Talking Trash and Taking Names in Bad Barrels

5 02 2007

This week Daryl Cobranchi asks how some homeschool parents in “support” groups can go so wrong and be such reactionaries.

Been there, done that. If I learned anything from all that tortured logic, it was that you can’t think and understand from the depths of a trash barrel. So the first step I took toward enlightenment was seeing the light at the top of the barrel, realizing the need to GET OUT!

Psychology situationists might describe schools and organized homeschool groups as either “poor” or “privileged” worlds that shape the choices of all individuals good and bad within them. The situation defines, inspires and/or degrades the individual by influencing one’s responses, thinking, independence, the quality of one’s relationships and choices, perhaps even our humanity itself.

Any situation that makes you anonymous and gives permission for aggression will bring out the beast in most people. That was the start of my interest in showing how easy it is to get good people to do things they say they would never do.

This article lights up some high-score bonuses in the pinball game of my thinking. Anonymity, boredom, intellectual impoverishment, an environment where aggression against others is tolerated, modeled, perhaps even rewarded . . . sounds like some places I’ve fallen into, school environments, workplaces, legislative offices, home education “support” too. (Thankfully never a family environment, but I meet many not so lucky.)

There’s so much to think about, when one isn’t out wilding around the social jungle or souring in a bad barrel somewhere. For example, a psychiatric researcher-author I’m reading now argues that “force always succumbs to power” — think of that!

It could apply to everything in life, but let’s take education for now.

Suppose those of us deeply committed both to informed individual choice and enlightened social progress, would focus in like a laser on the meanings of this one phrase.

Could we then overcome the FORCE of compulsory public schooling, embedded mythic beliefs, boredom, aggression, and gang warfare, simply through the unmoving and peaceful POWER of real public education as self-evident and irresistible?

To paraphrase:

Force is partial and limited by definition, causing some movement from here to there against opposition, and always creating counterforce. It requires constant feeding of energy, also constant defense, and thus polarizes and saps rather than unifying and giving strength. Power is still and complete, immutable and self-evident; it has no energy needs nor need of defense; it moves everything that comes within its field of influence, but not itself. (Like gravity?)

Force is concrete, literal, always arguable.

Power is based on self-evident principles (like the Declaration of Independence and Constitution?) and simply “is” without argument or proof (like the contemplative power of Socrates’ six questions?)

True power comes from the meaning of life itself. (Sounds like my “power of story” mantra, yes?)

Does this suggest that bad-barrel homeschool groups reduce themselves and others to social force and counterforce, even as they miss the whole point of true power to change the world one person at a time?

What a waste if so, to reduce the unlimited power of intellectual freedom principles — human consciousness itself! — to nothing more than some bored reactionary’s irrational rant about petty force, locked in perpetual push-back against progress.

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7 responses

5 02 2007
Daryl Cobranchi

Yesterday my wife asked me why I bothered arguing with those folks. I didn’t have a good answer.

A wise woman, my wife.

5 02 2007
misedjj

Yes, I’ve admired her from afar, for that! 🙂

Pam Sorooshian was wise that way too, took her a lotta years and grief to get across the same self-evident principle to me . . .

6 02 2007
COD

I have not been on a homeschool email group in 6+ years for this exact reason. The signal to noise ratio is never favorable.

6 02 2007
misedjj

On NPR right now I’m listening to a female Muslim author talking with Terry Gross about her new novel, “The Bastard of Istanbul.” She’s also a professor of near-eastern studies in Arizona. All signal, no noise! 🙂

I don’t even know her name yet, never heard of her before but I’d jump into her barrel! Her accent and speaking voice are incredibly beautiful and rich, as are her thoughts. I feel enriched, better somehow just for hearing it. (The opposite of how I feel hearing the usual nyah-nyah stuff online or in the news media.)
They just finished discussing in a fair, calm, informative and even oddly respectful way, how her own Turkish language is been ruined by the radicals in power, and how authors and intellectuals are being killed there. Her new novel is written in English.

Before that, she described her two grandmothers as representing two completely different “interpretations” of Islam, one masculine and fear-based, literal and rule-oriented. Her mother’s mother was full of love and flow, modeled religion as open negotiation. 🙂

If force succumbs to power, women like this are definitely power! This charming, well-educated and intellectually gifted woman says she sees her own curiosity as more important than her courage, and her own spirituality as “Sufi-like” or inner essence, connected to every religion (not just Muslim), rather than defined or dictated by rule and law, external, spread by fighting others rather than loving them.

I HOPE I was hearing the voice of our future.

2 05 2007
Don't Miss This NPR Audio Tonight! « Cocking A Snook!

[…] any brutality (including unimaginable emotional abuse) committed on the weak and subservient, the moment they are made into authority figures and perceive their control is challenged by those en…. And it’s also about The Emperor’s New Clothes, why good people can’t […]

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[…] and I discovered the author at edge.org. He’s the “bad barrel” expert we studied, trying to understand the Lucifer Effect in homeschool and online groups, as soon as even normal, […]

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