She-dog on She-cat Crime


Two things on my mind today:  pet wars and naked logos.

The not-so-new addition (even the picture above is over a month old), a Husky pup, who, at 4 3/4 months weighs about 35 pounds of massive paws and thick, stocky chest and haunches, loves to “play” with our penultimate addition, a mostly white Japanese bobtail stray, smallish for a full grown cat typical of the breed. 

The latter is wily and clever, eccentrically faithful to her chosen human, my daughter. She abides people amicably. The former is a doofus, aggro, boundary-testing youngster, whose only purpose in life is to play, eat, shit and destroy. She’s pretty, stunning ice-blue eyes with a thick, grey and tan wolf coat, and sweet. She’s also unrelenting.

Willow the cat is curious and heat seeking. She’s also playful. She often comes looking for Goose. She quietly stalks the puppy, who, upon spying her, full-speed gallops in a furious rush. She sniffs (tries to), bites and captures the cat with crushing will and heft. Frustrated by the rebuff–getting her nose clawed–she whimpers, turns her body around, and boom-lowers her massive girth to snuff out the feline, a horrifying domination, as if the small cat 1/8th the other’s size will be bone-crushed smothered in furry cement.

But despite the cat’s frantic struggle on her back, paws and claws air-poised to strategically strike vulnerable nose and eyes (everywhere else is futile with that thick, cushioned hide), her deep, low growl in constant grinding gear, she seems to know what she’s doing. Because despite clearly taking a beating from massive paws and jaw with beastly big teeth, she knows that at some critical pause, some crack in the feeble-minded puppy’s concentration, she can scuttle up a bar stool or leap up a high armoir to safety, wide-eyed glaring down at the dopey, tongue-flapping brute. 

I confess that I watch in both amusement and terror, anxious and hopeful for the underdog kitty’s safety.  I’m unwilling to intercede on her behalf, though, resolved that she asks for it.

The other image teasing me this morning is the picture on my website–a sort of branding logo–for onenakedpoet.com. The picture reveals a naked woman’s back, hands clasped behind her, one arm bent over her shoulder stretched down her back to link the other reaching from below to center of her back. The yoga pose twists rotocuff and bicep, which casts in relief dorsal and bicep muscles and sinew. Her ass is partially exposed, just the twinges of crack and buttocks. 

The photo is also slightly blurred, out of focus. The back is mine. A few years ago, a photographer shot my unclothed yoga practice. I used the picture on a whim to name my author’s website–one naked poet. I deemed crafty the double sense of revealing heart and skin, a doubly exposed confessional poetry. 

Clever as it may have seemed at the time, I now wince at that photo, which collapses the private and public in a way that could be perceived as both celebratory–an aging body contributed to the ongoing conversation of body “beauty” conceptions–and discomfiting. 

Not discomfiting as to nudity or aging. No, the ruffle arises over the hidden face and naked back. The unwitting exposure is the attempt–all writers, all women–to confess, reveal and expose a mind’s “truth” without holding back, but being unable to do so. 

A hidden face is in all writing: the persona or mask. 

Because you can spew words all over a mile long blog about love, ownership, family life, daily doings, heart break, possession, politics, hygiene and belief, everything that makes up a breathing machine called human, one particular human, and never show your face. You can write obscure, viny verses that suggest, tease and seduce but ultimately obfuscate and confound, leaving a reader clearing the rainforest, skin-misted without absorption, without sensing the screeching, raucous hues and pitches of a mad-scramble, raging artist’s pallet. That’s the writer’s plight.

So much color, so little connection. Blank screen. 

But this is also the plight of many. The same kind of angst in complicitly witnessing interspecies battles, I experience eyeing that branding: nakedly hiding a truth–about women, fear, prejudice, the lengths we the civilized go to oppress the marginalized, the subterfuge victims cultivate to survive, configured bodies continuously on public display–utterly exposed without identity, without face. Hiding in plain site always is her lurking predator–in dark alleys of the city and congress.

Women’s problems are just women’s, some believe. I could turn around, show my wrinkled face, my sagging breasts, my pregnancy-ravaged poof belly and crepey legs, a less “attractive” view, but in whose eyes? 

I am concerned about my or anyone’s acceptance or even tolerance for violent, insidious misogyny. I agonize over finding voice. In gendered inherited words, striving to write real from inside a body, I worry that we’re all cowards, immobile before the fray.

Nothing 


“If you don’t have good intentions, please just leave me alone. I’m tired.”

Right on. My gut reacted that way to these adorned, bordered words on my morning Facebook scroll. At second blush, however, this sounded grumpy. It’s the “leave me alone” part. A command that demands aloneness inevitably appears angry, sad, just a bad decision. I mean, who besides me would want to be alone? Well, many more might be better off if they were. They might not only be okay with it, but crave it after a while.

The world is always too much with us whether we live in the bush on the African plains or in New York city’s heart. We toil. We care. We think about how, what or if we feel from the moment our eyes open upon awakening to their closing in sleep. 

We think of doing. We do. Our minds embalm themselves in constant “voice,” mostly noise. Our sensations form perceptions and the senses are always on, no matter how much we try to shut them down, tune them out or mute them with volume reducers (drugs, alcohol, love, food…). 

We are lost in a thrumming hum of sensate being. How can we ever be alone? There is no alone, no solitude, except for sleep or death, and those only by outside appearance. Who knows who or what accompanies us in either? Our minds are constantly populated with people, thoughts, memories and plans with, about or in avoidance of those we carry. 

We are never alone.

No wonder we’re tired.

So the demand to be alone is necessary. It seems nearly impossible to accomplish without intolerably long, hard dedication to removing thoughts–all of them–in practiced meditation.

And those–people or thoughts–with bad intentions whether direct or indirect, conscious or unconscious, it’s all too much. Each of us is on overload merely in the pace of one moment to the next–the bombardment of living with others, even among nature only. Nature is not benevolent. It too harbors malignancies, intended or not. 

But those who move bent on destruction (think of the fearful-angry vibrations they emit and hit us with like sonar) overburden us beyond our sitting, resting, active capacities and raise our hackles, elevating our hormones with alarm bells. We, poised in self-preservation, fight or flight, consume and are consumed by nothing but the bad intent, defense in crush or aggression, certainly guardedness. Where does that lead? 

Not to equanimity, nor to conditions amenable to hearing the silence, being with solitude, clearing the mind. We become filled with the chatter-ful greed, jealousy, deceit, mischief or envy of another. We endure gossip, lies and other violence. Our skin tingles and tightens with breath, tremor and howl.

We may suffer with our lives momentarily or forever.

It is not an unreasonable request–to hold out a stiff, unbending arm that impedes the onslaught of another–whether that takes the form of someone bumping into us, screaming hate or fear at our eyes, or onrushing our bodies to steal or otherwise injure.

We can act. We can will it, say it: “Leave. Don’t come near. Let me remove you from my mind. I can do it with or without your consent.”

In the end, it–all of it–is in our heads. Nothing. Everything.

So, usher in aloneness. Yes. I’m willing. 

In the Key of Hate

wp-1459816977939.jpg
The trump-er grown loud in palsied anger

defeaned himself to the mad deranger 

While…

One penless poet in an inkwell stared

down letter-less pages of his dreams bared

For…

The world’s gone bonkers at last I tell you

rightside up is sideways blowing up truth

As…

When growing rich means exploding idols

and viscous real estate steals upturn skulls

So…

Time then once and for all to scrap the deal

that fear-stuffed progress regressives pig squeal.

End.

Hate. 

Coda:

 

 

bench waiting

 
 
The hours waiting…

waiting on the bench

cement and puke mold

bench, after finger-ink-

smudge-shove-printing,

while I witnessed her,

shoe-less, bra-less, 

patch-toothy grin like sin,

cheap dye and tat job,

resisting and they, bitch

cops, pushers, shovers,

kicking the shit out of her,

who was out of her mind,

uncontrolled, and they,

shit-bitch-dep-pukies,

clubs and punches, her

forced with her head 

shoved down by gloved 

fists, face between her

legs, until subdued,

no breath, so violent, so

much violence, shouting,

berating, beating, negating, 

every bit of it, all of it,

dystopian, institutional,

blues and grays, painted

cement walls, filthy dinge

cages and cages, and the

continual influx of human

fodder, walking lines, room

to room, to room to room,

walking lines, room walking

lines, walking–no room 

for poor players out, no 

way out, no way, not for the

poor paying prison prices.

 

credit: ktla.org

In which we bow and break in bearing it

 
 
It’s five minutes before class begins and one student, a mousy girl who twitches occasionally and whispers answers to my questions after I respond to her half-mast upraised tentative hand that must be propped up by the other hand in order to give it any height, says, “I think no one’s here because of the shooting.”
 
The classroom is one third full, not unusual for the hour and time in the semester, about one third of the way through. 
 
I wanted to doff off her suggestion as somewhat silly or illogical to assure her, actually, but as is always the case in teaching college students–or any students–sensitivity is paramount, so I pause a complete second. But in drawing up my response, I immediately flash angrily, “No, probably not. Why wouldn’t they be used to this sort of news by now? After all, mass shootings happen every other day now. It’s just become the new normal.”
 
I immediately regret my callousness.
 
This student has confessed in her second essay written for this class that she suffers from epilepsy, a recent discovery that has left her to picking up pieces, rescuing remnants of her former life that held nothing but unfettered future, the worst day up until then being when an elementary school kid called her a mop-head. She told me her medication affects her memory, slows her.
 
When she confided in me, I thought of my daughter in college two states north from home. She suffers from a recent sport-inflicted concussion, confused and depressed, her mind sluggish and stalling–going on too long now. She fears. I fear.
 
******
Last week at the head of the classroom, I repeated the line from a prose poem assigned for that day, “In the end, we are alone in the house of the heart.” I then asked the students if they thought that was true. Some thought so. Most did not know.
 
I offered my story of watching a cancer patient die, slowly, how, after months of gathering her family around her, then one by one sending each off not to return to her as she got sicker, she hunkered down inside herself the last three weeks, doing the difficult work of dying. It certainly looked like no one could help her do it, that she had to do it alone. To further illustrate, I likened that aloneness to being elbowed in the diaphragm, down on the soccer field, fighting for air. All of the hovering bodies above you as you lie on the ground can do nothing for you–you don’t even see them–as you fight the pain and fear of never breathing, diving deeply inside yourself for that will to bear it, to survive or brave surrender.
 
I thought the dying example was illustrative, poignant. Some stared in reflection, some in emergency-broadcast-test-pattern mode, others in churning liquid emotion. One young man gripped his head in his hands, face hidden, staring down the sheen of the teflon coated desk.
 
My heart winced.

The Toppling of America: the War of Race and Poverty

In America, we have socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor (Keith Ellison). 

I saw the video of the Texas officer who pulled guns on teens during a pool party raid and thrust his body weight on to the back of an unarmed 14 year old girl in a bathing suit. The imagery is nothing short of violent and hateful. Granted, there were many people and possibly too few police officers, a common story of police officers going into impossibly overcrowded underemployed neighborhoods of the disenfranchised from society. However, the dehumanizing behavior of the officer appeared deeply ingrained, rote, and unthinking.

The systematic dismissal and disposal of the poor, disproportionately black, in this country bespeaks a sick nation.

We created our ghettos from slavery through Jim Crow laws to decades of de-funding programs to help create jobs in poor neighborhoods, and then turned away from the aftermath.  The destruction continues to grow like weeds that strangle the manicured lawn. The “problem” only gets addressed when enough people turn out in the streets (in numbers and with cameras/phones), on the internet and in the voting booths–or when important white people are affected.

Nearly 1.5m African American men are in prison and missing from society due, in large part, to a criminal justice system that locks them up and limits their options upon release (Keith Ellison).

And then the overwhelming outcry of handwringing lamenters begins when the videos of violence appear, “Where are black fathers for the proper raising of their children? Aren’t they partly to blame for the perpetuation of generations of poverty, gangs and crime?” society asks when weighing  in on the current war between black men and cops that sent hordes of the outraged in the streets, in riots and throughout the media.

Leaders in Washington and around the country should have responded to the growing crisis in African American neighborhoods by creating jobs, repairing infrastructure, avoiding bad trade deals that offshored good-paying jobs in many urban areas and investing in our kids. Instead Congress and state legislatures built prisons, passed trade agreements that sent jobs overseas, gave police weapons designed for warzones and passed laws that increased de facto segregation (Keith Ellison).

Instead, leaders in Wasingon give tax breaks to the wealthy to repay their candidacy debts, enter into trade agreements that send jobs overseas, build prisons that are big business money makers on the backs of the poor and arm police with wartime weaponry.

Race is myth. When we stop talking about race, stop believing in race, it will disappear. Except for its career historically and in people’s memories as the antithesis of human freedom, the embodiment of inequality and injustice that remained far too long a toxic, unresolved paradox in nations proclaiming themselves free. In a raceless society color wouldn’t disappear. Difference wouldn’t disappear. Africa wouldn’t disappear. In post-race America “white” people would disappear. That is, no group could assume as birth-right and identity a privileged, supernaturally ordained superiority at the top of a hierarchy of other groups, a supremacy that bestows upon their particular kind the right perpetually to rule and regulate the lives of all other kinds. This idea, this belief in “whiteness,” whether the belief is expressed in terms of color, ethnicity, nationality, gender, tribe, etc., constitutes the founding principle of race, its appeal and its discontents (John Edgar Wideman–“Fatheralong”).

Slavery no longer exists–not in the grossly overt economic commonplace. But the toxic residue appears far more insidious. Wide scale racial prejudice and disdain for the poor incorporated into policy and procedures that permeate every governing institution, every manner of economic operation and opportunity, and every social organizing principle will topple a nation from its bloated top down.

A country is only as strong as its weakest members. Investment starts from the ground up–in people not dollars. The news of cops killing the disporportionately poor and weak will disappear when the majority vote for those who are willing to pay for alleviating the agony of a neglected segment of the population, deciding #Black Lives Matter.

 

 

Shame, Shame on You–and Me


Credit: shame-full.com

Not surprisingly, the article I posted here two days ago about public humiliation of Chinese mistresses has caused a measurable amount of reaction and debate among commenters on the blog as well as in my personal life. The article sparked a long, ponderous mood and meditation for me over the last few days, ranging from the political to psychological, and finally resting, as so often is the case, in the metaphorical and metaphysical.

It all started with the question of the relationship between shame and arousal. What would have caused these women to become violent, a mob of thugs? I thought about the rage, the human condition, biology. Humans are seething animalia and Mistress-dom, in all of its instantiations, brings out all that is human: love, sex, passion, loneliness, family, revenge, disgust, shame, justice, oozing, seeping masses.

I have been attracted to the mistress, intellectually and experientially, for a long while and so write about it in its broadest range and sense. On my blog, I toss the randomly acquired tidbit in with the big pot of stew of boiling thoughts over time, current curious human behavior in the news mixed with the rangy human theoretical concerns of graduate school professors and wannabes, and contribute to the expansive umbrella of my topic. I guess that is the structure of this blog, as much as I claim to have any.

But back to my musings, my next question concerned the relationship between shame and discipline. It is no secret that humiliation and shame are tools of the American “justice” system. Ask anyone who’s been in jail. She knows the systemization of acts, speech and design–from the guards’ avowed disgust, continual shouting and the panopticon vis a vis inmates–of degradation of the human spirit and person, of the human. Martha Nussbaum’s Hiding from Humanity queries the effectiveness of penal discipline performed through humiliation, claiming it degrades human-ness. Nietsche also believed shaming another is a deprivation of his humanity. Might the risk of dehumanization be measured against the efficacy of shame as a deterrent?

And what of the relationship between sex, shame and fantasy? It seems that much of fantasy is about domination and submission, often humiliation being one form of psychological control. What has been learned or experienced in childhood, in growing up in a culture, that compels people, some people, to combine shame, sex, power and control? It is not as easy to see this enactment of the prison guard-inmate relationship in our daily relationships, though it exists. Seizure of control by one or the other in a couple, whether by force or manipulation–or humiliation-is often one sided but also a constant shifting, or something in between. The power roles may be patently obvious, the dominant one apparent as the dominatrix, for example, but the inside workings of the couple-hood is not always clear.

When the drunkard comes home and beats his wife and the neighbors send the police to intervene, why does the wife defend the abuser against the police? One might surmise that she is afraid for herself and her children, perhaps, should the police interfere and the crazed eventually returning man believes it her fault. But one could also postulate that she is used to this kind of abuse and would rather have the father of her children around than have him hauled away, absolutely useless to her. She may know how to put up with physical violence, believe she has him under control because she knows what sets him off, knows what his limits are, and what the resulting damage will be–all of which is known.

Fear of the unknown is greater motivation than the shame she experiences in her debasement by another, in the eyes of her neighbors. But shame is a powerful emotion. Borrowing from a conversation with my recovering girlfriend, shame keeps you from being whole, causes cracks and are the cracks, the seepage. Shame is ubiquitous. Jane Bolton, Psyd, MFT, CC in Psychology Today writes about “What We Get Wrong About Shame,” and lists the following as manifestations of shame:
• Shyness is shame in the presence of a stranger
• Discouragement is shame about temporary defeat
• Embarrassment is shame in front of others
• Self-consciousness is shame about performance
• Inferiority is all-encompassing shame about the self

According to Bolton, these unsuspecting traits or emotions are associates of shame: embarrassment, discouragement, self-consciousness, inferiority and shyness. How often do these come into play? Shame is a powerful motivator and de-motivator and manifests itself in many contexts derived from biology and culture. We are programmed with shame from the stories told to us to regulate our behavior from birth: religious stories with fear and morality, codes of behavior that transform beastie children into civil adherents to a perceived orderly society.

All of those synonymous terms are conceived in the presence or eye of the others. Shyness is experienced in the presence of a stranger and discouragement is experienced as defeat due to shortcomings of the actor in the eyes of others. Embarrassment, self-consciousness and inferiority are all attributions of others’ perceptions to self, unworthiness, incompetence, and unattractiveness, perhaps. The byproduct and/or the foundation of these emotions and assessments is shame.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines shame as “A painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” Shame is first a feeling. It is a physical and emotional experience. As Oxford exemplifies, one can be hot with shame, a physical heat resulting from the stabbing emotion that flushes one’s face and felt bodily. The cause of the physical sensation is a realization or “consciousness” of defying or being misaligned with some standard, moral or otherwise, deviated from it.

Notice the definition is devoid of agency. Who is judging the behavior as deviant, self or other? As created beings, biologically and culturally, moral codes of behavior or societal codes of conscience, are dictates that precede human existence. One is born into an ongoing culture with established laws and principles. Those become conscience, form conscience. “Wrong” or “foolish” is a judgment measured against those inherited codes, whether they be right or wrong.

Sex is tied up with morality and behavioral dictates more than any activity or aspect of the human. Everything is about sex and death. Freud got that one right. So, shame (a form of public death) and sex, of course, are integrally linked, inextricably. Think: slut shaming, walk of shame, wall of shame. These are expressions of shamed-sex, deviance, socially unacceptable, judged, and not unsurprisingly, attached to women, harkening back to Victorian attitudes (and long before) of chastity as the creation of desire.

Shame is encoded emotion, powerfully influencing conduct and thought. As such, it is culturally differentiated. And because cultural mores are inherited and amassed over time punctuated with archaic notions of wrong and right, anachronisms, they are often arbitrary and illogical even as they are organizational and self-policing sources for a society.

Take for example, China’s concubine culture historically as well as its modern day mistress culture–the acceptance that wealthy men, at least, have mistresses–(See Jeffrey Hays’ facts and details; the Daily Beast on concubine and mistress culture in China; and chineasy.org)
and juxtapose it against the social “norm” or trend (I claim ignorance) for mistresses to be publicly shamed and beaten for being a mistress. Those two dispositions appear contradictory and hypocritical. Nevertheless, shame is the unifying factor and violence the universal expression in these public beatings.

All parties to this public spectacle are shamed, ashamed or shameful, the beating wives/girlfriends, the mistresses, the onlookers who do nothing and the men who cheat silently turning their eyes from the scenes are all enmeshed in guilt, shame, regret, embarrassment, red-faced and angry.

The wives/girlfriends are beleaguered with the shame of their failings. Why did their husbands find someone else? Where did they fall short? What do they lack? The mistresses are shamed–and guilty–by the laws of marriage and the principles of honesty. Why are they not marriage-worthy? Why must they feel excitement only with secrecy and deception? Who are they hurting? The onlookers regret this public scene and ask themselves about their own motives and derelictions of duty, desire, honesty, guilty about their own inability to act to help the mistress, to take a stand somewhere on the issue, to upheave. And the missing men, well, there are so many questions they ask, don’t ask, should ask, are asked of them. Why do they cheat? Because they can.

So, while there are obvious questions about the dynamics, ethics, morals, justice and character of a society in which mistresses are beaten by gangs of women in the streets while onlookers look away, it is not enough to dismiss it as just a cultural idiosyncrasy as there are human constants underscored here that need recognition: shame dehumanizes and when is it ever acceptable in a society to dehumanize, given the world’s susceptibility to genocide (a hop, skip and a jump away from “mere” dehumanization)?

On the other hand, when judging behavior, the context is important. Part of the strategy to avoid dehumanization is understanding the causes and motivations of behaviors, not necessarily to excuse, but to come to conclusions (and judgments) with circumspection, respecting the complexity of the participants of such a violent practice, for participants and onlookers alike. Sensibilities, of course, are culturally predetermined too, so perhaps the violence of the act isn’t experienced in China to the same degree and in the same way American eyes experience such a display.

When we look upon and judge others, the looking itself is a cause, effect and manifestation of the behavior. Shame is caused by the gaze of others; when we separate ourselves the inner self of desire from the outer self of public expectation, we gaze upon ourselves. Shame is the mistress. Her role is shame-defined by the public but desire is her only transgression, she the victim of the violence of shame. Her “crime” was to consensually engage in love or sex with a man who desired her. She is merely a scapegoat.

The mistress is the metaphoric umbrella for all the dynamics of emotion, psychology, power, artifacts and action called human in this scenario. She is catalyst, container, and contained. In the larger contemplation, she is the metaphor of love’s mind, spirit and body–and is least blameworthy.

Why the People Should Not Mete Out Justice

“It is a curious subject of observation and inquiry, whether hatred and love be not the same thing at bottom. Each, in its utmost development, supposes a high degree of intimacy and heart-knowledge; each renders one individual dependent for the food of his affections and spiritual life upon another; each leaves the passionate lover, or the no less passionate hater, forlorn and desolate by the withdrawal of his object.”
― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

“This day of torment, of craziness, of foolishness—only love can make it end in happiness and joy. —W. A. Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte, Le Nozze di Figaro (1786)”
― Martha C. Nussbaum, Political Emotion

“What do you regard as most humane? To spare someone shame.” Friedrich Nietzsche

“Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power’s disappearance.
Hannah Arendt

Chinese mistress beaten in the streets by a mob of women marks new trend of wronged women meting out punishment in China. This disturbing bit of news brings to mind so many social, moral, and philosophical questions such as the meaning of justice, the role of power and violence and social contracts. But mostly, it is a disturbing lack of humanity to use shame as a method of punishment.

The details of this bizarre story may be found here:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2791108/mob-rule-chinese-adulteress-stripped-naked-beaten-senseless-latest-attack-kind.html