialists whose designation is best translated as "holy-mouth-men." The Nacirema have an almost pathological horror of and fascination with the mouth, the condition of which is believed to have a supernatural influence on all social relationships. Were it not for the rituals of the mouth, they believe that their teeth would fall out, their gums bleed, their jaws shrink, their friends desert them, and their lovers reject them. They also believe that a strong relationship exists between oral and moral characteristics. For example, there is a ritual ablution of the mouth for children which is supposed to improve their moral fiber.

    To Read the Rest of This Essay

    Other texts along these lines that make me think about social rules/rituals:

    Wikipedia: Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas



    Text of Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron"

    Wikipedia: Harrison Bergeron



    Text of Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery"

    Wikipedia: The Lottery



    (These are some short stories I have been revisiting in preparation for my peace studies lectures... I would be interested in suggestions of other powerful fictions)

    Tuesday, September 04, 2007

    The Last Town Chorus: Understanding

    "Understanding" by The Last Town Chorus

  • We are all seeking for it, we all need to provide it for those we love...





    Monday, September 03, 2007

    Stephen Vincent: Walking Theory

    (Courtesy of Wood's Lot)

    Interview with Stephen Vincent
    by Tom Beckett
    E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S



    In Walking Theory, I also began to expand my concept of a walk to include other activities, including reading books, acts of the imagination, and remembrance. Walking became a metaphor for strolling through any of these parts of the world. Transversions are also my own way of walking among and being in dialog with the writing material of others. Walking or not, every act becomes a kind of critical reading and response, as well as a form of opposition to a life of passive, cultural consumption. Maybe hyperactive in spirit, I have never been good at sitting back and soaking things up like a sponge!

    ...

    Writing is a constant invocation of ghosts. In the passage of time, moment-to-moment, everything becomes ghosted. Nothing is permanent. The objects I encounter and photograph permit in my writing a dialog that gives me, and the work, a larger imaginative life in what is a quite diverse neighborhood, a neighborhood of ghosts. ...

    To Read the Entire Interview

    Thinking About Education in America: Maxine Greene and Wendell Berry

    Excerpt from Maxine Greene’s "Teaching as Possibility: Light in Dark Times"

    Dialogue can arise from story telling in a shared classroom space; and out of dialogue and conjecture can come the making of projects also shared. They may be as simple and concrete as polling the neighborhood mothers on immunization of their babies, as rehabilitating rooms somewhere for homeless classmates, as volunteering for a tutoring program, as organizing street dances or a marching band. There is considerable talk these days of how fair societies may be nurtured in families, schools, work places, and congregations. Modern democracies, says Michael Sandel (1996),can be nourished close to home, in settings where people experience and act upon accepted responsibility. One of his examples is of the civil rights movement, which actually began in small black Baptist churches in the South and extended from there to a national movement. We might be reminded also of Vaclav Havel writing from prison a decade ago. He found hope in small student movements, ecological movements, peace movements, because he believed that "human communality" begins in a "renaissance of elementary human relationships which new projects can at the very most only mediate." This may well ascribe new importance to the school and to teachers willing to foster the values Havel talked about: "love, charity, sympathy, tolerance, understanding, self-control, solidarity, friendship, feelings of belonging, the acceptance of concrete responsibility for those close to one"--all with an eye on the social formations that decide the fate of the world. Freire, also thinking of how to move beyond the small community, the local, spoke about "the invention of citizenship," clearly with imagination in mind once again.


    Berry, Wendell. “The Work of Local Culture.” What Are People For? San Francisco: North Point Press, 1990: 153-169.

    A human community, too, must collect leaves and stories, and turn them to account. It must build soil, and build that memory of itself—in lore and story and song—that will be its culture. These two kinds of accumulation, of local soil and local culture, are intimately related. (Berry, 154)

    A human community, then, if it is to last long, must exert a sort of centripetal force, holding local soil and local memory in place. (Berry, 155)

    This loss of local knowledge and local memory—that is, of local culture—has been ignored, or written off as one of the cheaper “prices of progress,” or made the business of folklorists. Nevertheless, local culture has a value, and part of its value is economic. This can be demonstrated readily enough. (Berry, 157)

    ... when a community loses its memory, its members no longer know one another. How can they know one another if they have forgotten or have never learned one another’s stories? If they do not know one another’s stories, how can they know whether or not to trust one another? People who do not trust one another do not help one another, and moreover they fear one another. And this is our predicament now. Because of a general distrust and suspicion, we not only lose one another’s help and companionship, but we are all now living in jeopardy of being sued. (Berry, 157-158)

    ... most people of the present can only marvel to think of neighbors entertaining themselves for a whole evening without a single imported pleasure and without listening to a single minute of sales talk. (Berry, 159)

    But if, for example, there should occur a forty-eight-hour power failure, we would find ourselves in much more backward circumstances than our ancestors. (Berry, 159)

    Professionalism means more interest in salaries and less interest in what used to be known as disciplines. And so we arrive at the idea, endlessly reiterated in the news media, that education can be improved by bigger salaries for teachers—which may be true, but education cannot be improved, as the proponents too often imply, by bigger salaries alone. There must also be love of learning and of the cultural tradition and of excellence—and this love cannot exist, because it makes no sense, apart from the love of a place and a community. Without this love, education is only the importation into a local community of centrally prescribed “career preparation” designed to facilitate the export of young careerists. (Berry, 164)

    Our children are educated, then, to leave home, not to stay home, and the costs of this education have been far too little acknowledged. One of the costs is psychological, and the other is at once cultural and ecological. (Berry, 164)

    The natural or normal course of human growing up must begin with some sort of rebellion against one’s parents, for it is clearly impossible to grow up if one remains a child. But the child, in the process of rebellion and of achieving the emotional and economic independence that rebellion ought to lead to, finally comes to understand the parents as fellow humans and fellow sufferers, and in some manner returns to them as their friend, forgiven and forgiving the inevitable wrongs of family life. That is the old norm. (Berry, 164-165)

    The new norm, according to which the child leaves home as a student and never lives at home again, interrupts the old course of coming of age at the point of rebellion, so that the child is apt to remain stalled in adolescence, never achieving any kind of reconciliation or friendship with the parents. Of course, such a return and reconciliation cannot be achieved without the recognition of mutual practical need. In the present economy, however, where individual dependences are so much exterior to both household and community, family members often have no practical need or use for one another. Hence the frequent futility of attempts at a purely psychological or emotional reconciliation. (Berry, 165)

    The loss of local culture is, in part, a practical loss and an economic one. For one thing, such a culture contains, and conveys to succeeding generations, the history of the use of the place and the knowledge of how the place may be lived in and used. For another, the pattern of reminding implies affection for the place and respect for it, and so, finally, the local culture will carry the knowledge of how the place may be well and lovingly used, and also the implicit command to use it only well and lovingly. The only true and effective “operator’s manual for spaceship earth” is not a book that any human will ever write, it is hundreds of thousands of local cultures. (Berry, 166)

    Lacking an authentic local culture, a place is open to exploitation, and ultimately to destruction, from the center. (Berry, 166)

    Steen Christiansen: Subject and Ideology

    A good summary/intro to Althusser's "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses":

    Subject and Ideology

    Utah Mine Owner Robert Murray's Coal Mine Disaster

    The Coal Mine Disaster, Brought to You By Evil Corporations
    by Tula Connell
    Fire Dog Lake and AlterNet

    Tula Connell: While six miners remain buried, the mine owner says there is no emergency and attacks his workers' union.

    Owner Robert Murray didn't even wait until the six men in the collapsed Crandall Canyon coal mine had been found before he started deflecting blame for the disaster and denying any role his mine practices played in the collapse (in between yelling at circling news helicopters and insisting there is no emergency).

    As six miners remain buried, beneath 1,500 feet of nearly solid rock near Huntington, Utah, Murray went on a rant at a press conference, yelling at circling news helicopters and insisting there was no emergency and attacking by name leaders of the Mine Workers (UMWA) union. But wait--the Crandall Canyon Mine isn't unionized. And what about rescuing the trapped miners, whose chances for survival are narrowing every hour?

    UMWA President Cecil Roberts, whom Murray attacked by name yesterday, said:

    It is very unfortunate that at a time when six miners remain trapped underground and rescuers, including members of the UMWA, are risking their lives to find them, Mr. Murray has chosen to take time away from his urgent responsibilities to conduct himself in this manner.


    Maybe Murray hoped that by flinging mud, he could avoid scrutiny of a few inconvenient facts. Like the 325 citations his mine has been issued by federal mine inspectors since January 2004, according to federal Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) online records. Of those, 116 were what the government considered "significant and substantial," meaning they are likely to cause injury.

    Workers' safety is not something Murray has publicly supported. During an interview with Fox News in May, Murray responded to a comment from presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton who asked a crowd whether they were ready for a president who is "pro-labor and will appoint people who actually care about workers' rights and workers' safety."

    The Salt Lake Tribune reports this exchange between Murray and Fox News' Neil Cavuto:

    "Bob, do you view this rhetoric as pro-labor, anti-business, what?" Cavuto asked Murray.

    Absolutely not," Murray responded. "I view it as anti-American. These people should--are misleading the American worker then they talk about jobs. These are the people advocating draconian global warming conditions that are going to drive American jobs to foreign countries and raise electric rates for everybody on fixed incomes."

    Murray is chairman of Murray Energy Co., an owner of the Crandall Canyon Mine, whose PAC has donated to the worst of the worst politicians: Sens. George Allen of Virginia, Sam Brownback of Kansas and Katherine Harris of Florida. It also gave to Ohio Republican Reps. Deborah Pryce and Patrick Tiberi, and California Rep. Richard Pombo. The committee did notgive to any Democrats during the same period, Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show.

    To Read the Rest of the Post

    Sunday, September 02, 2007

    A Low Impact Woodland Home

    (Courtesy of Nicholas Mitchum)

    Very cool place that is very environmentally sound...

    A Low Impact Woodland Home

    Organizational Theory; Using Story as Strategy; Story Deconstruction Method; Narrative Therapy

    For two years I worked as an editorial assistant for Dale Fitzgibbons and the Journal of Management Education (Sage). During that time I learned that there are some radicals operating in the midst of the very conservative and traditional business departments. They operate under the loose disciplinary title of "Organizational Theory" and generally favor the qualitative (without forgoing important quantitative facts) method. They were very important in opening up my understanding of the functions of organizations in the re-production of social structures and pushing me to understand how narratives operate on so many levels in the world (should be obvious--but the obvious sometimes escapes our notice). Since my film studies and writing students have been thinking about narrative (story) structure in the films we have been watching and in the papers/responses they are writing...

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    "Using Story as Strategy"
    Interview with David Barry, Ph.D. by Helen McKay
    Australian Storytelling


    Helen: How did you get interested in story as a communication tool?
    David: I am attracted to their transformative power. I believe we live our lives by the stories we tell ourselves and tell others. Change the story and life changes. This is a view I picked up several years ago from David Epston, co-founder with Michael White (in Adelaide) of narrative therapy. As an organisational change consultant and change management lecturer, I find the approach immensely appealing. Organisations often seem to run on a few core narratives. Epston & White's narrative change methods offer profound ways for organizations to restory themselves.

    Helen: In which areas of business life do you see story as an effective strategy? (apart from the advertising industry). Do you see a company benefitting from hearing the stories staff may tell of their role in and perception of, the company? And how?

    David: Stories are a double-edged sword. Because they are so fundamentally a part of what it means to be human, they have a great deal of power (especially when fashioned by an expert teller). In organisations, this power is often used to seduce, to lull dreamy employees into thinking they're part of some great cause. I think of many global companies which spin a tale of the corporate family:
    'Come join our team. Work hard and we will give you the kind of family life you couldn't find elsewhere.' It is a hypnotic and convincing narrative 'we work hard right up to when we're given our severence notice (which is always such a shock. 'You wouldn't fire your brother or mother. Why are you firing me?').

    On the other hand, stories have the power to release and change; if new story elements can be introduced into a problem-saturated narrative, remarkable things can happen. Where do these new story elements come from? I find the best ones come from that which was previously silenced - the forgotten story remnants left on the company cutting board.

    If these elements - these points of difference - can be given life and turned into what literary theorist, Charles Baxter, calls a counterpoint narrative, there's a good chance that existing, but dysfunctional company stories can be changed. So in this way, getting staff to engage in storywork can be very beneficial.

    I suppose what I'm saying here is that storytelling rights should be given to everyone in an organisation, and not just the PR group or the top executives. I think this makes for less insular and more adaptive organizational functioning.

    Helen: Can you see the stories told by people chosen at random in the electorate, about the political party governing a country, effectively assisting in the planning of future policy strategies? And how?

    David: I would guess that they could help, especially if they were listened to in an open way (much easier said than done however). Perhaps what Bakhtin called - dialogue' could happen. Instead of me telling you my - mono-logic' and you telling me yours, a dia-logic - one informed by our careful listening and taking in of each other's story - could be created. An interesting possibility.

    Helen: We use some traditional stories as ways to introduce discussion points for our seminars, have you any stories of instances where you have had success in this way?

    David: If, by traditional stories, you mean ancestral or culturally historic ones, then no. However, I often use stories in the classroom to illustrate themes I can't get at any other way. One I like to tell concerns ways of learning. A well known marine biologist had just started working with an eager graduate student. The student, anxiously awaiting all those pearls of wisdom, was stunned when the biologist said 'Here's a fish and there's a tablet. Write down whatever you see and I'll be back in a few hours.'

    'See?' said the student. 'What's there to see? That's one dead fish.'

    With time however, the student noted how the scales lay and made some guesses about their functions. He did the same with the rest of the fish. Later, the biologist came back and congratulated the student. He then left again, saying he'd be back in a few days. The fish turned ripe (what's that saying about guests and fish after three days?) and the student had filled the tablet with notes. As it turned out, many of his conclusions accorded with what other expert biologists had written. The course of his studies for the next few years was set. The story works well. Most students after hearing it stop looking to me for all the answers and begin studying their own organizational - fish,' notebooks in hand.

    Helen: You are interested in story as it can be used in therapy. Care to comment?

    David: I think my answers to your first two questions capture my views on this. I would add that from where I stand in the organizational research community, we are just beginning to take the narrative turn - moving away from the logico-scientific view towards a storied one. This is both exciting and threatening.

    A number of very heated debates are now springing up between leading theorists and speakers. Some are saying that all we've learned about management over the last hundred years is simply artful rhetoric. And of course others are denouncing such views as poppycock. The field is more interesting than it has been in years.

    David Barry, Ph.D.
    Management & Employment Relations Dept., University of Auckland; Private Bag 92019 Auckland, New Zealand d.barry@auckland.ac.nz

    Interview Source
    ---------------------------------------------

    David Boje's and Robert Dennehy's classic textbook, Managing in the Postmodern World (3rd ed., 2000) is now available online. I was first introduced to this book while working with Dale Fitzgibbons editing the Journal of Management Education. It has a lot of wisdom for all of us trying to survive in increasingly Dilbert-like organizational systems.

    I find the radical organizational theory perpsective to be a unique synthesis that helps round out my humanities understanding of the world. Here is their take on Postmodernism:

    Brief Overview of What is Postmodernism?

    People who do not tell stories well, listen to stories effectively and learn to deconstruct those stories with a skeptical ear will be more apt to be victims of … exploitation and power games. Stories have many interpretations. If one interpretation gets pasted over all the rest and becomes a dominant or the only political acceptable way to interpret events, we have ideology, domination, and disempowerment. Part of exploitation is to deny an interpretation, point of view, or experience, that differs from the dominant view. Rhetoric about healthy, happy, and terrific harmony and unity can mask just the opposite reality. A simple sounding moral or prescription about consensus or teamwork can mask deeper costs in terms of power and domination. (339)

    Story Deconstruction Method

    1. Duality Search. Make a list of any bipolar terms, any dichotomies that are used in the story. Include the term even if only one side is mentioned.
    2. Reinterpret. A story is one interpretation of an event from one point of view. Write out an alternative interpretation using the same story particulars.
    3. Rebel Voices. Deny the authority of the one voice. What voices are being expressed in this story? Which voices are subordinate or hierarchical to other voices?
    4. Other Side of the Story. Stories always have two sides. What is the [other] side of the story (usually a marginalized, under-represented, or even silent) …?
    5. Deny the Plot. Stories have plots, scripts, scenarios, recipes, and morals. Turn these around.
    6. Find the Exception. What is the exception that breaks the rule, that does not fit the recipe, that escapes the scrictures of the principle? State the rule in a way that makes it seem extreme or absurd.
    7. State What is Between the Lines. What is not said? What is the writing on the wall? Fill in the blanks. … What are you filling in? With what alternate way[s] could you fill it in? (340)

    Boje, David M. and Robert F. Dennehy. Managing in the Postmodern World: America’s Revolution Against Exploitation. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 1993.
    -----------------------------------

    Erickson, M.H. “The Use of Systems as an Integral Part of Hypnotherapy.” (1965) The Collected Papers of Milton H. Erickson on Hypnosis. V. 4 NY: Irvington, 1980: 212-223.

    The therapist’s task should not be a proselytizing of the patient with his own beliefs and understandings. ... What is needed is the development of a therapeutic situation permitting the patient to use his own thinking, his own understandings, his own emotions in the way that best fits him in his scheme of life. (223)

    Erickson, M.H. and E.L. Rossi. Hypnotherapy: An Exploratory Casebook. NY: Irvington, 1979

    Each psychotherapeutic encounter is unique and requires fresh creative effort on the part of both the therapist and the patient to discover the principles and means of achieving a therapeutic outcome. (234)

    Freedman, Jill and Gene Combs. Narrative Therapy: The Social Construction of Preferred Realities. NY: W.W. Norton and Co., 1996.

    We liked the way Erickson attended to and respected the experience of the people he worked with. He cultivated a kind of therapeutic relationship that de-emphathized the therapist’s professional, theoretical ideas and put a benevolent spotlight on people’s particular situations. (Freedman/Combs: 10) {MB—They are talking about the therapist Milton H. Erickson—see your notes on him)

    It invites our attention to rather small, rather tight, recursive feedback loops when, instead, we want to be paying more attention to ideas and practices at play in the larger cultural context. The “systems” metaphor tempts us to look within families for complementary circuits and for collaborative causation of problems, rather than to work with family members to identify the negative influence of certain values, institutions, and practices in the larger culture on their lives and relationships, and to invite them to pull together in opposing those values, institutions, and practices. It encourages a position of neutrality or curiosity rather than one of advocacy or passion for particular values and against others. (Freedman/Combs: 13) {MB—they state that feminist critiques in therapy led them to reassess their reliance on the systems metaphor (similar to humanist thought, rather than neo-marxist system theory) and their later move past Erickson hypnotherapy methods}

    In Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends (White & Epston, 1990), White reminds us how Bateson used the metaphor of “maps,” saying that all our knowledge of the world is carried in the form of various mental maps of “external” or “objective” reality, and that different maps lead to different interpretations of “reality.” No map includes every detail of the territory that it represents, and events that don’t make it onto a map don’t exist in that map’s world of meaning. (Freedman/Combs: 15) {MB—see citation for the referenced book, page 2)

    … {MB—social constructionism’s} main premise is that the beliefs, values, institutions, customs, labels, laws, divisions of labor, and the like that make up our social realities are constructed by the members of a culture as they interact with one another from generation to generation and day to day. That is, societies construct the “lenses” through which their members interpret the world. The realities that each of us take for granted are the realities that our societies have surround us with since birth. These realities provide the beliefs, practices, words, and experiences from which we make up our lives, or, as we would say in postmodernist jargon, “constitute our selves.”
    When we use both narrative and social constructionism as guiding metaphors for our work, we see how the stories that circulate in society constitute our lives and those of the people we work with. We also notice how the stories of individual lives can influence the constitution of whole cultures—not just the stories of people like Gandhi or Martin Luther King, but also those of people like Pocahontas, Annie Oakley, Helen Keller, and Tina Turner, as well as the stories of ordinary people whose name we have never heard. As we work with the people who come to see us, we think about the interaction between the stories that they are living out in their personal lives and the stories that are circulating in their cultures—both their local culture and the larger culture. We think about how cultural stories are influencing the way they interpret their daily experience and how their daily actions are influencing the stories that circulate in society. (Freedman/Combs: 16-17) {MB—see Weingarten: 289}

    This conception of self is at odds with the skin-bound container with fixed contents (resources) that we had previously conceptualized. As we pondered the implications of this new “constitutionalist” metaphor of self, my (JF) taken-for-granted reality was so shaken up that I became motion-sick. I literally became nauseated. … If we were really to adapt these new ways of thinking and perceiving—which we wanted to do because of the kinds of therapy they support—we would become responsible for continually constituting ourselves as the people we wanted to be. We would have to examine taken-for-granted stories in our local culture, the contexts we moved in, the relationships we cultivated, and the like, so as to continually re-author and update our own stories. Morality and ethics would not be fixed things, but ongoing activities, requiring continuing maintenance and attention. (Freedman/Combs: 17)

    Instead of seeing ourselves as mechanics who are working fix a broken machine or ecologists who are trying to understand and influence complex ecosystems, we experience ourselves as interested people—perhaps with an anthropological or biographical or journalistic bent—who are skilled at asking questions to bring forth the knowledge and experience that is carried in the stories of the people we work with. We think of ourselves as members of a subculture in collaborative interaction with other people to construct new realities. We now work to help people notice the influence of restrictive cultural stories in their lives and to expand and enrich their own life narratives. We strive to find ways to spread the news of individual triumphs—to circulate individual success stories so that they can keep our culture growing and flowing satisfying ways. (Freedman/Combs: 18)

    What is important here … is that change, whether it be change of belief, relationship, feeling, or self-concept, involves a change in language. … Meanings are always somewhat indeterminate, and therefore mutable. … Meaning is not carried in a word by itself, but by the word in relation to its context, and no two contexts will be exactly the same. Thus the precise meaning of any word is always somewhat indeterminate, and potentially different; it is always something to be negotiated between two or more speakers or between a text and a reader. (Freedman/Combs: 29)

    Rosenblatt, Paul. Metaphors of Family Systems. NY: Guilford Press, 1993.

    {MB--Start a file of books that dissemble metaphoric constructions—exs. Lakoff, Morgan, Boje, Rigney…}

    Weingarten, Kathy. “The Discourse of Intimacy: Adding a Social Constructionist and Feminist View.” Family Process 30 (1991): 285-305.

    In the social constructionist view, the experience of self exists in the ongoing interchange with others … the self continually creates itself through narratives that include other people {MB—and other people’s narratives?} who are reciprocally woven into these narratives. (Weingarten: 289)

    White, Michael. Re-Authoring Lives. Adelaide, Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications, 1995.

    Is this work better defined as a world-view? Perhaps, but even that is not enough. Perhaps it’s an epistemology, a philosophy, a personal commitment, a politics, an ethics, a practice, a life, and so on. (White: 37)

    White, Michael and David Epston. Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends. NY: Norton, 1990.

    In arguing that all information is necessarily “news of difference,” and that it is the perception of difference that triggers all new responses in living systems, he demonstrated how the mapping of events through time is essential for the perception of difference, for the detection of change. (White & Epston: 2) {MB—Freedman and Combs, following this quote, state that: “An advantage that Michael White saw in the narrative metaphor was that a story is a map that extends through time” (2).}

    Jon May: Social Constructionism

    Social constructionism is most easily defined as the recognition that understandings of the world are determined by the social context within which those understandings are constructed, rather than by any innate quality within the object of enquiry itself. One obvious application of such ideas is to discussions of identity. For example, once it is recognized that ideas of femininity and masculinity vary over time and space it becomes clear that gender is constructed rather then pre-given. Very similar arguments can be made about race, sexuality, age, or disability; or about conceptual categories that frame other identities: ‘deviance’ and ‘crime,’ or ‘home’ and ‘homelessness,’ for example. To say that something is constructed is not to say it isn’t ‘real,’ of course. On the contrary, such constructions shape social action in important ways as people act in accordance to their understandings of the world. As Susan Ruddick has shown {MB—in the book Young and Homeless in Hollywood: Mapping Social Identities (1996)}, the ways in which the problem of homelessness are constructed, for example, has real and important effects on the ways in which homeless people are treated. Though its roots can be traced back considerably further, social constructionism first came to prominence in the social sciences in the 1960s through the work of Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann. In The Social Construction of Reality (1966) they argued that “social knowledge becomes real and takes on causative powers when people start believing it, and allow it to enter in to their everyday … routines” (Barnes, 2000: 748). … Judith Butler focuses not on institutions {MB—like the religion, media, state, academy…} but social practices: showing how ideas of gender are reproduced through the constant repetition of various embodied performances that both help shape, and are shaped by, understandings as to how a ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ body should move, sit, talk, dress, and so on. (24)

    May, Jon. “The View From the Streets: Geographies of Homelessness in the British Newspaper Press.” Cultural Geography in Practice. Ed. Alison Blunt, et al. Oxford UP, 2003: 23-36.