The Back of My Banner

I’ve seen the back of my banner.

The stripes are as they were, in alternating succession, one moment white in professed innocence, the next red in righteous anger. Thirteen of them, just as intended. The blue is now to the east, oriented to the orient, the rising sun. The stars boastful in their symmetricality.

But now as I see the back panel of my flag, I see the frayed edges, the grounded red stripe nearly dissolved into air. Stars have fallen off, some hang by one of their sword tips, some with hazardous hand sewn back on with blackened thread, bursting in and out of the glossy fabric, slashing the star in gory scores. While others still look fresh from the needle’s eye, having not endured the time since past from their author’s passing, frozen in their royal blue sky.

I see your silhouette from the other side, where I once was. You will not be moved. Nor will I, having seen such a sight. To profess my banner the true banner above yours, I risk a lie shrouded from even my eyes in fickle belief.

Yet here am I, on foreign shores, and find the remainder of civilization upon each arm. They, whom you’ve never considered, make my banner, by democratic decision, not alternative, but true.

And, if you be not careful, it is in their banners that I and my generation will wrap ourselves–having woke from the American Dream, setting off to find liberty elsewhere, waving to our Lady’s back from an outbound boat.

Yellow: Proceed with Caution

reaching-out-from-the-darkness

Is reincarnation a reversible concept? Like a gym pinnie?

Most people like the kickass red side-the one that whispers the reason you don’t like water is because you drowned in a past life. Most people like the red deja vu side … it’s romantic in a weird way. It’s sexy to know where you’ve been.

But no one acknowledges the shitty yellow side that has all the sweat and grass stains from exertion and failed attempts-the one that pulls you forward, towards the morass of what lies ahead. People don’t seem to like the yellow side … it’s not the psychic with the crystal ball who, despite her occupation, has a phone number, or the mysterious bandana-ed tarot card reader in a tent.

I quite like the yellow side. Sure, the nagging imp of deja vu, knocking at the paned glass of your mind, is a fun, yet fleeting guest. But I like even more the benevolent, silent specter of the future gliding into your chest cavity and pulsing an electric current through the speedway of your veins; you hum back to life like a rejuvenated generator and your mind senses that this place or person or thing will be of significance to it … will be integral to your future.

Deja vu yanks you backward by your red collar, halting forward progress, grumbling, “you’ve been here before, you idiot, don’t you remember?”

But future coaxes you onward with lithe fingers, reaching for your yellow, sullied pinnie, whispering, “this is all right. You’re where you’re supposed to be.”

Court the Spark

flint-and-sparks

She has a mind of flint.

Set her against thirsty, hungry, sex-starved vegetation
-So the petalled rose of her cheeks may spring green envy-
And seek not spring nor asphyxiating mud.

Find percussive device of proper density,
Be it sylvan or mountainous or forged in the earth’s heart-like hearth
And wield in the most motherly hand, having birthed ideas from out the brain, warmest womb.

Then, against better judgement, strike her.
From lump inanimate and strawish, abandoned kindling
Leaps forth a spark borne from her electric neurons and synapses.

Now watch the truest holy fire.

Raging with healing, brightest knowledge that consumes the old and
Creates the new, swirling, hypnotic, invasive smoke, she sets the world aflame.
She intermingles with the eternal atmosphere, forever altering.

From peak to peak, then over and under, her flames
Devour and mutilate the old world of
Hunger and mindful darkness and clenched tyrannical fists.

Let this mind, and all like it, succeed that
Ill-famed trinity upon humankind’s throne
For though prejudice and tyranny has mutilated the three,

They and she are one and the same.

Making Cents of Communication

How do we communicate?

Albert Mehrabian, in 1971, conducted a study and famously procured the following statistics: “words (the literal meaning) account for 7% of the overall message, tone of voice accounts for 38% of the overall message, [and] body language accounts for 55% of the overall message” (http://www.bodylanguageexpert.co.uk/communication-what-percentage-body-language.html). But is that all? Can a neat and orderly application of mathematics truly express the complexities of human communication?

I don’t believe so.

There is something else, not accounted for in Mehrabian’s equation, that governs human communication: the zeitgeist. The sociological, political, religious, and overall the “general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/zeitgeist).

If I may call upon the economist and philosopher, Karl Marx, and his ideas presented in Capital, I’d like to redefine our quotidian notions of a value and currency in terms of communication. Marx says, “the utility of a thing makes it a use value”. He is the first to put into words the concept that an object can have a use value irrespective of the effort it took to make it or any value the object had before. As he puts it: “this property of a commodity is independent of the amount of labour required to appropriate its useful qualities”. Therefore, this introduces another party into the equation: someone to determine the value. Marx states that “use values become a reality only by use or consumption: they also constitute the substance of all wealth, whatever may be the social form of that wealth” (https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Capital-Volume-I.pdf). Simply put, an object’s value is determined by the other buyers and sellers within the market.

Additionally, Marx speaks of currency as a numerical or tradeable reflection of the value of commodities. Marx explains, “Now if, in consequence of such a rise or fall in the value of gold, the sum of the prices of commodities fall or rise, the quantity of money in currency must fall or rise to the same extent. The change in the quantity of the circulating medium [will then be reflected in] … its function as a measure of value”. Whether it be gold, silver, green paper, coins, or a check, currency is a fluid, transferrable placeholder for value.

So, if we may translate these Marxist ideas to communication: what is the use value of our communication? What is the currency? This is where the zeitgeist comes into play.

Communication currency has changed, just as economic currency has changed. The use value of communication commodities has come and gone.

Before we had words or body language, we had food. Food was our currency and its use value was astronomically high. It was the difference between life and death. We traded and communicated in food.

Next, we developed gestures, words, and rudimentary forms of writing and pictograms and used these to formulate more efficient means of gathering food. These basic communications were indeed important, but food still reigned as governing currency.

Then with fewer nomadic people and the stabilization of agriculture, came the more elevated idea of religion. We discovered advanced and consistent sources of food, but these methods depended upon such great forces as weather and the earth’s ecological phenomena. In an effort to understand, we attempted to rationalize the unexplainable with concepts of luck, blessings, curses, and deities that oversaw the earth’s movements. The dim beginnings of formalized languages were beginning to settle in, but hardly any groups of people were writing. Therefore, with only words to communicate to each other and to the gods, who would then oversee our acquisition of food, words became the currency, with which to ‘purchase’ food from the gods or each other.

In this way, the use value of words was extremely concentrated. If it reached the ears of the gods, be it blessing, oath, or curse, it would come true. Scholars state that an oath “[implied] a belief, not only in the existence of the being so called upon, but also in his power and inclination to punish the false swearer; and the force of an oath is founded on this belief” (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/secondary/SMIGRA*/Jusjurandum.html). It is given value by the communal, shared belief in this system of justice; just as Marx states, the use value of an oath is determined by the other buyers of belief. Where you put your words is where you put your faith.

This currency in the form of words holds true, even beyond the disappearance of polytheism, on through the rise of monotheism, in the form of prayers, confessions, or curses; what does shift, however, is the use value. We no longer depend on the currency of words for mortal sustenance, but for immortal sustenance. The lord’s name used in vain or a curse word would be heard and could threaten our immortal souls. Once again, we have a shared market that provides the currency its value.

Sometime later, however, just as Marx himself is growing up, humans experience a shift in reality unlike any they had seen before. Something stronger and larger came about that immediately diminished the use value of words. The Industrial Revolution reared Marx to manhood and with him came a new governing set of rules and principles. Capitalism chased out monotheism. The use value of food plummeted-it had become nearly commonplace. With the developments of vast, intercontinental markets came a new belief system, a new market, and a new currency: money. Where you put your money is where you put your faith.

You want Microsoft to succeed, so you invest your money. You want America’s economy to improve, so you buy American. You tell your daughter you love her, but just saying it isn’t enough, so you buy her a new car. You want to share with your children the magic of Christmas, so you buy them toys. You want to obtain an education to pursue the American Dream, so you buy it.

In the first century, exchanging food is communicating.

In the eleventh century, exchanging words is communicating.

In the 21st century, exchanging money is communicating.

 

But now, we have technology and social media-a resource which, by its very name, suggests communication, yet eliminates all but the least significant variable in Mehrabian’s equation. There is a notable lack of communication because words lost their meaning long ago.

But now, we have income inequality where, as of 2014,  the top 0.1% has as much wealth as the bottom 90% (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/nov/13/us-wealth-inequality-top-01-worth-as-much-as-the-bottom-90). Money hasn’t lost its value, but we no longer communicate in money because there isn’t enough to spare. There can be no market if there are no buyers or sellers to determine use value. 

So, how do we communicate? What is our present communication currency? Or what happens when we lose our currency?

What happens when we stop trading altogether?

Check It Out: The One With All the Pictures

Yeah, so, jet lag. My body was either thinking positive thoughts all of yesterday or was running strictly on caffeine. Both are entirely possible. Anyway, 8:30 dawned early this morning. We whisked together a light, healthy breakfast because we had a very special, very important, very relatively early orientation session this morning, for which we […]

via The One With All the Pictures — Temple Theaters Abroad

All Quiet on the Digital Front

January 24, 2017 @ 1303

Well. Another promising day on the Home Page patrol. Skies are clear, with high morale and a high probability of cat videos. Reactions of grades ANGRY or SAD are at a monthly low and the only rogues going live and clogging up the newsfeed are the usual suspects.

Only four notifications to report this morning.

  1. At 4:24 AM: a CandyCrush request from Ellen Lester, that girl who went to your high school and sat with you for two hours at the SEPTA station and thought that made you ‘Nam buddies.
    Recommended course of action: the standard protocol of IGNORE will suffice.
  2. At 6:15 AM: a Poke from your father.
    Recommended course(s) of action: a swift retaliatory Poke or a diplomatic reminder that a call or text are just two of many preferred means of interaction.
  3. At 8:03 AM: a post from Sean Rosen in the group, ‘RHS Class of ’08’ regarding the football team’s latest win.
    Recommended course of action: self-removal from the group with all due haste.
  4. At 8:58 AM: a friend request from Will Garner, the cute mutual friend of Emily’s you met yesterday.
    Recommended course of action: acceptance of request followed by thorough Facebook profile examination for potential girlfriends, boyfriends, or any other romantic interest. (Note: In the event of a noted absence of romantic interest, see the ‘GET IT’ manual located in the ‘Help’ tab.)

Otherwise, it is free Home Page patrolling this morning.

Jeremy shared an AJ+ video; best to watch the first twenty seconds, then scroll on. Oh, good, Lily shared a cat video; best watch the entirety. Nothing that needs immediate attention.

NOW REPORTING: a large body of text. From foe or friend? Ah, an FMF—frequently misguided friend. Subject matter? Oh, dear god. Politics. The fiend! POV? Wrong. Dead wrong. Completely wrong.
Recommended course(s) of action: ignore this blatant attack, which will surely happen again or … dispatch the enemy surely and swiftly with counterattack.

LAUNCH COUNTERATTACK.

Express understanding. Go.
Validate point, superficially. Go.
Standby, switching tactics. Ready …
Tactfully disagree. Go.
Provide crushing textual evidence. Go.
Bring it home! Use evidence against FMF main point. Go.
Increase force of sass in order to …
CONFIRM HE IS WRONG. GO. GO. GO.
All that’s left to do … reply button armed and ready. And. Go.

Well done. Another Facebook FMF forever changed thanks to your thoughtfulness and intellect. Congratulations. The Home Page thanks you.

NOW REPORTING: notification from FMF. ALERT. We have a reply without a like, I repeat, we have a reply without a like. Reply report: several Gs of sass, maximum amount of ignorance, and zero degrees of change.
Recommended course(s) of action: respond with flag of truce or respond with force.

RESPOND WITH FORCE.

LAUNCH SASS.
LAUNCH THE HIGH HORSE.
LAUNCH THE BIG WORDS.
GIVE ‘EM HELL.
Reply button armed and ready. And. BOMBS AWAY.

NOW REPORTING: notification from FMF. Notification from friend of FMF. ALERT. We now have a joint attack and not a like to be seen.
Recommended course(s) of action: respond with flag of truce or fight on both fronts.

FIGHT ON BOTH FRONTS.

LAUNCH GENERALIZATIONS.
LAUNCH THE LOGICAL FALLACIES.
LAUNCH THE HOLIER-THAN-THOU GUNS.
Reply button armed and ready. And. MAKE THEM WEEP.

NOW REPORTING: notification from FMF. Notification from 3 friends of FMF. ALERT. It’s an ambush. You’re in enemy territory. There’s only one way of escape.
Recommended course(s) of action: respond with flag of truce to keep a shred of pride or do not respond, thus admitting you were wrong.

FLAG OF TRUCE.

PULL THE AGE THROTTLE.
Systems reverted to second-grade vocabulary and problem-solving abilities.
Launch the little words.
Launch the emoticons.
Launch attacks on personal attributes.
Launch semblance of concession.
White flag ready. Reply button armed and ready. And. White flag is raised.

 

BATTLE REPORT

Relationship with FMF: Ranging from strained to broken
Likes gained: 0
Friend requests gained: 0
Opinions changed: 0
Big words used: 16
Instances of misconstrued tone: 28
Mental well-being: -35%
Moral well-being: +0.5%

Summary: Not Worth It.
Comments: “We have so much to say, and we shall never say it.”

 

 

Works cited:
Remarque, Erich Maria, and A. W. Wheen. All quiet on the Western front. New York: Ballantine , 1982. Print.

WW Will Listen

I’m sorry.

If I’ve assumed something of you, I’m sorry.
If I made you feel smaller or less important, I’m sorry.
If anyone has waited a moment before murmuring about the ignorance of my statement, I’m sorry.

I assure you I didn’t know.
I assure you I’d want to know
If I’ve hurt you.

Because the two things we can both understand:
The need for kindness and
The want to be kind.

Just because I don’t know
Doesn’t mean I don’t want to know,
Doesn’t mean I can’t learn and do better.

You see, I’ve learned what has been done in the past;
I’ve learned what not to do.
I haven’t learned what to do.

I know now …
It’s time for me to listen—
I’ve been speaking for far too long—
So talk with me as you’d want me to talk with you.

Tell me stories.

Help me laugh, help me cry.
I’ll never know, but I can try.
You’re a person, same as I,
So let me sit beneath your sky.
Won’t say a word or make a sound,
Just listen to your words resound.
Won’t start my mouth until I’ve found
That you and I share equal ground.