"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Sep 26, 2011

Advice For Children, Unsolicited

Do not trust knowingly decent people. It isn't their native temperament. They want more than simple kindness, or good faith. They want security, the promise of reward, or to pretend that they can have them, and that eventually means: the cops. A person who cultivates good manners wants something. He wants it from you, and doesn't have enough respect or regard for you to just come out and ask you for it.* He doesn't even have the honesty of the thief, or the mugger.

Actively suspect the man or woman who demands decency of others. Suspicion is a healthy reply - perhaps the only one - to the insistence on polite discourse and the manners of civilized company. It's an extraction: show good breeding, and we won't treat you like barbarians. The school mistress and the proctor are working for the boss. Always. Don't take my word on it. Look at the signature on their checks.

Hate - and with every possible flavor of that word - the preachers of good manners and polite discourse. They would have the world be what it is not, in favor of a world that never was. Also, they want to kill you. Or have you be an animated corpse. The world doesn't behave. Look out the window. The cloud doesn't obey a law of fluid dynamics. It is dynamic. The law at best describes what is no more. People are more and less complex than the interplay of water vapor and air currents. A person who insists on decency, who preaches politeness, wants the stone of suffering to hit the waters of memory and leave no ripple, no wake and not even the sound of its drop.

Laugh at the boldly indecent. Or with them. It doesn't matter. Really, it doesn't. The jester can toss a bauble, or slip poison into the drink. Especially when she's faking it...

* - Gracian would disagree. Or maybe it's that he agrees with me. Gracian instructs, like Machiavelli. You can read Machiavelli in order to raise a prince. Or bring him down.

(Thanks to Al Schumann for the window to the muse's fountain...)


Slim Charles said...


This is a great post. A _great_ post, about which there is a lot to say. Especially because it characterizes one of the things that has always irritated me about academia (the place in which I now find myself).

But your mention of the "cops" again, brings up an issue. Now, I know you're probably not going to go along fully with me on this, especially because you're an anarchist.

But isn't it fair to say: the cops are the "opponent" but not the enemy?

Ok, so: take those Wall Street protesters who were recently treated badly by the cops. There's youtube video of them being thrown on the ground and kneed, or hit, etc. etc. Now, ok look: I'm entirely on the side of the protesters and not on the side of the cops there. But still: isn't the issue there that these protesters were shocked to be treated so "indecently"?

Isn't part of the issue that, for example, at least President Obama behaves in a "decent" manner towards them as he imposes the very austerity that is ruining their lives. But the cops do not _behave_ decently. They will grab you and throw you to the ground if you step on any part of Wall Street's territory that doesn't belong to you.

So the key is not to fetishize the _"indecent" treatment_ of the cops but to remember that the more significant enemy is the Wall Street oligarchs and their hirelings.

In fact the entire point of protest is in fact to provoke that indecent treatment: to expose the real face of all that "decency" for what it is.

In other words, I'm saying that on the hierarchy of opposition, the "decent" Wall Street investors and their hirelings are the real enemy, and the "indecent" working-class cops who throw you to the floor are in fact merely the "opponent."

In other words: cops do not learn dissimulation and cunning. They do not smile as they lay you off like George Clooney in that one movie. No: they just "do their job" and show you what you're really facing.

Jack Crow said...


That's a whole lot to think on, and I wish Coldtype would drop by to contribute on this one, because he is a police officer, IIRC.


We're about to have home made biscuits as an addition to our breakfast night. Hope you don't mind too terribly if I eat on it.

Anatole David said...

Manners, good breeding, and politesse, are cultural mores that reinforce how we should smile, and smile again, and never get upset in the presence of our oppressors. Their smiles are fueled by impoverishing and brutalizing the disadvantaged. It is the secular liturgy of Liberalism--"don't make a scene, or be rude"--"these formalities are sacred"--Akin to the obloquy of corporate media towards racism when they're policies inflict a classism that falls overwhelmingly on poor minorities.

Slim Charles makes an excellent point. The true oppressors hire people from lower classes to brutalize protestors or those who step out of line--they're the front line saps who get the brick bats as the Elites they brutalize for applaud from above. Yes, Obama and the Wall Street finance cartels he works for are the enemy. Cops are used, much like Soldiers in foreign lands, to fight blowback from the structural violence they're recruited to uphold and defend.

Property of the looting class over people globally. The war is becoming more visible here in the "Homeland". They're not above throwing some of your own against you. The history of Societal upheavals is rife with self interested collaborators. The Middle Class is a collaborative class. The fact it is disappearing in Liberal Democracies means the mask must fall and brutality has to deepen. Prison rates have to increase and debt peons have to be kept in line. Why can't they just be more polite? Maybe then the people who exploit and brutalize them would be kinder, gentler? (laughter)

Violent oppression and privation can't be defeated through peaceful means or reformism. But that's the sermon 24/7. Obama even preached it to Egyptians braving gunfire and beatings from Mubarak's mukhbarat. No solace to the people of Bahrain, arms deals and naval base for the 5th fleet. And he's been conspicuously silent on the Wall Street protests. Unrest brings uncertainty and that hurts the Market. We must propitiate the Market at all costs. Making a scene and being rude is just uncool.

Protest and savage humor are excellent tools(here I'd like to recommend a novel by Albert Cossery, "The Jokers"). Enjoy the Biscuits and keep whetting the sharpest dagger of all, a conscious mind.

Slim Charles said...

Oh yes, Jack, by all means enjoy the home made biscuits! You've earned them with this great post...

Coldtype said...

I think Slim and AD have covered the ground very well here Jack.

We haven't the power to be true enemies of the working class and many of us are barely hanging on by a thread. Most of us are moonlighting in second or third jobs when not in our monkey suits as Centurions for Capital. The current attacks on public sector employees across the Homeland™ has finally allowed the scales to fall from the eyes of even the most committed. With Rahm Emanuel now signing our checks here in Chicago we've had the opportunity to see the mechanics of this process up close and personal following his decimation of the Chicago Teacher's Union.

Bottom line, cops are as accustomed to following orders as to giving them so there's still a long hard climb ahead before effective solidarity emerges between those committed to undermining a corrupt system and those whose primary function is to ensure its survival.

Anonymous said...

Who are you calling children, Jackie?

Soma said...

I knew there was a reason I bought Machievelli over Marx.

Mark S said...

Jack, here's an unlikely (at least until you think about it) request to republish this elsewhere. I edit a group blog on autism and social change at www.shiftjournal.com. Categories for posts run from Politics to Evolution to The Unconscious, yet our single-day traffic record belongs to a guest contribution titled Spotting Psychopaths in the Workplace. Those who lack experience (children of all ages) and those who lack agility (autistics, again of all ages) in navigating social cues and currents have I think similar needs, met in good measure by your advice here. Googling the words Good Manners Reconsidered in fact will bring you to an early essay of mine at Shift that while less direct feels remarkably parallel, at least to me. (For that matter Savannah hit much this same spot just 11 days ago, with Sometimes it feels like Nice is a Dirty Word.)

Given that I'm a longtime, regular, and deeply appreciative reader (back anyway to lambert's mentioning you at Corrente) maybe these parallels aren't quite so remarkable; in any case with your permission I'd very much like to republish Advice to Children at Shift. First-time visits there can be disorienting to some, depending on how thoroughly their conception of autism has been mediated by various well-funded media campaigns, but anyone familiar with Corrente having attained the distinction of being "the notorious C-list blog that everyone hates and no one reads" will have some idea of where Shift stands in relation to Big Autism.

As with other contributed posts, attribution and links back to your original would be included. I can be reached through the contact page at Shift if you'd like to reply elsewhere. And in any case thanks, Jack, for all you're doing here, from a dedicated lurker (though this is my second comment; I wound up with The Ballad of Billy and Oscar on replay for so long that I now have it memorized).

Jack Crow said...

I fell and smashed my knee last night. Gave up on the day, went to bed. Thanks patience.


Slim, Anatole, Coldtype -

I would like to hear what you're saying with regard to the police. I can ken the argument, intellectually. But, having been on the receiving end of the ministrations of law enforcement, I have visceral memories which negate the intellectual.

A question, by way of reply: can you forgive the jailer just because he doesn't run the jail? How about the hangman, even though the town elders paid for the cost of the gallows?


Marx has his value, but Machiavelli and Gracian are readable, no?

Mark S,

You are welcome to use the original, above.

It's interesting to read you on the conflict between the medical establishment (Big Autism, the attempt to cure the condition) and those struggling as persons who happen to be autistic.

It's not unlike efforts to "cure" homosexuality, perhaps?

Many months ago, I was reading at Charlies Stross's site, and he'd hosted a discussion about the near impossibility of interstellar travel, laying out the costs in stark terms. A discussion of colony ships, et cetera, followed. One of the respondents suggested, as grist for a novel and an intellectual exercise, that the only people really suited to space travel and colony ships were those who were autistic. Thoughts?


My kids, mostly. They read this blog, mostly with an eye to mocking me. A practice (the mockery) much encouraged in our household. My oldest is learning to tell me off with panache. And two days ago, he did a caricature impression of me that brought us all to our knees in laughter.

But, as truthfully, I think it unseemly to offer counsel or advice to grown women and men. So, the better to address it to theoretical children.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Laugh at the boldly indecent.

Ha, Danny Snyder!


Lisa Simeone said...

Amen, Jack and Slim Charles.

I've just been having this discussion at the Boston Review, trying to get through to the cretins who are complaining about how "rude" the Wall Street protesters are.


As for the cops, we've been having intense discussions about them on the October2011 website and in private emails. Too much to go into here. Suffice to say that I agree with Slim Charles that though they are our opponents, they are not necessarily our enemies. They, too, stand to lose their jobs, pensions, health insurance just like we do. Our job -- one of them, anyway -- is to keep telling them.

Justin said...

re: autism

I took the AQ test awhile back somewhat at the request by someone else that I look into it. I scored a 39. I've never been diagnosed, but the realization after reading a bit more that I probably am was an interesting set of moments for me.

I would say that the one area in life that looks like a brick wall for me is navigating social cues. I can pretty much work on any academic or physical subject and within a short amount of time do well, but reading people, especially those I do not know well, is mystifying. Jokes, flirting, and subtle insults all fly right over my head. Most of the time I don't even know that, but sometimes people clue me in later. "Did you realize that guy was fucking with you?" "How did you not realize she was hitting on you?" Etc.

Anyway, still never been diagnosed. Don't really care to get any kind of clinical diagnosis, which in this case is essentially a made up thing based on a loose list of characteristics that fit everyone to a degree. In the context of this post, I wonder how much of the combination of the two affect my own politics. I was given this essay in oral form by my father at a very young age. I am somewhat immune to social cues from anyone whom I don't know, so all that stuff about wanting to get a drink with Bush or Obama's soaring rhetoric, hope, coolness, etc. that are communicated nonverbally from politician to audience, I literally do not perceive or understand.

Mark S said...


>It's interesting to read you on the conflict between the medical establishment (Big Autism, the attempt to cure the condition) and those struggling as persons who happen to be autistic.

And it's a rare pleasure (though not a surprise, considering) to meet someone who already gets it.

>It's not unlike efforts to "cure" homosexuality, perhaps?

That's an analogy I've used many times, most recently by taking as a starting point Joanna Russ' observation that ”Homophobia isn’t there to keep homosexuals in line. Homophobia is there to keep everyone else in line,” and applying it to "autism-phobia." Just as much of the conservative movement can be seen to draw its energy from repressed and projected homosexuality, repressed and projected autism has its part to play as well, and goes a long way toward explaining the bullying dynamic when it isn't primarily about sexuality. At any rate, when you see the panic over the increasing number of children diagnosed with autism, I don't think you're far off if you're reminded of the moral panic over gay recruitment efforts etc. And I'm still bracing for the shit to hit the fan when the religious right connects that rising diagnosis rate with the fact that autistics tend not to be believers.

>Many months ago, I was reading at Charlies Stross's site, and he'd hosted a discussion about the near impossibility of interstellar travel, laying out the costs in stark terms. A discussion of colony ships, et cetera, followed. One of the respondents suggested, as grist for a novel and an intellectual exercise, that the only people really suited to space travel and colony ships were those who were autistic. Thoughts?

Ha. After two decades now drawing my paycheck from behind the wheel of a semi truck, I still feel like I'm "passing" as a truck driver (in my twenties I was a college dropout and a jack-of-all-trades saxophone player). But I do it for the solitude. Having acquired a wife and family about a decade ago, I've come to know the costs and sorrows of not-enough-time-at-home, but being alone in the cab has yet to grow old. I don't know Stross, but just in general were I to begin reading such a novel I'd be leery of seeing it end in failure as a as a cautionary tale for those who would see autistic as a legitimate way to be in this or any other world -- but as a vehicle to explore that legitimacy, I'd say it holds promise.

It bears saying though that of the two prominent autism sites with planet references in their names, I'm far more in sympathy with Whose Planet Is It Anyway? than I am with Wrong Planet.

Thanks in any case for your permission to repost; I'm shooting for tonight around midnight.


No need for a diagnosis; I don't have one myself. Welcome to the largest, oldest secret society in human history -- so secret that we often don't recognize other members (or ourselves), and still have no idea how large the membership is.

d.mantis said...

Great post. Primarily due to the uncomfortable light it shines on me as a parent.

I find myself falling into the trap of replying "cause I said so" in a slightly elevated tone.

I just try to tell my little minions to keep questioning everything and sometimes even daddys get tired and impatient.

Related but tangential; I have always thought that a beginning move toward solidarity could begin with the movement to provide material support to "discharged" or AWOL soldiers. A sort of movement against using the lower class as canon fodder.

Seems that once the grunts wake up, the brass is shit out of luck.

d.mantis said...

re: autism

I find it painfully funny that conditions that do not manifest themselves in but the "advanced Western nations" must be described as that which must be "diagnosed", "treated" or "cured".

My wife (critical care nurse) often comments when seeing the common mental-health-awareness-commercial that its all bullshit. They are taught to study their patients social, demographic and religous background before making decisions. This is because a mental health diagnosis dosen't mean shit in the African bush. Its a fucking fiction in their environment!

Its funny because she never curses otherwise.

Mark S said...


James Hillman (psychologist) noticed that while every culture has a concept of the pathological, what belongs in that category varies widely and tellingly, with no pathological behaviors necessarily in common between cultures. Which arguably makes pathos and "pathological " as a concept at least as fascinating as any particular manifestation. So yeah, I think then it's the idea of taking particular manifestations to be literal pathology that's painfully funny. It may be saying more about the culture that defines the condition than it does about the condition itself.

d.mantis said...

Mark S

But that is my point; our Western culture operates under the assumed premise that our particular perspective of pathology is a literal manifestation. For chrissakes, entire fortune 500 companies make significant profits on such, institutions of higher education (condemnation of the phrase implied) have entire departments devoted to it, we fucking fundamentally alter the way we raise supposedly affected children, on and on.

The notion that we are sold a certain perspective by our overlords comes in many manifestations. Another is what I mentioned earlier ie; pundits and experts sell us on a notion of war to clear the way for the decision makers. Yet wars are not fought by those who actually decide to go to war.

If you see an expert on the street, punch him in the throat.

d.mantis said...


Obviously, the selling of war can happen after the fact. I did not intend to imply it only happened in a single direction just the fact that it does.

Mark S said...


:-D Agreed, was just trying to amplify.

So, assuming that literalization is the problem (which I do) what's an apt response to literalization? It's a problem that for Western Civilization may go all the way back to needing the story of Jesus to be literal in order for it to be meaningful. No other religious culture places such stock in the notion of "really," or has so much to lose were its truths "demoted" to the status of "metaphorical."

When for instance Goering spoke of how easy it is to bring a populace to war by telling them they're really, no really under attack, we all nodded our worried heads, but never dared consider it's our Christian heritage, our readiness to think in binary with us on one side and literal evil on the other, that's being leveraged when Goering's words are borne out time after time. Note that I'm not saying one can't be a Christian and see through war propaganda (for that matter, non-believers are just as susceptible), only that the huge cultural bias toward monotheistic, binary, literal thinking exists a frame of reference or three up from here, and so goes about affecting us, unquestioned and unanswered.

So again, in light of that (assuming it made sense or was at all helpful), what's an apt response to literalization?

d.mantis said...

Mark S

I am wholly unqualified to make such recomendations. Would be tickled to hear our host's insight.

Nevertheless, I will attempt to provide a feeble starting volley.

I think a program of 'de-literalization' would have to begin on many different fronts. For instance, a movement of retaliation against the psuedo-diagnosis in the mental health arena, the movement against more canon fodder I mentioned earlier, a backlash against 'economic interests' and economists in general, a movement of poice in objection to being nothing more than domestic enforcers etc, etc to name just what we have talked about here. These interests are all different but are fundamentally a part of rejecting what the ownership class tells us.

I am reminded of the post here:

To paraphrase, it has to be at the point of attack (read: literalization, work). In other words, numerous, small and disparate reactions against whats being sold that can and hopefully would be brought under a larger umbrella against the sellers themselves.

I use 'disparate' intentionally to reinforce the idea that the subject matter for each reaction is as distinct as the 'reaction' itself. The only similarity is that at the core it is about the top 1% versus everyone else. Distinct, small and mobile is the key to avoid the trap of being marginalized/co-opted.

Mark S said...


Oh, I'm wholly unqualified myself, save perhaps for running myself up a rhetorical pole with no place to go. Was working on Big Ideas fer sure, but they'll have to come out elsewhere.

I'm on board with your suggestions though (I'm all for de-centralized, distributed solutions), and appreciate the comeback, and also being reminded of Jack's assertion that It Should Be Easy For Everyone. What he terms the "conservatarian/bootstrapper ethic" I know as Calvinism; give us a misericorde and a time machine and we'll put an end to this misery before it ever started. :-)


Speaking of misery, I hope your knee is feeling better. Advice is posted at Shift; thanks again. I usually read via rss and never dip into the comments, but I can see I've been missing out here.

Jack Crow said...

What a fantastic conversation. Thank you.

Mark S said...

You're welcome, Jack. Glad I could pay some back.

Don't know if I've missed the rush or not by now, but I put together a quick and dirty hello for your readers over at Shift, here: http://www.shiftjournal.com/2011/09/29/welcome-the-crows-eye-readers/

Mark S said...

Michelle Dawson @autismcrisis: Costs & dangers of politeness http://j.mp/ofhrch “high-stakes situations are especially conducive to politeness-based misunderstandings”

Abstract from the linked study:

We review evidence showing that politeness taxes mental resources and creates confusion about what is truly meant during interactions. While this confusion can be useful in low-stakes situations, it can have negative, even dangerous consequences in high-stakes situations such as flying a plane in an emergency or helping a patient decide on a course of treatment. Unfortunately, high-stakes situations are especially conducive to politeness-based misunderstandings. Although policies that discourage politeness in high-stakes situations are undergoing empirical assessment, we suggest that research is needed on the nonverbal cues that help people disambiguate polite statements.