you have come to the right place for company but the wors

Sun, 27 Feb 1994 05:56:58 EST

worst place for authority!

Dear Eva M. Armstrong:

Your post dated Thu, 24 Feb 1994 20:49:20 -0800, entitled Re:Educational
Anthropology, is a sample of the sort of anguished expression of senselessness,
to which I've given (in our local ANTHRO-L subculture) the name of *hyposemia*,
the deficiency of things meaning things to people; or put it another way, "the
culture's not doing what it's *paid for*," which is ensuring that things mean
things such that routine trivialities are persisted in, granted proof positive
that they should cease being done, with practically undiminished vigor so long
as somewhere somehow somebody or everyone "experiences" it as meaningful; or
to put it yet a different way, there is irrefutably at hand the observable
spectacle of a *horrendous mess* notwithstanding which there is trepidation,
hesitation, fear that, once one strand is pulled loose, there is no end, at
least no *socially acceptable end* to what would need to be done away with
to restore rationality, whatever anybody meant by that.

What you speak of, and to speak of it at all for the very first time is to
necessarily speak inchoately, is real. It is manifest in the details of living,
its causes are in the social macrostructure and are global, world-economical
in scope. Affecting everything, it holds the attention of nobody, given its
failure to totally dominate the specifics of anything-in-particular. With, as
you note for the USA, the poor-excuses-for-schools whereto are consigned the
lowest strata of certain of our racial minorities whom, especially, the new,
aggressively psychologizing conservative would-be leadership of these same
racial minorities castigates for their moral deficiencies.

Why not take the guns out of the schools and send them to the Government of
Bosnia and Herzegovina? The appeal of a Muslim government should resonate to
an extent hitherto unprecedented in the United States, in the African-American
lower class population, given the new prominence of the religion of Islam there
(or at the very least, of personalities claiming to speak in its name).

[Angry offstage whispers about this is just the kind of Insane thing I do.]

Yes, I know it's kooky, but it's one thing that never got tried, never will.
And this is no accident, that what has been or will be tried out, lackadaisi-
cally to be sure, while two million citizens of the Republic of Bosnia and
Hercegovina are cut down, raped, tortured, driven out by fascist perpetrators
of genocidal massacre - *there is not one word of exaggeration in the foregoing
rhetoric* - by your and my freely elected government, this is a free country,
just costs a lot of money to live in it, is all, *will be ineffectual*.
Exporting arms to Bosnia and Herzegovina is *illegal*. Your government is
the backbone of enforcement of a discriminatory arms embargo which most hurts
the victims of international aggression. This fact may or may not, in the end,
be provably related to the certainty that, in the event of the victory of the
legitimate, freely elected, internationally recognized, and multi-ethnic legal
government of Bosnia and Hercegovina, there would come into existence a state,
smack in the middle of Europe, whose largest ethnic component (45% of total)
would be Muslim. To the Serbs of Serbia and Bosnia (31% of the latter), this
is not admissible. The Muslims, to the Serbs, are not "white." The Serbs have
enthusiastically adopted racist hatred of Muslims speaking their own language
and Muslims speaking Albanian in the southwestern Serbian Kosovo Province; two
million more people.

Back in November, a Serb soldier told a Newsweek reporter, "Why, they [the
Bosnian Muslims] are trying to set up a Muslim state in the heart of Europe!"
(Because they've lived there for 500 years; not good enough reason.) There are
people in Washington to whom that Serb soldier's indignation seemed reasonable.
Who know next to nothing about how that mess over there came to be, which is,
like the mess over here, a long and complicated story.
You may have already figured out that I've just read a book, specifically,
Branka Magas, The Destruction of Yugoslavia: Tracking the Breakup, 1980-1992,
Verso Editions, London UK, 1994. This is the best book I've seen on this
subject; and it's already almost out of date.

I get indignant; emotional. Which will get me into trouble.
The *everything* which has got something wrong with it is called
*capitalism*. It is hierarchical and obedient to suppositious Laws of the
Marketplace in a fashion which is irrational in a way that it has never been
irrational before. Nobody has any basis in existing knowledge, or enough of
existing knowledge should any theory of what-the-hell-is-going-on, to identify
*what is new and unprecedented* about the mess you see around you. What you see
around you in Los Angeles can be duplicated in scenic Long Island, nationally
famous for its baroque violence. You say an old lady died exuding toxic fumes
which overcame the attending physician and nurses? Here's two items from page
seven of Long Island Newsday; white people comitted violence on white people:
*Cops: Teens Battered Woman for No Reason*.
She apparently was the easiest of targets - a 67-year-old woman walking her
dog just after midnight on a quiet street near her home in Garden City....
*Mystery Death Ruled a Homicide*.
The mysterious death of Eloise Topping Halsey in her Water Mill home last
summer has been ruled a homicide by the Suffolk County medical examiner, police
said yesterday.
Chief Deputy Medical Examiner Stuart Dawson said there was evidence that
Halsey, 79, had been hit and strangled. Suffolk police said they had no
suspects in her death and don't know the motive....

Irrationality of macrosocial organization at the global-national levels
generates the emergence of people who live in this society whose motives are
increasingly incomprehensible by previously prevailing standards. The language
is lacking for feelings that are unfamiliar to people feeling them to whom the
things they do make sense (or these things would not have been done) but the
actors in question cannot tell you what it is: Grisly damage may be done to
self, not others. On December 2, just across the street from this campus, Emily
Liu, 16, and Mili Subodhi, 15, honor students at Ward Melville High School (a
feeder into this university) lay down on the Long Island Railroad tracks and
were killed. The adults in the community unanimously said, "It makes no sense!"
But it must have made sense to the suicides, as suicide was the only seemingly
sensible course of action.

[Hostile noises offstage; usual charge of incoherence; dead cats, eggs.]

This time I'm deliberately incoherent. The social science disciplines as a
whole are simply unequipped to deal, singly or interdisciplinarily, with the
evolution under their noses of a qualitatively new social formation or phase
of social development. The methods of theory and research will be necessarily
unsound, logically and methodologically. Something corresponding to my vested
interests as a slob. Which doesn't guarantee that some ideas I've stated here
and there (Progressive Sociologists Network <PSN@csf.Colorado.Edu>) - and that
list is one I almost didn't return here from alive - are *untrue*; but it is
guaranteed that they will not look *truish*. The explanation at the highest
level of abstraction is, there is a new central contradiction of capitalism,
replacing the class struggle, with the working class having ceased to be the
agent of radical social transformation. This was what I told the Marxist
sociologists. And in so doing, *found the heresy point of people who believed
in nothing*.

If by sheer chance I should be routed by the airline computer to LA, will
be happy to practice English as a first language with a 10-hour lecture to
explain what the foregoing means (and fight neverending struggle against my
speech impediment now getting worse faster); whereafter you can give me a
10-hour lecture on whatever you think I couldn't be less interested in. Shake
n' bake!

Daniel A. Foss