Friday, 12 June 2020

MELANATED PEOPLE
(2019)

A revolution is not a dinner party or writing an essay or painting a picture or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous.

Image of the founder of the People’s Republic of China: Mao ZedongMao Zedong (-), founder of the People’s Republic of China. Report, March (published in Selected Works, volume 1, ).

Summary: [Review Summary].

A s its editor and former publisher, I would have liked to flatter myself into believing that John Taylor Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down was both his first book and his most popular. Unfortunately, and by a long stretch, neither is true. That will come as a surprise to many, who are most familiar with this book in its earlier green‑and‑black cover incarnation, or with John’s two more recent books The Underground History of American Education (that’s the big, fat one) and A Different Kind of Teacher (a blue hardcover).

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Melanated People

What's Wrong with the Melanated people Website is what's wrong with Melanated people:

  1. Black people are so scared of White people that they feel they must serve the White monster that is killing them - by cowering in fear of it - for fear of being killed sooner;
  2. insecure Black people want to be accepted by White people so use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, because they feel that supporting White and Jewish businesses will help obtain them this illusory social acceptance;
  3. Black people have little to say about their own experience because they have, like White supremacists, chosen to pretend that what is actually happening to them isn't really happening to them and that the Lord will somehow provide;
  4. Melanated People does not use enough standard English to communicate; alienating potential followers in the way of foreign-language film with subtitles would. This is done to vainly disguise a certain lack of depth in the text. It's not that I do not understand what is being said, it's that I don't understand why you should use verbose and time-wasting slang to communicate with strangers who might not know the code. Is it because you are not really interested in actual communication? Or is it because you have nothing of substance to impart?
  5. there is no chat section to the Website which could be used to discuss relevant issues. The best I've seen along these lines is Kialo;
  6. the founder does not state, in clear English, what purposes the Website serves - in easy-to-read bullet-points; eg; safe-space for Black people; business promotion; discussing Black issues; promoting political causes; etc. People need a clearly-defined reason to take part in anything;
  7. the Website is not promoted enough and is not clearly shown to be a credible alternative for Black people to such Sites as Facebook;
  8. too much wishful-thinking; eg, good will prevail without effort, gloating over White decline, Kemet will rise again, astrology, Hotep bullshit, religious self-delusion, Christian bullshit, etc, and not enough positive call-to-arms regarding practical issues; eg, consistent application of cultural values, business ownership, local political involvement, buy Black, Black Empowerment, gun ownership, Wealth (not income) Matters, Education, self-employment, etc;
  9. charging for membership is problematic because other sites are free. This can only be justified if the content is much better.

Ultimately, Melanated People is a reflection of the disarray and disorganisation and disunity of its potential audience. Only with far greater effort from Users can this Website be a beacon for Black people to reverse the declining and degraded state of Black culture worldwide.

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Kesey’s magnificent novel, as well as the excellent movie featuring a young Jack Nicholson (not recommended until you’ve read the book!), is the story of a rebel – one Randall Patrick McMurphy – who finds himself (or rather finds a way to get himself) inside a state psychiatric institution in the 1960s. Once within, he discovers himself bound by a web of rules, procedures, and protocols – really, kid gloves – behind which stands an iron fist of violence and repression, all designed of course for “the patient’s own good.”

In scene after scene, McMurphy probes the boundaries of the forces that stand behind the institution – “the Combine” – which comes to be symbolized by “The Big Nurse” who controls the ward and ultimately holds the fate of each of the patients in her hands. Let me not ruin the book for you. I suggest you go out and read it, alongside your teenager if you have one, or, if you’ve read it once before, read it again, with new eyes.

Sadomasochism has always been the furthest reach of the sexual experience: when sex becomes most purely sexual, that is, severed from personhood, from relationships, from love. It should not be surprising that it has become attached to Nazi symbolism in recent years. Never before was the relation of masters and slaves so consciously aestheticized. Sade had to make up his theater of punishment and delight from scratch, improvising the decor and costumes and blasphemous rites. Now there is a master scenario available to everyone. The color is black, the material is leather, the seduction is beauty, the justification is honesty, the aim is ecstasy, the fantasy is death.

Image of essayist Susan Sontag US essayist. Under the Sign of Saturn, “Fascinating Fascism” (; first published ).

Kesey’s novel takes place against a backdrop of relentless institutional conditioning. While meetings on the ward may seem to be democratically organized and inmates – no, here they are called “patients” – are urged toward accountability, one quickly realizes that there is no democracy at work in the asylum and that accountability is a sham. Inmates are tracked, without their consent, into well‑demarcated groups as acutes and chronics, and then further subdivided into walkers, wheelers, and vegetables. The highest value to the Combine is neither democracy nor accountability, but compliance, pure and simple, and its favorite stratagem is to divide and conquer. And if that doesn’t work, there are always drugs. Hmm.

Sadomasochism has always been the furthest reach of the sexual experience: when sex becomes most purely sexual, that is, severed from personhood, from relationships, from love. It should not be surprising that it has become attached to Nazi symbolism in recent years. Never before was the relation of masters and slaves so consciously aestheticized. Sade had to make up his theater of punishment and delight from scratch, improvising the decor and costumes and blasphemous rites. Now there is a master scenario available to everyone. The color is black, the material is leather, the seduction is beauty, the justification is honesty, the aim is ecstasy, the fantasy is death.

Image of essayist Susan Sontag US essayist. Under the Sign of Saturn, “Fascinating Fascism” (; first published ).

I doubt that a set of Monarch Notes has ever been heaped with literary praise before, but Gatto’s is much deserving. His description of the Keseyan institutional world contained in this incendiary set of crib notes (he even quotes Che Guevara: “Educate your enemy, don’t kill him, for he is worth more to you alive than dead”) is as compelling as the novel itself. He describes the Combine that controls this little world as “an all‑powerful, earth‑girdling, brain‑destroying association of technocrats … intent on building a world of precision, efficiency, and tidiness … a place where the schedule is unbreakable.” “In such a world,” he writes, “there is neither grief nor happiness; nobody dies – they only burn out and are recycled; actually, it is a rather safe place, everything is planned – there are neither risks nor surprises.”

Gatto argues that within this world, “[w]ords and meaningless routines insulate people from life itself, blind them to what is happening around them, and deaden the moral faculties.” The defense to this charge – ironic, of course, as he notes – is that the Big Nurse delivers charity baskets to the poor. Pivotal to Kesey’s novel, according to Gatto, “is the cataclysmic revelation that the inmates of the asylum are not committed but are there of their own free will.” And the way they are controlled, ultimately, is through guilt, shame, fear, and belittlement. Double hmmm.

Sadomasochism has always been the furthest reach of the sexual experience: when sex becomes most purely sexual, that is, severed from personhood, from relationships, from love. It should not be surprising that it has become attached to Nazi symbolism in recent years. Never before was the relation of masters and slaves so consciously aestheticized. Sade had to make up his theater of punishment and delight from scratch, improvising the decor and costumes and blasphemous rites. Now there is a master scenario available to everyone. The color is black, the material is leather, the seduction is beauty, the justification is honesty, the aim is ecstasy, the fantasy is death.

Image of essayist Susan Sontag US essayist. Under the Sign of Saturn, “Fascinating Fascism” (; first published ).

And now, telescoping the next 25 years of his career, Gatto tells us the way out. “The way out of the asylum,” he writes, “is literally to throw out the control panel, on a physical level smashing the reinforced windows, on a symbolic spiritual level becoming independent of rules, orders, and other people’s urgencies.” “Self‑reliance,” he concludes, “is the antidote to institutional stupidity.”

We should all express our gratitude that John Gatto took his own advice and, beginning with Dumbing Us Down, has undertaken to tell us what life is really about “on the inside,” as if, in our heart of hearts, we didn’t already know. Like Chief Bromden – the supposedly deaf‑and‑dumb Indian in Kesey’s novel who finally finds his own voice – he managed to steal away. Well, perhaps that’s not the best possible description, for John has made rather a big splash! And I have been privileged to have helped the resultant wave along.

When I first read what was to become Dumbing Us Down in manuscript back in late 1989, it provided an almost unique answer to a conundrum I had not been able to figure out for myself. My older daughter was two at the time – long before my own book And the Skylark Sings with Me was even a glint in my eye. I was beginning to read up on education writers, both those who occupied the deep left end of the pond and those who swam in a “less sinister” direction.

What was most striking to me at the time – and remains so to this day – was how much they occupy the same pond. Their descriptions of the world of public education closely parallel each other, even if they view underlying causes differently. They all emphasize what seem to them to be the obvious deficiencies of public education. More often than not, though with different points of emphasis, they note the boredom, the mindless competition, the enforced social and economic stratification, the lack of any real engagement – academic or otherwise – the brutality and violence, the “soul‑less‑ness” that characterizes what passes for education these days. From Alfie Kohn (liberal) to Thomas Sowell (conservative), they wax poetic about the shortcomings of modern schooling, though their antidotes are often worlds apart. And all my friends had stories of themselves as inmates (oh, sorry, I meant “students”), being shamed, embarrassed, harassed, brutalized, drugged, inflicted with boredom, or just plain ignored – and they remembered these experiences far more vividly than anything they were ever ostensibly taught.