Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Think For Your Own Damn Self

Brovic - Blogging since 1903

KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Google thinks I'm in Thailand, and sends me pages in Thai script. Yahoo presumes I'm in Japan, sending me Japanese stuff, in Japanese. Utube thinks I'm in Korea. I know they must know more than I think they know, but the bothersome thing, besides having to translate the pages, is that what they know is incorrect.

Can you relate to that? Ever run up against something like that, when you're on the phone, frustrated, maybe a little heated, and you're ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN the error is at their end? Maybe a credit rating company, the phone company, a government agency, something you bought. A billing. Your transcripts. Wrong identity.* A Hawaiian birth certificate.

'There must be a mistake.'


Su, a local tour guide who possesses limited but passable English skills, is nonetheless an effective communicator. In the instance of the above, or to express frustration with a person, she will narrow her eyes, press her lips into a line, tighten her jaw, grind her teeth, and make a tight wringing motion with her hands, like wringing out a towel, or a chicken's neck...one, two, three times.

Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason, The 'Honeymooners') would do the 'slow burn.' Remember the look ('if looks could kill...') of the Chicago crime boss in 'The Firm', when Tom Cruise, their attorney, whom they were trying to kill, walked into their office with those documents?

Sometimes, the most perfect conveyance of an idea is wordless.

My neighbor Karl, from Lakeview Bungalows around the lake, was complaining about his lazy-ass stepson, who he says is worthless, and can't think for himself. There's an inevitable 'you're-not-my-dad' clash built into the relationship already, but even more pronounced when between an exacting and pushy German step-father, and a laid-back Southern Thai kid.

"I have to tell him every move to make," said Karl.

He's not a kid. He's 25, 26 yrs. old. Well, yeah, whatever.

On the rez, Lupe' would raise his voice at me in mock anger and yell in that heavy Mexican accent, enunciating each word, 'HECTOR! Do I hab to tell you ebery pocking mube to make?' So, I know what it's like.

Problem with that is, you've got someone standing over your shoulder, watching your every move, and everybody knows that's a poor performance environment. Another problem with it is, aside from the constant need for supervision, is that it encourages helpless behavior. I had Lupe' doing more work for me just by fumbling my approach, appearing incompetent.

Coaches, down in the paint, demonstrating help-out D; my kids, walking me through a computer operation; the hygienist with the floss. Show me. Speak slowly please. Spell it out.

Like the vicious home crowd, derisively razzing each footstep of the big stupid opponent as he walked slowly to the bench after fouling out, "LEFT! RIGHT! LEFT! RIGHT!...LEFT!" until he sat down. God, that's funny when they do that. An entire arena full of thousands of people, all doing a joke together. A real good ha ha ha at the expense of some poor dumb goat on the other team.

I know what that feels like, too, to have a whole stadium full of people have a good laugh at my expense, and it wasn't a comedy act. Last thing I remembered was the coach yanking me by the jersey and saying, "GET IN THERE!"

Then there was a great explosion of laughter before everything turned to darkness, and it wasn't until later that

Well, it took a while. It took a while to learn to think for myself. Much too long. At some point you've just got to chuck the game plan and call an audible.

'First, you've got your parents making your dream for you, telling you every move to make, right?' Karl nodded his head yes. He was supposed to be something, but turned out to be something else. His brother became the something.

Then, what, you've got teachers, coaches, people like Manny telling you you've got your head up your ass, barking drill sergeants, corporate suck-ass brown-noses, department chairs, division heads, lap dogs, attack dogs, petty yapping dogs, associate vice-presidents and a whole hierarchy of bosses telling you, essentially, like we joke on the rez, "you're on this job from the neck, down."

'On my honor
I promise
To do my duty
to honor my country
and to obey the laws of the pack.'**

"If you're married," I said to Karl, "you've got a woman telling you what to do."

He sighed heavily and nodded, but added brightly that now, with his second wife, Mon, he can move forward on his own if it's a good idea, without...without...checking in. If it's a good idea.
If she thinks it's a good idea.

So now, I bristle when someone, especially if it's some young punk, tells me what I should do, or what I oughta do, or suggests what I need to do, or outright commands me to do something, like...'upagainstthewallmotherfucker'.

'Please step out of the car, Sir.'

'Face down on the ground! Hands behind your back!'

Oh, shit. 'Don't tase me, Bro.'***

Most of the time, it's not that bad. Airline security is about as bad as it gets for an ordinary person. Seldom is it that bad, with regard to being ordered around, but in many ways it appears that many people let other people (think, 'talk show host', 'pundit') do their thinking for them.

That's okay for deep space exploration, but for matters closer to home, like my social and political views, I'd prefer to think for myself. Freedom of thought. Isn't that...?

'Do your own thinking," dad said once. 'Don't join anything.'

At the time, the reference was...the Lion's Club, or maybe a social cause...SDS, or something local...the Elks, the VFW. I forget the context, exactly, but I remembered the quote. I asked him why.

"They'll try to do your thinking for you," he replied.


Ohh, I gotta tell you this, because it's real, and part of the story. I thought, 'No, leave it out'; 'put it in'; leave it outputitinleaveitoutputitin, so;

There was six or eight of us working together on or near Pine Ridge, stacking tipi poles or moving stuff around, getting firewood or some shit, on Tom Cook's agenda, when someone told Frank to do something.

Frank Crociatta, working as Field Marsh...Field Director for Running Strong For American Indian Youth, was Tom's immediate supervisor, living close by, going to ceremony, and being one of the guys, hanging with the crew.

"I AIN'T YO' NIGGA,' Frank spat out. Everybody laughed. Then with emphatic indignation, Frank added, "I'm Massa Tom's nigga."

Wes, Bo, Lupe', me, and whoever else, picked up on that and ran with it, using it whenever the opportunity arose. It evolved to, 'Be yo' own damn nigga,' and pretty much ended when Frank left, to be his own nigga, and Wes found work out east, to be his own nigga, and Lupe' got married.

"I used to be Tom's neeger," Lupe' said, laughing. "And now I'm Sandy's neeger. There for a while, I was my own neeger!"

We'd laugh, in the same way Malcolm X moved thousands of inner-city blacks, talking frankly and publicly about 'house niggas' and 'field niggas', and the difference between the two. When does critical, independent thought occur? Even once we've arrived at independent thinking, we remain enslaved by self-imposed boundaries exempt from rational evaluation. We can be the sheep, or we can be the not sheep.

Airport security...you be sheep, my people. You, me, and everybody else. Better do just as your told. It'll be quick and painless. Just do what everybody else is doing. Get out of line, get offended, get smart, they can fffffuck with you...in a Big Way.

Missing your flight will be the least of your worries. As of '07, something like 280 accidental deaths from taser guns occurred in the U.S. against unarmed people,according to amnesty international. Not saying it happens in airports, not saying it's a suppression of freedom of thought. Just saying it happens. Happened to an unarmed 72-year old woman.

Granted, there might be times in life when you've got your nuts in a vice, or for you women, your titty in a wringer, as they say, or 'up against the wall', when you very well may be thinking for yourself, but you're nevertheless serving the interest of someone else, perhaps to your own detriment. Hmmm? Evva happen?

Landlord? Boss? Banker? Corporate entity? The State? The asshole on the phone.

Something about it doesn't feel right. Something twisted and wicked and evil, crushing to individual dignity, suffocating to the spirit. You could say this is the way of the world. Reality. Doesn't mean it has to be.

The thought never occurred to me until one afternoon. One afternoon in a green helicopter, when dad's words rang true. And later, in a darkened bunker, listening to a group of 'hard core' infantry brothers question why we was where we was.

A person just needs to stop and...I, I guess, just needed to stop and ask myself, 'what do I want?'


*On the rez, we joke, "It was that other guy...Your Honor."

**Motto of the cub scouts

***Most memorable quote of the year, 2007; Yale book of quotations. A Univ. of Florida protester, taken down at a Sen. John Kerry public speaking forum, to University Police. They hit him with the taser anyway. 50,000 volts. Twice.