Friday, April 24, 2020

#finishthesentencefriday "I might have fallen for that when I was fourteen and a little more green ... It's amazing what a couple of years can mean" [Lavigne 2002]

I don't often think of knowledge in terms of the things I wish I had had as a teenager. I do wish that I had been able to process and cope with that knowledge - and with not knowing - in a decent way and with grace.

I think of people I know or wanted to know better; or feel better or different about. I think of things within and outside myself.

Especially the things I wish I had given - and not taken.

The times I won and I lost - and the times there was no result; or no apparent result.

The things I could and would control - and the things I failed to control - and should not have tried.

If you are bitten by the bug you give without ordinary thank yous.

And with the gratitude in the world - there's no such thing as an ordinary thank you! Or thank you and gratitude become ordinary. Thanks Theo Peeters.

With Avril Lavigne's debut album I got the sense that she was a very grounded young woman, especially when dealing with her professional relationships. This too I can identify with because I sought a professionalised or professional-adjacent identity - which was congruent with my personal life and aspirations and the people and the environment about me.

Interacting with knowing - are remembering and imagining. I did not know if they were a special form of knowing - and of course knowing comes in many forms.

Many students are advised

and knowing goes beyond remembering

when they are doing their terminal examinations.

And I think: "Ah, true!" If knowing did not go beyond remembering I think I would be pretty unknowing and unknown - and because it does there are so many possibilities and truths.

I learnt about the greenness that Lavigne sings about when I was reading The Getting of Wisdom - Laura - a rural scion - becomes a schoolgirl at a prestigious high-fee school and moves in very different circles in which she always feels an outsider and thinks she could get on the inside without sacrificing herself or earning very much cred.

Credibility was a presiding issue with my teenage self which laid on my heart and that I pressed on others - whether they were adults; peers; seniors; younger people. I wanted to believe you and to believe in you apart from the relationship that was between us - I wanted to know that you were something solid [and sweet and yummy].

How you could get it and lose it and get it back again informed and stretched my mind.

Credulity is another closely related word - it reminds me of times when I might have fallen for that - but I didn't! Or I might have - and did not see the consequences until later. There will be more about consequences and comeuppance - or maybe there will not be...

To be or not to be

that is such an emerging adult/teenage question! Thank you Hamlet and happy birthday to the man; the writer; the behemoth we know as William Shakespeare.

One example of adolescent rebellion I represent in my own drama is a young woman who thinks despite all the evidence Bacon wrote the plays. Very un-stateswoman-like moment! Tapping into the fear and delusions of her mother.

Another big word which begins with C would be conformity. That implies, of course, that you have a form or a shape. Or that you can be formed and shaped. It's okay to be amorphous! I thought of a very cool line today:

she bounced back like Silly Putty

which was based upon an experience I had the Easter long weekend 2020 of taking out Silly Putty - which had now become very slimy! [Lots of 2010s and 2020s teenagers are loving their slime at the moment - and I was very fond of Gak; so much so that I had it in my home prior to a disco. It is a good touch and it makes a good noise]

I had made the Silly Putty for the first time in 1995 during a science exercise.

So the Silly Putty was out of a Lego block or two or possibly a window.

What I remember about the putty is that it was very light and green from food colouring and it could be well-pounded. It was also made so that it could be put in a canister.

Two more C words for you - complaisance and complacence/cy [I think this latter is how Americans would write - the former is how Francophones would do it].

And compulsion. Now my younger self knew that:

There is no compulsion in religion

and that was from reading about a Malaysian prince who had kidnapped the children he had had with an Eurasian-Australian woman who came from these very persecuted beginnings as a schoolgirl and a teenager - I would never forget

Chinese; Japanese; dirty knees; money please

and it didn't make me any less racist!

You move from avoiding the overt stuff to seeing the covert stuff and feeling it from the inside and bringing it out.

This happens a lot with conceptual and cognitive growth. Some of it can be anticipated or pre-taught.

How does this tie in with compulsion? If you experience this compulsion as a force from the outside; a force to be fought [or to be flown from/to - similar to what Tamara has said about flying and how important it was to her as a teenager to have the possibility/option of flying even if it could not happen in reality] - you know what it is; what its name is; how it relates to other forces.

If it is something from the inside - it becomes very ... mysterious and inaccessible.

I am thinking at the moment about the animal-groom cycle [of which BEAUTY AND THE BEAST - a favourite musical and movie as a teenager - I remember the moment I discovered the Beaumont writer - and it became consciously and unconsciously part of my mythos] and the goose girl stories.

The goose girl mythos/fairytale is about autonomy and the animal-groom cycle is about intimacy and maturity.

The goose girl is very relatable to people who have enjoyed The Ugly Duckling [which I had always known was about Andersen himself and how he felt in the literary world and in the world outside his fairytales]. Sometimes she is a girl and sometimes she is a goose - and sometimes she has a job which involves geese or a similar following/imprinting bird.

Very often we are called geese in an affectionate or a mocking way. And I remember reading a book about a girl who

couldn't say boo to a goose
and if anyone said Boo in my world it was in a sporting context or it was a ghost uttering that syllable. Or even Karen Brewer who used to say that about things she did not like. The theatrical aspect did not come until later. As in "Yah; boo; hiss!" and that was definitely not a thing in daily life. If there was a lot of yah-ing and hissing - and don't geese hiss? And girls too; when they become angry?

One of the modern classics which influenced me a lot was a book called Annabel - Annabel on the cover had a duck following her and that was significant in the blurb. Lots of tie-ins to the goose girl and even to the animal-groom.

Yes - the groom is an animal in this trope. It signifies the animalistic nature of humanity and especially sexual[ised] humanity. And how you live with or overcome the repulsion and the disgust and the ickiness.

Ickiness was big with Madonna when she was a teenager - this came through a lot in the Morton biography which I read in 2003 - and she always wanted to be in control of herself. This was a way of coping with a dead mother when she was five; a father who she often contended with and brothers who did not understand her.

Madonna realised through her physical self and her academic accomplishments a measure of success - she had a driving ambition.

I was much more into Olivia Newton-John. A very sunny and entrepreneurial lady who did things for and with the environment - especially koalas and lots of other unique Australian fauna.

Discovering May Gibbs in a biographical context was big for me. This is a thing my grandmother took the time to share knowing it would help me for my future - a big gift where nature and nurture are concerned and the interactions in between. Complexly infinite and infinitely complex.

If I can think of something more concrete it would be that charity is not justice.

If you participate in Fair Trade or try to reform the supply chain you learn to see this so much more quickly. The ways that it was talked about in the 1990s made it very exceptional; a bit hippie.

Charity, of course, comes from the Latin from caring or love - caritas.

Charity is what happens when justice has failed or is about to fail. Because justice is blind there is a lot that goes on. Failure is built into the principle of justice - and if we didn't have failure we wouldn't need justice.

And justice seems to have nothing to do with success. Which I thought was wildly unfair.

There were people like Tony Robbins and Stephen Covey around - walking on coals and walking through air like in The boy who could fly and Pippi Longstocking. That was a great moment when Pippi walked on the wall with the sticky stuff and The Glue Man was an awesome character in his own right - unlike some of the other adults who were seen as unduly childish perspectives or "bad" characters like the Headmistress - who I came to respect.

The Head Girl was a little bit shrillish. I am not sure about this word. Libby West reclaimed it more or less. For me shrill and leadership and management don't go together. Maybe it's an aspect of not liking to be out of control - or to appear so. Moral soundness and empty vessels sounding deep!

Justice, done charitably or in a charitable way, has lost some of its sting.

I think too of principles. Pleasure and reality in particular.

Losing touch with either or both of those ... is probably a moral and occupational hazard if it is more than occassional.

And don't be so quick to judge your fellow teenagers as intellectually disabled or mentally distressed.

When I came to embrace the sense and sensibility inherent and developed/cultivated among youngsters and elders - I learnt to look back and forward with courage and not only be confined to a limiting present - or what I perceived to be a limiting present.

I came to develop fears of groups of teenagers on a basis similar to a father defending his vulnerable daughter - because I know what they do - and because I fear the unknown.

Another thing I wish I had known about when I was a teenager - or I had known the name and the words for the thing - the expectation-industrial complex.

I only came to it in my early 20s after some existential and existential-adjacent crises.

And another thing in the philosophical space [thanks Juliet Butler; Camille Paglia; Susan Faludi and all those late second-wave feminists coming into the third wave and into the fourth - I'll talk about Faludi later especially in terms of Rambo and Rocky and how they shaped Sylvester Stallone] would be


In that world I think about display rules and how they inform our emotional intelligence and our social performance.

There were lots of theories about social and emotional learning which made a lot of things explicit that needed to be explicit. And there were lots of disagreements and conflicts.

No relationship can survive without conflict - this is something I learnt from Rachel Simmons who studied relational aggression. If there is no conflict you may be holding back your values and your vulnerability.

Now there are a lot of reasons to engage and sustain conflict - and to do it directly and openly when you can risk/afford it. And there are a lot of reasons to disengage too.

And this is where Faludi and Stallone come in for today.

It all started when I was listening to Survivor's Ever since the world began.

My favourite lyric in that song would be: Just another part of the puzzle; just another part of the plan.

Planning and puzzling would be a big part of how I and others move in the world.

Inevitable that YouTube or Deezer or Soundcloud would give Eye of the tiger which makes me think of my theatrical life on and off stage. A particular adventurous character would be given that cue.

And then on an early morning this week the Rocky 4 and motivational soundtracks would be.

I had an unconscious Rocky interest in 1992. The whole Italian Stallion theme was relevant to my interests at the time - Ferraris and Fiats were my vroomables. Yes I know. I was a very high-octane person when it came to my energy and presentation.

To be very honest I was much more a fan of the sons than of the father. There is a great story about Sico the robot and Seargoh's relation with it which became part of the Rocky complex.

And then Susan Faludi opened up in Stiffed about the original author of the Rambo universe - David Morrell - and why a whole generation of American men may have been attracted to this story and the way it was told. And how it may have reflected on their attitudes to women and womanpower [as Germaine Greer popularised in THE FEMALE EUNUCH - which I only knew through Adrian Mole as a girl and young woman! Not the most satisfactory situation - and by the time I was aware of Greer there was THE CHANGE and she had written other important books on art and the art market and was teaching].

A lot of insight into the script/screenplay writing business and how these stories are shaped for this mediated audience. The 12-25 year olds who go to movies and are part of that top left hand quartile.

Remember too [and imagine if you don't know the book] that Stiffed is subtitled THE BETRAYAL OF THE MODERN MAN.

The MODERN man. Not the post-modern man. Not the pre- or trans-modern man.

The Finding Ninee administrator talked about raising awesome men and awesome people.

I think of the wonderful and humble Paul Potts and how he sang You Raise Me Up.

And that man's identity is shaped by betrayal; the anxiety of betrayal and the efforts to avoid it and abandonment.

Central to the journeys of Rocky and Rambo - which is what a lot of people had in the 1980s and into the 1990s where STIFFED begins - with the whole aerospace scene which was declining a lot in the USA [like the automobile industry in more recent times in Australia and really any subsidised bit - the recession made people very scared]. There was a camaderie, a comradeship, a humanity. It is also in books by the late Joe Bageant who had and has an outsize impact. The moment I picked up Deer hunting with Jesus was a seminal one; along with Rainbow Pie which is lots more autobiographical.

The very beginning of the 7th chapter of Stiffed talks about the Vietnam syndrome.

To say that Vietnam and its War shaped my own view of South-East Asia and middle-power responsibilities is to share a truth. Myanmar [Burma] was also big and Indonesia and Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea.

Reagan was an actor before he was President.

It was Clinton - and HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton] which shaped my views about progressive politics and social liberalism in the USA / North American sociopolitical context. George Bush the Senior made barely a blip at all except for Iraq.

From a distance the world is blue and green

and if you're in Australia - or the Middle East - the world is yellow and brown and red. But they don't make saccharine songs about that, do they?

Thinking of Madeleine Albright and the big points she made about international co-operation. Along with Hana S [Polish Prime Minister in 1993ish - before Wlodimierz C and even Jerzy Buzek anyway - just as well I can spell the current Prime Minister of that country - Morawiecki - without yelling at my keyboard] - this was a Central European woman in the corners and corridors of power. Sweetly pretty and pious - and so much more of a model.

Oh: Marilyn Young called Vietnam WAR AS PERFORMANCE. Thought that was more linked to the first television war. The one on the Cable News Network.

And Fox wasn't even around until 1996! Nor Al-Jazeera! Yes - there was an era before 24-7 news cycles.

The media was relatively slow and patient - even though intelligent people got bored with magazines within three days of reading them - which was a problem when they were supposed to last a week or a month. And you passed them on like collector cards.

Books, too, were considered disposable and disposal. And that was before disposal was a legitimate stage in the information cycle.

When I read in the World Book that 1980s adolescents seemed generally more conformist [than the ones in the 1960s and 1970s? And what did this say about the 1990s ones? Not to mention the third millennium] I was good and shocked. Yes, there was a lot of very conservative and preppy stuff - especially around what I remembered of Reagan II. And it seemed more marketed and advertised and regulated than anything. More mass-y than messy.

So Be bold; make a mess and be messy - and know when you messed up?

And Vietnam helped lots of people understand trauma and stress and put that into a framework.

In as far as trauma has a reason - like "love always finds a reason" or at least a level [thanks Elsa and Glen!] - there is more to it than war and/or rape - which were the two standard narratives - very gendered ones.

In the Ramboverse one of the writers [D. Rabe] talked about his faith in coaches and people in authority which was this team state of mind. It often echoes in talk about Team [insert nation state here]. I note it is not teenagers leading this talk or even following it!

Even though team and group identity can be important in positive and pro-social behaviour and attitudes and values. Not the way daggy dads try to manage it - which seems to be the model of leadership and management these days. Dag is a thing which comes off a sheep and it is a holdover from the agricultural world.

Thinking too about the sociologist who talked about the four groups less likely to follow coronavirus advice/pandemic stuff:

  • Pleasure seekers
  • Self-centred [what I might have called terminally and chronically intolerant and inconsiderate - when this applied to Others - rightfully or otherwise
  • People without hope
  • and one more group
And I might have counted myself in the first two - had I not known health anxiety and community connection when it came to public health imperatives and demands.

Like local councils and head lice and vaccination/immunisation procedures.

So CREATURE IN THE MIRROR [and the imaginary audience is a big thing which I found out about in a Lifespan Development textbook which was published in the 1990s and I read in early 2006 from a church outreach] THE FANTASY CAVALRY TO THE RESCUE. 359-406 [Faludi 1999]

At the end Faludi says after her interview with Stallone I knew the odds were daunting. You only escape in the movies.

Escape to what? Escape from what? How and why and where and when? #sixservants #rudyardkipling #youllbeaman #if

The next chapter in Stiffed is about Waco [Texas]. To think last Sunday it was the anniversary of the McVeigh bombings. That is another 30 pages long.

Rescue and catharsis are big motivators. So are the desire and the need to make a difference - and to live honestly and with authenticity. Lionel Trilling was really good with and about that.

And if you don't over-interpret and over-determine what a couple of years can mean - or have meant for you - may the good; bad and the ugly be with you and of you! That is how Goodbye was originally meant in courtly love and other courtly circumstances of the type Hilary Mantel writes about in her Cromwell Trilogy.

And to you; to you; to you; Auf Wiedersehen; adieu; goodnight! [Sound of Music]

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