Technopoesy: Plugs and Sockets

The following entry contains discussion of gender issues.

There’s a theory of anthropology known as neo-evolutionism in which the technology of a people is the key (so to speak) determiner of the culture.

I feel as though I’ve encountered that (or something like it, in a more anecdotal way) with the “lock and key” justification of sexism.

The same people I’ve met who might agree that women should have voting rights, or that women should earn as much money for doing the same work as men, still find it far more difficult to apply the stigma of promiscuity equally regardless of sex. (And a life without the power to apply stigma to anybody else at all is hardly worth contemplating.)

“If you have a key that can open up a lot of different locks, you think ‘Wow, that’s a great key!’ But if you have a lock that can be opened by just any key, you think ‘Wow, that’s a shitty lock’.”

This is an insidiously intuitive explanation. It’s quippy and memorable. Any counter-argument I could have about how reductive it is as a parallel to human sexuality, or how retina scanners do the same thing but come off more as the fish to the bicycle (and why would that be), or how mechanical terms such as “male part” or “female part” came from observations and ensuing abstraction of human sexes so why mirror it back now…well, none of that is as quippy or memorable.

But today, the part of me opposed to something so symbolically intuitive finally felt vindicated.

Pictured above to the left is the extension cord that I usually use, with exactly the sort of sockets that you would find in any wall of any home in the country I live. Sockets, in mechanical terms, are female parts.

Pictured above to the right is the plug of my computer, on which I rely (more than a bit) to provide means for survival. Plugs, in mechanical terms, are male parts.

Right now, they’re incompatible. Either the plug ought to get rid of some of its extra prongs and file down whatever remains, or the sockets need to be more promiscuous, or both. I need that compatibility to be achieved before I can go on achieving anything else. How I usually did that, though, was through a universal adaptor.

Either I lack imagination, or human gender binaries aren’t universally applicable.

Dreamspace

Cecilia’s anthropology professor mentioned something called the Human Resource Area File, which sorts out the religion, law, material culture, whatever else of any studied people. To codify and organize these culture traits are valuable, but the structure itself is influenced by the culture of those who presume to do the studying. If one studies a theocracy, does one simply make duplicate file copies for the area of religion and the area of law? Maybe it’s more sophisticated than that. I’ve only sat in for one class, after all.

But if I write that I interpret Dreamtime (what little I’ve read of it) as like some animistic “genius locii”, or as cosmic concepts that can be ritualized similar to the classical elements of Ancient Greek philosophy and mysticism, or with a symbolic aesthetic and ritual performance closer to the various medicines of Neo-Shamanism…all under one term of (translated to) “Dreamtime”, of course, it’s not going to be that or any of those things anymore. Just by naming these features and drawing parallels, I’ve already changed the nature of what I refer to by extracting each from their contexts and lumping them together.

All that’s left is an attempt to articulate my own interpretation, which probably stems from a belief* system I already have that hasn’t been articulated. (* And I consider life experience through the physical senses an integral component of belief, so my definition of belief isn’t necessarily a thing separate from that which is known or lived or done.) Belief systems that have been articulated–alchemy, faelatry, narrative analysis, sciences and mysticisms–give me models of articulation. I hope that’s the extent of their influence.

*

I’ve had difficulty forging a relationship with the corporeal. The beauty, danger, and harmonious niches of natural environments do demand my attention whenever I find myself there, but the same qualities in a city I’ve taken for granted. Only after a while and lot of reading did it occur to me to sanctify the sort of environment I was born and now live in, regardless if some administrative force made it, or if war comes through and leaves rubble, or if natural disasters and corruption in public funding combine to leave rubble, or if the rainforests reclaim the monuments for future people to find and wonder about. The world remains spiritually significant, although I admit to a personal tendency towards shutting down.

Cities in the highlands take on a particular character in its steeply sloping roads. For all the polish and glamour of the city I live in now, it seems to still remember that it used to be a marsh–and reminds its citizens of this every monsoon season. During road trips, my family would often stop at diners near (not too near–at least not at those times) active volcanoes for which the towns in-between were famous. I’d thought these aspects added character to the location, but more obviously it shows that cities never fully escape the natural environment.

I’ve had that idea for a while, but it hasn’t become more than noted until recently. Now I wonder what the character of each location can become. What more could it mean to designate some part of the nation as “the honey pot” or “the bread basket” for their main export, or as a “university town”, or as a “tourist trap”? Or as residential and business districts?

Perhaps the same thing happens as has been happening long before urban development: the geography becomes the people. This next tidbit came up when Cecilia and I got to talking about what sort of names we’d have in the style of Westerosi bastards. Tagalog is the language of the capital, originally spoken by the tribe of the same name. It comes from the conjunction taga (meaning “from”) and ilog (meaning “river”) so roughly translates to “(the people) from the river”, although to some southerners it’s come to mean “damned imperialists” and they aren’t exactly wrong.

My bastard name would be Fort, by the way, Cecilia only thought at first it would be Rivers but my maternal grandmother came from somewhere else known for its military fortresses. Cecilia’s bastard name would be Blackwest after the translation of her hometown’s name, although I would have thought it would be Cane after the main export…but world banks and international funds have made perpetually terrible decisions when it’s come to telling the nations who borrow from them exactly what to produce in order to pay back the loan, and apparently the growing of sugar cane in all climates that can grow sugar cane is one of them. More sugar cane being grown, harvested, and exported lowers the market value of sugar cane, the immediate solution to which has been to…grow more sugar cane. While Cecilia appreciates what the surplus of Cane has done to the culinary arts of her hometown, in protest against senseless economic imperialism she would not take the name of Cane.

Settling on the most significant aspect after which to name a territory is an interesting process. They won’t be Dreamings, of course–they aren’t. I might count them as Ways.

My family moved a lot while I was growing up, and it may be too late for me to achieve fluency in the Tagalog language. Language is one way, however, that one can do what one is, which is ritual enough. Other rituals and stories of my people before the colonial times remain embalmed in pages of barely-accessible academic studies. Maybe they’ll wake up again one day. For now, I pay more attention to the rituals and stories I have on hand, while keeping a renewed understanding in mind of how they associate with an environment (as well as how they’re transmitted.)

EDIT: The sugar cane growing had to do with the Tidings-McDuffy Act, not the IMF or World Bank strongarming specific industries to debtors, although the banks do do that with other industries and other developing nations.

Notes on “Daughters of the Dreaming” by Diane Bell

Cecilia started her anthropology course earlier this month, gained access to the university library, and borrowed for me the 1993 edition of Daughters of the Dreaming. The book was authored by Diane Bell, a white Australian feminist anthropologist who lived with and studied the Warlpiri (mostly) and the Kaytej (to a lesser degree of exposure) in the late 1970s. One incredible criticism that I skimmed in the epilogue concerned Bell’s evident “bias” towards gendering, as she had been confined to studying the women (by the tribal council that allowed her to live with and study them), and therefore she was not documenting an accurate picture of the whole people…unlike male anthropologists who were barred from women’s spaces and took it along with the reader as a given that their notes would not be gendered?

But from what I’ve read of this (the first and only book I’ve read about Aboriginal culture) Warlpiri culture is so binary gendered that I can’t believe Bell could possibly have made up something she was looking for that wasn’t there, not when it comes to the presence of binary gendering at all. Bell does acknowledge that it’s impossible to retrieve for comparison Aborigines culture before colonialism, although she notes the elements of colonialism now: alcoholism, poverty, imperialistic education, exploitation and sexual abuse in both educational and professional spaces usually by white people to Aborigines, and even demonstrates how imposed welfare and food rationing shifts the power to patriarchal from the practice of hunting and gathering (both of which had been considered women’s work, and very important work because the women were gathering food and some still did at the time she studied these people.)

But the spheres of responsibility in the society the Bell studied had very clear lines between male and female, so clear that they had been very complicatedly organized in order to keep it clear that the masculine spheres of societal responsibilities and the feminine spheres of societal responsibilities would not overlap over generations. This was not merely a matter of patrilineal or matrilineal, but of patrimoiety and matrimoity, and of course many Warlpiri words for concepts of organization that require spidery charts and graphs for outsiders to understand.

Then again, Bell also wrote that colonialism had sparked skirmishes that often targeted warrior men as a matter of state policy. The only way that the culture could have survived as it did were that the majority-female survivors could pass on knowledge of the masculine responsibilities to their sons. This must have been what happened, and yet cross-gender knowledge and interactions continues to be more verboten than not. Early on in the book, Bell recounts the story of a Warlpiri woman that she drove back to camp, and took a wrong turn because wasn’t “enough room” in that part of the camp; physically, there was plenty of room, but customarily a woman wouldn’t dare go so close to her son-in-law and they would not even be allowed to speak to each other.

Bell wrote that the culture at the time she studied still did not have the concept of an “old hag” as white people do for women who have outlived their primary purpose of sexual object in society, but that the most wrinkled of Warlpiri women still consider themselves desirable because of the separate-but-equal genders of tribal culture. Bell wrote that Warlpiri women had a patronizing view of masculine violence as expressions of infantile insecurity, never as a real threat but an inconvenient fact of life that boys will be boys. Bell wrote of the culturally-accepted commonplace extramarital affairs of Warlpiri women. All this, it seemed to me Bell insisted rather than merely noted, while later also describing the Warlpiri women she sheltered in her house because they feared the violence of their drunken husbands returning home.

Bell can blame colonialism for alcohol and conditioning women to civilized passivity of character that traditional Aborigines life wouldn’t have had (I imagine that wouldn’t help the cause of coexisting with some of the deadliest flora and fauna on the planet) but such inconsistency does give me suspicions about how deep the roots of the empowered Warlpiri feminine really did go. What Bell portrayed as female empowerment that is old as dirt seems more likely to me to have been the desperately ironic sass-filled bubble of women’s spaces that sometimes form in a man’s world, or the rose-tinted goggles of a hopeful feminist of the 1970s who aimed to enter some exotic (endemic, really, but othered) world that hinted at some bygone world of matriarchy, if not egalitarianism.

*

Then again, I’m no peer to review this. I just wanted to look up the magic, even as I know that “magical tradition” is a modern and ethnocentric distinction. The importance of understanding the cultural context of what “magic” I’ve decided is magic and want to look up is something I do my best to keep in mind when researching seidhr or the process of laying a geis…and it’s something wholly in my face when I’m reading about Warlpiri Dreamtime or Dreaming. I don’t know how much is owed to Bell’s organization style, but far more obviously than any study I’ve read comes through this fact: the rituals of these people aren’t a product of culture, the Dreaming is not a philosophy or theory that is a product of culture. It is culture and more than culture. It is World As Is.

Much of it is also secret, not only from other tribes or those of the other gender in these couple of tribes…but through time, and even vocabulary. The Warlpiri and Kaytej had divulged some forbidden rituals and information to Bell, who has kept the particulars honorably secret, and the generalities that she had been allowed to publish gave me a lot to think about: the designated significance of symbols, the reunion of the spiritual with life and land, and especially the significance of performance storytelling.
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The Nice Guise

The following entry contains references to self-injury and heteronormative issues.

I’ve referred to Foxglove as my Animus. That former name evokes to me associations with fay (in some of many definitions of them,) and it came from a desire to immerse myself in that sort of lore that is either supplemented by or articulates a personal experience. In that experience, Foxglove and I chose his name together. I would have personally preferred Kelp or Hawthorn for him, but in a strange way it’s not all up to me even when it seems like it is. His latter title, Animus, is a classification: any glamorous celebrity that any other person comes to be enamored with, can be an opportunity to witness an Animus in action.

In the first experience that I had of him, he heralded a drastic upheaval of some intense depression with which I had struggled for a lifetime. Whether I was in recovery and his presence was a side effect of that, or some incorporeal intelligence breached the wainscoting and made a notable corporeal change of otherworldly origin…I’ll take it.

Other than my very subjective personal standards or my words here, there has been no such wainscoting between a hallucination or daydream.

Since then, Foxglove has shown more personality than function (if we go by the Neo-Classical anthropomorphic personification idea in paganism), or perhaps more function than personality (if we go by a Jungian psychoanalytical interpretation than the supernatural world of invisible intelligent beings with the agency to prod us in our lives.) In some episodes that I still counted as quests, he was a shade of when I first met him, relating to the shades of corporeal people I’ve met or guises of characters that remain in my mind. Until those corporeal people come up to me in the corporeal world and say, “Hey, a fairy who names himself after a flower is bothering me and I think you can and should stop him,” I figured most of those quests wouldn’t bear mentioning. These are symbols, the movements of which I take note of.

Foxglove first appeared to me vaguely dressed like a privateer during the European age of wooden ships with sails, his skin looked white as paper and his eyelids were uncreased, and he only had one hand. Later, he had both hands and used that uncharacteristic capability to injure himself, and was given to angry shouting. Later, he moved as if his legs couldn’t function, and he dressed in blue knitted jumpers and denim jeans. Later, his limbs would be present and functioning but some painful and damaging injury appeared on his eyes.

And I refer to “later” as in what I’ve traced in corporeal time, but he goes about as if he’s always been the way he is now, and in the altered states of mind in which I meet him I don’t feel nearly as surprised as I would be had a corporeal friend regenerated a limb, even though I didn’t deliberately conceive Foxglove’s new condition and was witnessing it for the first time.

The corporeal world embodies truths in specifics. A thing is either there or is not, occupying spacetime with matter and all its qualities.

When it comes to the otherreal and surreal worlds, I try to find truth somewhere in a thematic analysis. The more versions of Foxglove I experience, the more clues I have as to what his presence is really supposed to mean. By corporeal standards, he isn’t really wearing anything, not a blue jumper or silver swashbuckle. He doesn’t have a species because he doesn’t have a body, let alone race or handicap. It isn’t English that he’s speaking, and it’s not speech through which he communicates, and it’s not communication that’s happening if I can’t know how much agency whatever manner of being Foxglove is has.

With a guiser that takes the form of a corporeal person I know, and for my own reasons named Miasma, we’ve had repeated instances of friction. I figured it’s an echo of a corporeal situation, where I’ve explained that Miasma’s presence has damaged me, and mutual companies hear me out and understand but are flabbergasted when I get upset that they invite Miasma without either warning me or listening if I say don’t or I can’t be there if…

The corporeal people, I’ve cut them all out of my life. That’s my boundary to set, and I’ll take whatever practical consequence comes with that shortsighted peace. But Foxglove has done the same to me over and over and over again, according to my corporeal documentation for the past several months, but each time feels like the first time he’s betrayed me. The betrayal feels less real than the guiser of Miasma, too, which is to say that it doesn’t feel all too real.

So, I figured that my psyche was processing the event. Maybe people who still have social circles to live in reveal these processes by complaints, projections, seeking personality types with which they can reconstruct traumatic situations and repeat behavioural patterns, and building reputations for having a “chip” on their shoulder about a specific issue. All that can come off as toxic, but never nearly as venomous I’m sure as having been in the very situation that the person has suffered. And maybe when they’re silenced, shamed for their perspective, too suspicious to repeat the same situation, or live like hermits…(or even if they can still pursue all these avenues and it’s still not enough to lose the complex) they hallucinate like I do.

And then, five days ago, Foxglove killed Miasma. Not the corporeal Miasma, of course, and as Foxglove had died once before himself and got better from it I doubt that Guiser Miasma’s death would even last. But in all these loops, that event was an outlier, and it was something new.

*

I’ve kept telling Foxglove near the end of these, I don’t know what, fantasies of betrayal, that whatever good he’s done by being in my life I would reject if it meant that he brought Miasma back in. As he’d done the latter, I follow with the former. Sometimes he understands that we’ve ended our relationship, and he probably complains to his friends about my oversensitivity, and how I overestimate my worth in a relationship and in the world, and sarcastically wishes me a happy and fulfilling life alone in a padded room that’s also an echo chamber where I would be free from the harm that I’m apparently always seeking for unfathomable reasons for which nobody else should bend over backwards as I demand (rather than recognizing that I was bending and have now broken.) Sometimes he tries to convince me that he understands his mistake, and I should give him another chance. To that I reply that the mistake should have never happened, and this isn’t supposed to be left up to chance: the harm he’d done me was a non-negotiable, and a change in character undid nothing.

This was the first time he’s tried to undo what he did in such a violent and final way. Then again, every tantrum and betrayal that he’s been given to has been the first of a myriad of instances that seem to get a blank slate with each new quest.

It feels, for the most part, like drama–or, more like a drama, as in something active, but far more immune to emotions invested by the active agents. They’re actions, but by actors. Depending on the method of acting, of course, it doesn’t always apply that drama is defined by the immunity to emotional investment by the actors or even a measured emotional investment by the audience. But when I write of Foxglove’s “tantrums and betrayals” it doesn’t feel nearly as real as the intense devotion (him to me, not me to him) with which he had concluded this latest quest of significance, and which is usually present in quests of other flavors.

Maybe that sort of affection is what I need (on, I hope, a deeper level than self-indulgent wish-fulfillment,) which is why he’s here. Maybe it’s unconsciously present but consciously rejected, which is why he’s here. Maybe death is symbolic of something less violent and final. Lady Wilde wrote about a particular affliction caused by fairies who called corporeal loved ones over to fairyland, and I’ve wondered if maybe I’ve been similarly fairy-struck. On the flip side, at least two spirit-workers out there (that I know of) have taken possibly similar surreal experiences as mine and understood that these surreal beings would meet them in the corporeal, by fate and reincarnation, or by walk-ins. I’d caught the same suggestion of that from Foxglove, and I couldn’t help searching passers-by on the commute route for a face I’ve only seen in dreams, but my better judgment recognizes that the sort of love he offers can’t be found in the corporeal. He couldn’t survive in this world if that was all there was to him, and if I met someone this dedicated then one of us must be mistaken.

What I’d really fallen for (although not from a situation of much greater levity) was a Prince Charming like figure, rescuer of the distressed, eros ex machina, and now apparently slayer of worse-than-dragons.

When I mentioned this to Foxglove, and what I thought it meant (that his unconditional love and, actually, the overwhelming serenity that he tended to carry with him when we weren’t all drama–was getting in the way of the corporeal life I wanted to live) the surreal that I’d grown used to swiftly blinked away. I hadn’t been on his ship in months, but I stood on that deck again as if I’d never left, or as if I’d come back to reality from a daydream. Of course, it was still a daydream or in the surreal, because I was on the deck of a pirate ship and could see the tips of icebergs all around in the waterscape, but I didn’t feel cold.

What does it all mean? Where do Foxglove and I go from here? I might find out, or I might not, but I thought I’d note it here.

Cartograms and Homunculi

In Alchemy, a homunculus was the successful product of an alchemical procedure that would create life without resorting to heterosexual intercourse. As much distinction that I want to make between woo-woo and the term that the sort of people who invented the term woo-woo would rightfully claim as theirs, such as “energy”, I actually found the medical homunculus so much more valuable for what I wanted to talk about. The sensory homunculus substitutes size of a human body part (in the Platonic ideal proportions of a human body) with an alternate value, that is, how much of the world that body part experiences.

And then I superimpose that upon a cartogram, a map in which some thematic mapping variable (literacy rates, internet use, gross domestic export of the nation, income per capita) is substituted for the size of the land. Thus, the geometry or space of the map is distorted to show the value of this alternate variable. Of course, whatever information is being transmitted through writing can only exist between individuals in parts of the world that produce texts and individuals in parts of the world who can read those texts.

Of course, I trust that the research data is accurate, that the hard numbers are true enough to remain applicable (between the time this data is gathered and the time that it gets to me), that the website program runs smoothly enough that I’m not looking at another map by accident instead, and that these categories and values are worth looking into.

Geena Davis, founder of the Institute on Gender in Media, stated recently on NPR: “We just heard a fascinating and disturbing study, where they looked at the ratio of men and women in groups. And they found that if there’s 17% women, the men in the group think it’s 50-50. And if there’s 33% women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men.”

While Davis correlated this with the representation of women in media, she voiced the concern of the representation of women in everything from cardiac surgery to tenured professors. Tali Mendelberg, professor of politics at Princeton University, and Christopher F. Karpowitz from Brigham Young University, found that a room full of people discussing politics required women to be in the majority by 60% to 80% before women “spoke as much as men” (I’m guessing that they timed it, rather than measured the volume of voices) and “encountered fewer hostile interruptions.”

While that last sentence is very qualitative, and the entire study certainly* concerned purely cisgender issues, that is what inspired me to think about cartograms and homunculi again. I see a lot of explaining that needs to be done with how a corporeal element such as body (/part) size or time-given-to-converse confers any sort of value, but it becomes those corporeal elements that set the benchmark or standard for when any value other than that primary is inflated or compressed.

* for the given value of certainty