I signed onto a class-action lawsuit last week, for the first time in my life, unusual because I am fiercely independent and prefer to just out-live the slings and arrows. Proud too, I guess because there have been many insults if I think about them – which I can’t because my spiritual discipline demands that I not only forgive you, but I forget you ever existed. (This works btw). But this one, this is different, it damaged not only me but my mother, my father, my two brothers, our children, our grandchildren and proved a constantly repeated and terrifying chord, somewhat like the entrance of the villain, during that part of our childhood where you have virtually no defenses to speak of.
MKULTRA was a CIA program created after American Korean War prisoners came home praising Communism. The freaking morons at the CIA decided to create their own brainwashing programs, and lo and behold, they found a willing experimenter up in the wilds of Canada, who actually ran a massive mental hospital in an Italianate villa built to receive Kings and princes, once filled with treasure, and ballrooms and the entire panoply of Asian art, minor Old Masters, and heavy gilt-framed portraits of forgotten great men and their wives. It was a spectacular place in which to destroy minds, lending to the force of the psychiatrist, Ewan Cameron, the trappings of earthly and spiritual power. The Canadian government signed on, happily contributing far more research grant money than the Americans. No one, NOT ONE PATIENT gave consent to being an experimental subject.
This is what they did, short form. They took a patient, like my mother, who suffered from post-partum psychosis, triggered by the death of her first baby, and broke her back to infant status by administering massive amounts of shock treatments. Whereupon, she was fitted with a football helmet into which speakers had been placed, and she was played statements about herself over and over and over again, sometimes 500,000 times, stating how unworthy and useless she was. Often using her own voice taped during therapy sessions, when the psychiatrist would elicit her worst feelings about herself.
Then, they would administer LSD. How splendid would that have been? Completely broken and then LSD!!!! Again the football helmet, strapped down and this time, positive affirmations up to 500,000 times.
How likely would you have been able to manage the rest of your life? Cameron only experimented on mildly ill patients, alcoholics, those with post-partum syndrome, depression. He broke people and then returned them back to their families, whereupon we would attempt to assume care, NOT KNOWING what had happened.
In my family that meant a constant level of support and care and worry of the kind one would administer to a dying pet. If the pet was dying for fifty years. When my father died, I left the world I was working in – Paris, London and New York – and came home to take care of her. My father had told me, in no uncertain terms, that when he died, she would de-compensate unless I stood up and assumed his role.
This suit has international and historical significance because it speaks to the power of government. No government should ever experiment on its citizens. We ARE the boss. The precedent must be set and the lesson must not only be learned but seen to be learned.
If there was a way to personally ruin the people who made those decisions, I would counsel it. Regrettably, they are dead. No government official ever suffers the consequences of his decisions. They slither off into pensioned obscurity. Cameron died a few years after retiring, still grasping shreds of his former glory.
There have been modest pay-outs in the past to patients, but no apology from the University, the hospital, the Canadian government or the U.S. government. No admission of fault, despite the egregious ruination of thousands of innocent lives. No compensation even approaching real recompense. Time to move into the modern age, guys. The new populism means we win. Every single time. Or you lose.
The only publication I subscribe to is Bon Appetit, which is a lively little Conde Nasty rag which delivers a lot for $2 a month. There is a nest in the staff of radical people of color whose effusions I sometimes enjoy, despite the accusatory hate leveled at filthy white people like me. This week they published a story about the Nap Ministry, an outfit in Georgia, that promotes the nap as necessity, as the source of inspiration, as resistance to Orange Man or Capitalism or Consumerism.
Stripped of its dumb politics, the Nap Ministry is a welcome addition to my Instagram feed, prone as I am to completely wearing myself out. And while I cannot possibly need as much napping as the average black woman, whose burdens seem preposterously high, I do need the reminder.
A hundred years or so ago, Bertrand Russell wrote “In Praise of Idleness” which advances many of the same ideas, riven with the same errant political thought, but ignoring that, Russell points out that rest is not only rest but if you’re looking for inspiration, for guidance, for something to help you transcend and illuminate the meaning of your ordinary life, resting is the way to go.
And then, there’s the Idler, founded in ’93. It is a bi-monthly publication which investigates the glories of loafing. It is great fun, and also has no hectoring. Which is, admit, not restful.
Thanks to hateful capitalism, we are definitely working less. This may be forced upon us, by redundancy, by innovation, by a distaste for corporate control, but more and more of us are living in the gig economy, which delivers quite a bit more leisure than the 9to5 of our grandfathers. People left to their own devices are incredibly innovative in piecing together incomes.
I expect a golden age of lounging in our future and very welcome it will be. Especially to black women.
(This was published in the Globe and Mail a few years ago. I’m writing about the same culture again, so wanted to archive it for myself. Plus, it’s a great book review, if I do say so myself)
I sometimes think I had the last Victorian childhood in existence, growing up among the Anglo-Protestant clans of Old Montreal. We’re pretty much a diaspora now, clinging to the wreckage, which is all right, things as they have to be. But there was much to love in the old ways, and the best was belonging to a familial grouping of 400 people and having a distinct place within that clan, however marginal. It is why I’ve never been able to fully embrace literary fiction; the isolation of the modernist is so brutal and strange. Far too many people were interested in my fate and reputation, and did not hesitate to criticize. Luckily, I was ridden out of Old Montreal on a rail, so effort at conformity could cease.
- The Toss of a Lemon, by Padma Viswanathan, Random House Canada, 616 pages, $34.95
How much greater, then, is the loss of the 8,000-year-old culture of the Brahmin caste of the subcontinent? The question is rhetorical, for in The Toss of a Lemon, Padma Viswanathan’s first novel, we see exactly how magnetic, how sinkingly seductive that life was, and how difficult it must have been when the habits and customs of millennia were overturned by the shock of the new.
In 1931, India’s last census to count by caste, Tamil Nadu Brahmins, named after the Indian province where this book takes place, measured a little less than 3 per cent of the population. They were a priestly tribe, descended from the Vedic rishis, enjoined to live a life of learning and non-possessiveness.
The Toss of a Lemon is relentlessly domestic, therefore relentlessly feminine. Politics, independence and war rage on the far borders of the Brahmin quarter, barely noticed. As is business, since the novel’s central family, like most Brahmins, has farms and tenants which support them. It begins with Sivakami, a passive little 13-year-old who trots off obediently to live in her 18-year-old healer husband’s house. A sword hangs over their arranged marriage: If her son is born on the right date, her husband, Hanumarathnam, will die young. Which he does, promptly, on the appointed day. But Hanumarathnam was practical. He taught his young wife, and Muchami, a servant uninterested in women, to manage his farms, so she need not live on charity.
Sivakami dutifully shaves her head and puts aside her beautiful clothes for the two white cotton saris she will wear for the rest of her life. The rules by which she must live are beyond stringent. She can’t touch her children during the day; if she does, she has to bathe. She must cook all her own food and she cannot go outside the gates of the house, and there are dozens more rules. But the life of the quarter streams in though Muchami, her family, her tenant farmers, the inhabitants of the Brahmin quarter, her two children, their friends and spouses, and the many children her daughter, Thangam, bears.
Thangam, of “the burnished hair and molten eyes,” is so gorgeous that “most of the neighbourhood considers Thangam’s beauty itself to be a community service.” She is surrounded by admirers, and eventually begins to shed gold flakes, assiduously collected and used as healing ash. Thangam is married off to a feckless man who neglects her, but not enough to prevent a child being born to the couple almost every year.
The divine Thangam suffers mightily, and no puja or japa by her saintly mother can save her. Her brother, Vairum, can’t save her either, but as an adult, he forbids any more marriages based on horoscopes. Reason, not superstition, must determine the family’s future, and with that, some of the magic trickles away.
Vairum grows into a wealthy businessman, who protects his nieces and nephews. He chooses his musician wife himself despite their joint horoscope predicting childlessness. Vairum can’t overturn that fate until one of his nieces dies of cancer, and he adopts her children, but by then he loathes his mother and her willingness to sacrifice her beloved daughter, his sister, to a husband careless to the point of criminality, for the sake of family reputation.
This is the way class dies, Brahmin, WASP or aristocrat. The sacrifice of individual to clan becomes unbearable, tragic and, finally, impossible.
Leaving the book feels like getting out of a warm bath on a cold day. Viswanathan is a charming writer, and I do not mean to belittle; one’s senses are overwhelmed by a rich density. An almost invisible discipline marches her hundreds of characters from 1896 to 1958. The demons (in the form of an illegitimate child) gather at the garden gate; caste must die, or as a newspaper of the time says, “the upper-caste bigots [must]cast aside their false race pride.” Nothing is said, sniffs a granddaughter, “of mutual dependence and respect. … Brahmins are the servants of society. Why is everyone out to get us?”
This was published on Victory Girls Blog on April 4, 2019. https://victorygirlsblog.com/
Does anyone remember the appearance of poor little rich alien, Mark Zuckerberg in front of Congress in two marathon sessions almost a year ago? One did not envy him. It was a pile on from both the left and the right, and at one point Zuckerberg actually asked Congress to regulate him, especially when it came to politics.
The attitude he displayed when asking for regulation was almost crawling and strikingly similar to Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey’s appearance on the Joe Rogan show on March 5th of this year. For three hours, Dorsey was attacked by leftie journalist Tim Pool principally on the censoring of conservatives, compared to the almost-no-censoring of liberals.
Dorsey apologized over and over again, repeatedly throwing the accusations over to Vijaya Gadde, his global lead for Legal, Policy, Trust, and Safety (an Orwellian title if there ever was one). Gadde brought data with her, but not enough for Pool, and ended by promising over and over again to ‘reach out’ and discuss specific cases with Pool and Rogan. Perhaps, she floated, permanent suspensions could be made temporary. And so on. “Algorithmic deep learning is happening as we speak,” added Jack. Shiver.
They were, however, prepared to discuss the banning of Alex Jones, uncomfortably. Also Milo. Uncomfortably. Also the banning of the phrase ‘Learn to code’, which was leveled at the many fired journalists after the Covington Boys fiasco. But Pool asked, “Why were the Proud Boys banned and not Antifa?” They wobbled, but Pool did not give up. He roasted them. Again, a self-identified progressive took the side of banned conservatives.
Both Jack Dorsey and Vijaya Gadde apologized many times over the course of the three-hour discussion, made many statements about trying harder, claimed they worried ceaselessly about this and that. That banning people sent them to the dank underground of the human psyche and who knows what would come out of that? The jargon was killing: ‘Cost-benefit analysis’, ‘deep learning’, ‘evolution in prioritization’, ‘massive velocity’, and preventing ‘harm’. “We have to work with the technologies, tools, and conditions we have today and evolve over time where we can see examples,” said Jack. “We are working on opening up the aperture even more. We understand that binary on or off is not scalable. A permanent ban is not desirable”. “Nuances are coming”. “Sunlight is the best disinfection,” said Gadde. “We worry about driving people away from the platform and affecting their real lives.” And so endlessly on.
Wired Magazine points out that these guys have been apologizing for 14 years. Senator John Thune called Zuckerberg on it last Wednesday. “After more than a decade of promises to do better, how is today’s apology different…?”
It’s different because opinion is turning against the digital giants and, at the same time, against the left-wing which has turned social discourse into shrieking hysteria. On Friday NBC/WSJ published a poll declaring that 60% don’t trust Facebook. Big majorities say social media divides us, spreads falsehoods and unfair attacks. And 82% say social media sites waste people’s time. The negative opinions run across the political spectrum.
Lawsuits are mounting from both sides of the aisle. Devin Nunes filed a $250,000,000 suit against Twitter last month and Twitter isn’t broke but their insurance rates will skyrocket if he succeeds. The New Yorker published a take-down of the corrupt Southern Poverty Law Centre on March 21, which all the digital giants used to determine whether you were a good guy or a stinking racist. The lawsuits based on that censorship could be impressive.There were about half a dozen suits lodged against Facebook in the last week alone.
Next week, Facebook, Twitter, and Google are appearing in Congress to specifically answer alleged censorship of conservative voices. Google has been accused of skewing millions of votes for Democrats in the 2018 election
Facebook has promised a dog and pony show. “Facebook said public policy director Nil Potts will provide testimony at a Wednesday hearing titled “Stifling Free Speech: Technological Censorship and the Public Discourse held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution.
No doubt they will weasel out using some of the newspeak listed above. But maybe not. Something shifted around the time of the Covington Boys. You could feel it on Facebook as evidence mounted that the story being sold was not only wrong but cruel to the point of criminality. On Dave Rubin’s podcast this week, the lawyer for the Covington Boys, Robert Barnes, discussed the case and free speech. Barnes has sued CNN and the Washington Post for $275,000,000 and $250,000,000 respectively and he doesn’t plan to lose. Barnes is considered one of the leading figures in the free speech wars.
These are scary numbers for media struggling with ratings. Even one win will embolden other conservatives to stop taking the endless slander and bullying lying down. The behavior of the mainstream media (of which I was a member for 15 years) has been egregious beyond belief for the past two years. 90% of Trump stories are negative and 95% of reporters are left-wing. The security of conservatives on staff is tenuous at best. This is not open and free discourse. This is very close to Fahrenheit 451.
In Canada, it’s even worse. We have one right-of-center tabloid chain which is under ceaseless attack as racist Nazis, all the rest of our broadsheets are staffed by socialists or scaredy-cats. Our national broadcaster is bought and paid for by the current Liberal government to the tune of $1.1 billion annually, and just last month, the same Liberal government invested $600,000,000 in print media, conveniently ahead of the fall election. This, fyi, is how bad it can get.
Equally, people are becoming increasingly aware of the left’s use of lawfare against people who can’t afford to defend themselves. They perfected this in rural regions all over the world, but especially in rural America. Environmentalists backed by massive foundation money lodged suit after suit against foresters, ranchers, miners, farmers and any manufacturing concern that used raw materials drawn from natural resources. They broke county after county, township after township. Despite Trump’s deregulation and his new people in Interior and the EPA. Rural America is still operating at less than 50% of capacity. Up in Canada, we have allowed left-wing American foundations to spend $300 Million with the goal of decommissioning our oil sands. Alberta’s oil sands infrastructure is one of the seven wonders of the modern world, the most advanced environmentally-sound infrastructure project in the oil business. It is operating at half speed if that and all new routes to export have been mothballed, leaving the resource virtually landlocked. Two researchers working on their own, without pay for 15 years uncovered this scam, and still, no one will stand up and take these people down in court. Nevertheless, people are angry. We have a couple of important elections coming up and they are looking to landslide right. Even Canadians can fight back.
Are we seeing a tipping point in the culture? I am sensing the screeching and crunching of a forced widening of discourse, somewhat like the tomb door opening in a Lara Croft Tomb Raider film. In five years, if we win this battle, we will be living in a far healthier world. If not, we all better get used to muzzling our speech.
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