Monday, January 23, 2017

Extraordinary “Make American Great” Circus

 After 146 years, the curtain is coming down on "The Greatest Show on Earth."
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus have moved to the White House
This has been a very difficult decision for me and for the entire family
From gold toilet seats and swoosh elevators to blue carpets and glass windows

White house staff adopted quickly, as attendance has been dropping for 10 years
Sean Spicer brought the figures up, small hands bore no reality in a 12-minute segment
This event was the longest segment—a tiger act—modified with CGI and alternate facts
A magician and a tiger, a new act with a roar and a growl to make attendance grow and grow

Ringling Bros. has two touring circuses this season and will perform 30 shows
Representatives for 126 scheduled days while the Senate for three weeks out of each month
But “days” may be half-days while weeks may be three, four or more rarely five days long
No animal cruelty, rest days are for their down time devoted to back handers and lobby gruel

But dark clouds emerge as Los Angeles and Oakland prohibited the use of bullhooks
Hooks that grab elephants by the mouth inflict pain and instill fear on its largest animals
No more oversight committees, ethics challenges and real facts to inflict pain and instill fear
Dipping dots cooling tempers by diverting attention away from the worries of the day

Owners say their existing animals will go to suitable homes.
Lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas
White House agrees as their aging lawmakers will also go to a home
Lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas

Ringling Bros. tried to remain relevant, hiring its first African American ringmaster
Then its first female ringmaster, and also launching an interactive app.
But it was not meant to be, the first female ringmaster did not fit into the White House
They jumped a step, and went straight into the interactive application on Twitter

Exotic animals, flashy costumes and death-defying acrobats, a staple since the mid-1800s
A continuation of the circus tradition with exotic breeds Ryan, Cruz, Rubio, and McConnell
Death-defy feats in front of their peers, some by age some by arrogance, all by ignorance.
Come and see the greatest show on earth, facts optional, memory limited, but its gonna' cost you

Extraordinary plagiarism from Los Angeles times

Friday, July 22, 2016

Twenty-two Million Nightmares

At 2am in the morning, the muezzin sang the prayer for the dead and implored men to go out on the streets to challenge the coup. I did not know this at the time. I had no clue what he was saying. All I could hear, in my groggy disturbed moment of waking, was shouting on the loudspeakers, honking of car horns down the street and the occasional gunfire. My dream state tried to incorporate this cacophony, but eventually I could not ignore the sound of tank gunfire. I was awake.

Alike for those who for TO-DAY prepare,
And those that after a TO-MORROW stare,
A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries
"Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There.”

I was given a book of poems, the Rubiayat written by Omar Khayyam, when I was 8 or 9 years old. An illustrated copy. That early morning in a humid Istanbul suburb I remembered that phrase and looked out to catch the Tower of Darkness. Leaning out of the window, I could not see where the noise was coming from, but it was very close in the valley below where I was staying.  Neither was I preparing for TO-DAY nor was I staring at TO-MORROW. I just wanted to know what is happening in a country in which I do not speak the language.  

I ended going back to bed and catching up on the cacophony of news on the internet. Sailing on a sea of information, the internet is a modern day song of the Lorelei, luring wondering sailors to their death. From one inaccurate news item to another, only the most outrageous news seems befitting my fear. Until reading the news on the monitor invaded my own world and it became all too real. An F-16 was doing fly-bys around the neighborhood. The second time round the fly-by was immediately followed by a sonic boom. At the time I thought we were hit,  a mortar attack. Shaking the building and rattling the closed windows. My body shook with daughter. Shit, we need to find a safer place.

Running into my daughter’s unlit bedroom I could see the whites of her eyes. She was startled awake.
We have to evacuate, there’s a coup going on.
She remained lying down in bed.
What’s a coup?
And that’s when I realized that if we are being bombed I had nowhere to run to.
I think I will make some tea. Things are always better after a cup of tea.
Repeating part of the narrative of a movie, a chick flick, that she made me watch earlier that evening.

She fell asleep quickly after. I stayed up listening to the song of the Lorelei a bit longer until the caffeine and the adrenaline cleared through my system and I fell into a deep sleep.

A week later, just before I was starting my lecture I noticed that all my students were still looking very tired and I was asking them, again, about their experiences. They all had a common theme. That the trauma of that early morning assault was still reverberating with them. They were living their own personal fear. Each one had a different interpretation. They were seeing the event through very different lenses. Some wrote to me excusing themselves from class; anxiety attacks, stomach pain, headaches, not getting enough sleep, all the effects of trauma.

Late at night, in my little dorm room, my daughter safely out of the country, just before I welcome the lulling of sleep, I start thinking of all the Istanbulites, all 22 million of them. I picture them all, looking up at the ceiling from their bed. Eventually sleeping and going through their own personal trauma again and again every night. Recurring nightmares. And falling asleep, I realize that I am one of them tonight. We share a common experience. Even a spiritual one. I will awaken with another nightmare but this time realizing that for the first time I share some of the same experiences with my hosts, there will be  22 million nightmares—and mine--that connect us closer together tomorrow.

© USA Copyrighted 2016 Mario D. Garrett

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Listen Here Young Man

I am already following my advice. Lie.

Never tell the truth. The truth will get you in trouble. Never, ever tell the truth. Only drunks and children tell the truth. At work, at home, in a court of law, anywhere, ever. The truth is a commodity. You never give that commodity out completely. You present it to the outside world as it benefits you. Present the truth. Never ever present it raw for the benefit of people. People cannot digest raw truth anymore. We are too civilized. Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Julian Assange. All the way back to Socrates who could not deal with lying to the Athenian jury and made himself drink the hemlock poison that killed him. You cannot tell the truth. Our communities do not teach us how to accept raw truth. When is the last time you heard a raw truth and thought that they are not crazy? Never tell the whole truth.

Whereas lying will get you, and your family promoted. Lying is a process of making truth palatable. All you have to do is look at successful people and how their story of ascent is littered with so many lies, deceit, and political holes. Such consistency indicates that this is not a failure but a rite of passage. You have to show that you are competent enough to make truth palatable. The list of liars is infinitely longer than that for those who shove raw truth at use. James Frey, Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, Janet Cooke, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Baron Manchhausen…The list seems infinite.

I must come clean after that list. I am not an old fart. I am just 54, and aging is my business. I write about it, I teach it, I research it and I am living it. So, before I too, become “past it” what advice do I have? And “past it” does not refer to being too old to think, or too old to verbalize and write my thoughts down. No. Because I could probably do that till my last day on earth. By “past it “ I mean giving a shit. Caring about other people’s livelihood, happiness and wellbeing. I am getting there. Every day I see the world through rose-colored barbs. People's consistent little selfish behaviors amount to a rejection of our social shared space. I am becoming more understanding that no one cares about what I have to say, and I am becoming less motivated to say it.

So Lie. Lie to everyone but not to yourself. Nobody loves you as much as you do. If you do not love yourself, no one will love you more. Congratulations. Build up the equity in your self worth. Learn about who you are, about the incredible capacity of your body and mind. And start loving yourself. Start now. Stop reading and thank your body and mind for being there for you when, in all honesty, your body and your mind should just give up. So far your body and mind have tried to comply to beliefs about what you should be doing. Things that you were impregnated with (MTV, Facebook, Twitter etc). Close all your accounts. Lets see who you really are. Naked. Stop that digital masturbation. Stop it. Listen to your body, listen your brain. Keep the narration in your head quiet. Can you hear me now?

Listen. There are two parts to listening. First listen to yourself. That incessant narration in the background? That is you. Do not fight it, it is you and it will be there until you die. And the last words you hear will be that narration saying “I told you so.” Accept it. It will always be there. But you do not react. Think of it as shitting. Yes. Unpleasant as it is, but you have to do it. You do not look at your produce and mull over the experience. You do it, produce, flush. Same with the narration. It is going to be there, so accept it, and flush it away by tuning it out. It will be there, but now, muted. You can always go to the bathroom and let it flow out of you. Come out and leave it behind (please flush.)

Listen. The more difficult part of listening is to listen to others. People communicate through words. They want to fuck you, help you, tell you about themselves, express their love, desire and faults, and fuck you some more. Learn to distinguish what they are trying to communicate. This is difficult. When you are young you think you are brilliant. You are not. You might become brilliant, but right now you are fresh meat.

Remember. Most people come with an agenda. Similar to what you think you are but are not. They are hurt, dysfunctional, abused, and hurt some more. Listen to their plea. It is not about you it is about them. Listen and be aware that you do not have to accept them. You can move away. "Yes, I am aware of what happened to you, I understand what you need. I do not want to change you. You are perfect the way you are. I do not need to be part of this. Goodbye." Move away. No drama, no lectures. You do not know any better to lecture, except that they are not for you. So do not lecture. Listen.
Lie, Listen, Learn.

You will die. Your passage is longer than you anticipate, but by the time you get to go, it will seem short. Talk to an older person. Ask them how it feels. They were your age and know—know—the question. Your brain is the best organ you have. It is better than any science, science fiction, porn, avatar, digital game, love. It is the mother of all creation. It created god. Your brain is a product of millennium of development. An X-box of the future, provided without instructions. Learn to use it. It will give you infinite pleasure. Infinite joy. Do not try and control it. Let it be, learn from it. Use any technique to learn.  Listen and learn to distinguish the nuances the subtleties. Like any class. You will always learn something even if it is that this is not for you. You will always learn something if you try to learn. Do something. Engage. Do not listen to your peers. They are in the same position as you. Learn from those that have survived. Learn from older adults. Learn from people who have been there. Lived it. Ask questions about what people have done, and not what they think. Look at outcomes. What have you done? Do not judge. Ask.

And lastly, be gentle.

You will live longer than you think you will. You will likely die in pain. Most will die in an institution. It seems like a long time from now, but think about when you left high school/college. How long ago was that? Time is moving faster the older you get. Remember your physics class. Yes it comes back. Everything comes back. Postmodernist physics. Time is relative. Well it is not longer in the classroom. It is in real life. The older you get the faster time goes by. You are still growing and developing. Your brain right now is mush. But think about this: you will never be younger than now, and your family and friends will never be younger than now. Love them. Whatever you feel, let it out. You have a short lease on life. Use it well. Be gentle on yourself. You are not perfect. Neither is everyone else. Don't hurt yourself, no drugs, protect yourself from head trauma, sleep as much as you can, enjoy the company of people, have intimate and loving sex with people you care for, eat quality not quantity, earn your food, put yourself in new situations everyday, do not do repetitive things, find an exercise you enjoy and do it as often as you can, be active, use your body and most important of all, be gentle with yourself. You will fail and fuck up. Move on.

Lie, Listen, Learn and Be Gentle.

By the time you get to be an old fart you might have some stories to tell. But by then will younger generations listen to you? Pass it on.

© USA Copyrighted 2013 Mario D. Garrett

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wisdom of Older Adults : From Teacher to Master--Pedagogues to Hegemon.

Older people as teachers and mentors misses the true meaning of accumulated experience...wisdom.

Pedagogues and teachers in ancient Greek society were slaves–often foreigners and the ‘spoils of war’. Pedagogues were trusted members of rich households who accompanied the children of their ‘masters’ everywhere, including sitting beside them at school and helping them with their homework. These pedagogues were seen as ‘tenders’ of children (pais plus agögos, a ‘child-tender’). Prepubescent children were often put in their charge until late adolescence.

Basically a pedagogue is a child minder. And not just any child, but minders of the children of the rich. Friere’s (1972) notion of the ‘pedagogy of the oppressed’–the education of the privileged by the oppressed is an apt interpretation. Especially in line with policy makers low regard for teachers. Teachers are treated as lowly oppressed child minders for the rich.

But older adults teach not only children but adults. Malcolm Knowles (1970) was so convinced that adults learned differently to children that he created a new term–andragogy, as the art and science of helping adults learn–against pedagogy. But andragogy does not help the definition of wisdom of older adults.

Within ancient Greek society there was a strong distinction between the activities of pedagogues (paidagögus) and subject teachers (didáskalos). Didactic, the aim to instruct and teach morals or subject content. The Swedish researcher David Hamilton observes that United States usage of ‘pedagogy’ mirrors the mainland European use of ‘didactic’. The implicit meaning in the USA is that pedagogy is teaching and didactic is the method of teaching. But this does not define older adults as teachers.

Plato talks about pedagogues as ‘men who by age and experience are qualified to serve as both leaders (hëgemonas) and custodians (paidagögous)’ of children. Hegemony-derived from the Greek egemon, meaning “leader, ruler, often in the sense of a state other than his own” Although hegemony has been commonly used to indicate political predominance, where one ideology associated with one country, takes over the aspirations of the citizens of another country, little has been written on the hegemon, the individual that starts the idea rolling. A lot has been written in sociological literature on hegemony. The Italian political analysts, Gramsci comes to mind. But what about the individual who influences whole societies and the creation of new societies.  There is truly one such man and it is not whom you are thinking of.

Only a few fragments of Epicurus's 300 written works remain. But what has been salvaged has some pertinence to gerontologists. They are subversive and radical. For Epicurus (341 BC – 270 BC) the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught in "gardens", that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and evil; death is the end of both body and soul and should therefore not be feared; the gods do not reward or punish humans; the universe is infinite and eternal; and events in the world are ultimately based on the motions and interactions of atoms moving in empty space. Epicurus explicitly warned against overindulgence because it often leads to pain. He was against the ego, which is why he was not interested in politics and argued for people to "live in obscurity", "get through life without drawing attention to yourself".

But Epicurus influence was more than his followers, he influence the creation of new societies. He is a hegemon who influence the dominant hegemony of today, the United States. Thomas Jefferson who considered himself an Epicurean established that  "all men are created equal" and endowed with certain "inalienable rights," such as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." His emphasis on minimizing harm and maximizing happiness in his formulation of the Ethic of Reciprocity "One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself" was later picked up most religious doctrine. Epicurus influenced the French Revolution, and other philosophers like John Locke, who wrote that people had a right to "life, liberty, and property." Even Karl Marx's doctoral thesis was on "The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature." Epicurus influenced many other philosophers who themselves become hegemons in their own right. Friedrich Nietzsche cites affinities to Epicurus in a number of his works. Epicurus contribution was subversive. He unacknowledged that fear of death and punishment as the primary cause of anxiety among human beings, and anxiety in turn as the source of extreme and irrational desires.

In our modern world where we the fear of terrorist as our daily fodder, where we are told to aspire to be the 1% and yet behave as though we are gangsters--tattoos and guns--and a supreme court that is unwilling to discuss our right for assistance at end-of-life--to end our fear of pain at the end of life--the message that Epicurus has is radical. He is a true hegemon.

Older adults wisdom is about marching to an internal drum beat, without ego, without fear. This is the wisdom we can impart. In our small manageable ways we are hegemons in our role. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Turn on, tune in, drop out

I was too young to hear Timothy Leary's rallying call  "Turn on, tune in, drop out." I was born at the tail end of the baby boom, and my experience of the hippy period was bell bottoms and a t-shirt with the two finger peace sign imposed on an American Flag. I was too tall for platform shoes.But I had the afro hair.

Like most of my cohort I envied hippies. Who wouldn't?  Sex drugs and rock & roll. So it is with some feeling of loss when I see that some of those who turned on, tuned in, and dropped out are now looking for another meaning to their life while shopping for cheap incontinence pads at Walmart.

As with most of the tail-end baby boomers, I ignored that period. Oh I  loved the music, but not much else. Could never get into the literature of the time; the Jack Kerouac, Robert A. Heinlein, Ken Kesey, Tom Wolfe, Marvin Harris, Truman Capote. Too anarchic and unstructured. But on the other hand I loved the storytelling of John Updike, Harper Lee, Anthony Burgess, Ken Kesey, Nikolas Schreck, Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Frank Herbert,  Sylvia Plath, and Kurt Vonnegut (Vonnegut mainly because he was American, I loved everything American.) I loved reading Hermann Hesse, a German author who did much of his writing in the 1920s but was read in the 60s.

So wind forward half a century and that mantra still haunts me."Turn on, tune in, drop out" Until this year. I never understood the existential meaning of that phrase. Now with the National Security Agency not only spying on everything we do both in the privacy of our emails, phone calls and letters, but also everything online, and then sharing this information with other alien countries, I have a strong feeling that we need to re-energize the mantra again. Except this time lets make it digital "Turn on, tune in, drop out." Turn on, make sure that you know what is happening, tune into the movement with like minded individuals, and drop out of Facebook, Twitter. LinkedIn and blogger....


I am in a boutique hotel on the mediterranean coast in Southern Turkey in the old Walled City of Antalya. Alone in the courtyard of the hotel. Three in the morning, I cannot sleep. The only place I can get internet. The courtyard is within an old building in the old city. Narrow paved windy roads fenced in by exclusive hotels developed from old rich properties. The night revelry still lingering outside (which is why I am awake.) But I am in a quiet bubble inside this cocoon. Surrounding me are feral cats. They own the city and they are everywhere. Well-fed it seems. Sometimes meeoing, but mostly quiet and observant. We are alike in many respects. Well-fed definitely her in Turkey.
Two blazoned tanned older men in their underwear. Their stomach hanging proud come into the courtyard smoking and talking German. I leave to the cleaner air of my room and losing my internet.

Back in my room, I read residue of my opened web pages. There are new reports that show that sunscreen helps the skin look younger. I want my skin to look its age. I want my smile lines to be permanent fixture. I want to be reminded of all the happy times I have had on this earth before I die. A testament to the fact that I lived my life, risked everything and not given a damn about the consequences. That my ego need not know whether I won or lost, but that I tried my damnest. A testament that my lease on life was well used. Perhaps that is the point. Perhaps it is hiding a life not lived well that others are trying to hide. I smile more creases on my face and realize that I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow. I am renting a car for the first time in Turkey and I will drive to Termossos. I know I will create some good wrinkles tomorrow. I already started as I smirk falling asleep.