Saturday, March 03, 2018

over at Rewire Mary Annette Pember discusses the recent Sherman Alexie reportage

Litsa Dremousis, Alexie’s former longtime friend (now described by Alexie as a spurned lover), has been writing about allegations against him on her Twitter account. She said she is not a victim.
Some of Alexie’s alleged victims have shared their stories with NPR, according to Dremousis. NPR has not yet aired the interviews.
“He seemed to view Native women as the easiest prey,” Dremousis wrote.

Alexie isn’t the only man, Native or non-Native, who has been accused of viewing us as easy prey. Native women are 2.5 times more likely than any other ethnicity in America to be sexually assaulted, according to the Department of Justice.


For Native women, reporting one of our own adds a uniquely sickening challenge.
“Indian Country is so marginalized that when we see someone do well and receive recognition, we don’t want to participate in anything that would take them down,” said a Native woman friend I’ll call “S.”

S. recently reported a well-known Native man for sexually harassing her and has requested anonymity. The man is lauded in his profession, both in and outside of Indian Country. He supervises many people in his job.

“It’s hands off when it comes to reporting one of our own, regardless of his actions,” S. said.
S. spoke of her painful self-talk as she grappled with her decision to report the perpetrator. “He’s so important; he’s done so much for Native people. Maybe I need to take one for the team,” she told herself. “I wrestled with my importance versus his. I didn’t want to embarrass or hurt his family,” S. said.

S. was tormented with layers of self-doubt. Perhaps she should remain silent, she thought. Soon the quality of her work and life began to suffer. She began to isolate herself. The turning point came when she learned that the man had been accused of victimizing many other women, all single mothers for whom a job loss would be tragic.

S., who considers herself an outspoken advocate for women, told herself, “How can I remain silent knowing he’s preying on others, women who have fewer resources and support than I.”

S. reported the man to supervisors. A subsequent internal investigation found that there was not enough evidence to launch an investigation. The man was cleared of wrongdoing.

“They told me their decision was final,” S. said. “The whole experience has utterly impoverished my body and spirit. The unjustness of the process has almost been worse than his actions.”

“The amount of power yielded by men in high-profile positions is shocking. They can manipulate the process and outcome because they have money, influence, and a network of supporters who enable them,” she said.

Most Native communities are small and tightly knit. Publicly accusing a man in authority of sexual harassment or assault can open up one’s entire family for retribution. Housing, employment, access to services, and even enrollment in the tribe might be jeopardized.

When a community sees itself as besieged and marginalized then accusations against leaders are viewed with more than just skepticism.  Even if the allegations might seem to have a basis in reality the need to preserve the social unit's sense of identity and public standing can override other concerns.  As a former member and attender of Mars Hill this is not the least bit difficult for me to understand.  As someone of mixed lineal descent from Native American and white parents this is also not too difficult for me to understand. 

I would suggest we keep in mind that as women rise in the ranks of power they will have the same temptations as men will and may abuse those positions of power and privilege accordingly.  it's not as though within the last twenty years we haven't read headlines about women with positions of influence in schools having inappropriate relationships with students, for instance. 

It's too bad that the author imputes to just the Western worldview that winning trumps all else.  After all, if some sense of winning didn't trump all other concerns couldn't we have heard about the Native American men abusing women by now?  There's more than one way to "win", and arguably a reticence to report on or confront Native American men exploiting women comes from the other side of the coin of "winning at all cost", which is saving face at all cost.  As Alexie complained about Native American culture, the warrior culture cares about honor and saving face even when that's a bad thing.  The irony of that observation may never lose its sting, but it's a point to consider, that a great deal of harm has come not so much from wanting to win at any cost but out of a relentless desire to keep up good appearances at all costs.  So when we get to something like this:

In my tribe’s Ojibwe worldview, all life, especially humans, contains a dual spirit, rendering us capable of great achievements while also harboring a terrible capacity to wreak pain and havoc on others.

Maybe the greatest fault lies in overlooking that fundamental truth.

It's the sort of axiom that has little weight if the aim is to burnish the reputation of the Ojibwe worldview as in any way observably distinct from a "Western" worldview.  Because, as people have no doubt trumpeted for ages, Christianity tends to be thought of as "Western" (even if it isn't, globally speaking or even historically speaking, what with all those Church Fathers from Africa and the Middle East).  Yet within Christianity there is plenty of teaching about how we are born with the stain of sin and a capacity to commit great evil.

If so many spiritual traditions acknowledge this reality about the human condition the question is not necessarily so much "does anyone actually not believe this about humanity?" as "on what bases might we exempt ourselves from this recognition, and what can we do to avoid doing that?"

Since Sherman Alexie talked about having a fundamentalist upbringing he can't say he wasn't taught any of that stuff.  It might even be worth pointing out that, as I was noting earlier this week, there is no ideological point of distinction that necessarily makes a man more or less likely to use people.  One of the ideas I've had the most doubts about in the last twenty years is that apologetics bromide "ideas have consequences".  Yes, that "can" be the case but in the post-Weinstein moment the fact that many men who have come under scrutiny for how they treat women would seem, on paper, to have feminist sympathies or have explicitly supported Hillary Clinton's campaign  or any number of other things is, it turns out, no safeguard against men being exploitive.  For that matter there's no reason to assume it's only men who are exploiting.  Women can exploit people, too, both women and men at that. 

Maybe we need to step away from the assumption that is so common not only among some Christian circles but perhaps has a presence in Native American communities to, that by dint of our worldview and not being like those people we're not as bad as those people or able to be as bad as those people, whoever those people are.

Because, clearly, we can be, have been and are even likely to be as bad in the future.  If anything in the wake of the scandals in publishing and the arts feminism might simply be one of the covers and lures that men use within the industries to do what they've done.  This hardly means that I'm inclined to think that Mars Hill Church was full of men whose chief aim in social terms was to protect women ... but as scandal after scandal plays out in the post-Weinstein moment I do wish that the partisans of traditional red and blue or left and right would give up the delusional notion that either of them are better than the other. 

The assumption that "our" team can't really be guilty of abetting men or women who exploit people is one of the ways these people are able to use people.  In the Christian and Jewish traditions sin is not just an individual capacity for harm, it's also collective.  The community has the capacity to harm people.  In the conventions of the modern blue and red or left and right in Anglo-American terms it can seem as though the American mistake is to fixate on either the collective side or the individual side without keeping the two together.  A potentially axiomatic pitfall of the blue/left side is to think of guilt in group terms.  This group is guilty of X or Y while that group is virtuous by dint of A or B.  That can be true, certainly, but that may have turned out to be the historic cover that exploitive men have been able to use because the left/blue side may have a weakness for group purity standards in which the sins of the individuals are excused or sidelined for the sake of the group cause. 

The same dynamic plays out, perhaps, in a slightly different way along the red/right side.  There's more of an emphasis on individual responsibility and by dint of that stance there can be a propensity to conclude that group guilt doesn't really apply, or if it applies at all to those on the blue/left side.  But a belief in the reality of such a group success on the red/right side in terms of stance may just be a mirror for the perceived opposite number, with men in power allowed to breach the socially presented codes of conduct so long as it doesn't damage the reputation of the group purity codes. To look back a bit on the rise and fall of Mars Hill, if a conservative evangelical doesn't cheat on his wife or do anything that's construed as obviously wrong with finances then he should be presumed good regardless of how verbally abusive he might get or regardless of the extent to which he made a point of owning much of the intellectual property associated with a church brand that in other contexts would have been the intellectual property of the church and not the man.  Or, as Mark Driscoll put it, some men can convince themselves they're not terrible men because they love their family.  There's a little irony there.

After decades of propagandistic campaigns the proverbial left and right have taken against each other it would seem the blind spots are painfully obvious by now.  It's too easy to be alert to the moral failings of the enemies at the expense of seeing that whatever our team is, there are plenty of men and women guilty of those moral evils, too.  The apostle Paul's instruction to Christians in Corinth was that they not refrain from associating with sinners who did not even identify themselves as Christian at all, for then they would have to not be in the world, but that they should not associate with anyone who calls themselves a Christian who indulges in a variety of sins, one of which included sexual immorality, along with a panoply of other sins.  The warning was that it wasn't the business of the gatherings of Christians in any given region to vigilantly monitor or police the conduct of the outsiders but of those who professed to be insiders. I have wondered in the last ten years whether our propagandistic mentalities in technological societies has led us to be more obsessed with monitoring the perceived or real evils of our ideological enemies to the point where we don't really care about the failures to live up t our own professed ideals within our own communities.

It's a lot tougher to challenge people to live by the stated ideals of the in group from within than it is to lambast the other team for being bad.  Or as Adolf Schlatter put it in his commentary on Romans, our own share in evil is not removed by our condemning evil in others. 

Twitter rethinking things, thinking back on how it was thanks to MH members and staff using Twitter that I found out things that MH PR was trying to deal with back in 2012

Normally when some corporate entity is announced to be "rethinking everything" it's the kind of bromide I expect to see in an advertisement for a car.  Yes, you're rethinking everything Company X, and you threw out all the rules and came up with a car that looks like very other car out there on the highway. The rules you threw out weren't the rules governing aerodynamics, internal combustion engines or things like that.  If we wanted to drive the most fuel efficient vehicles possible we might all be deaf from the noise.  No, this kind of thing is a script, a script in which what is being sold is that if you buy our product you will be different, too.
So its a little tough to believe Twitter is necessarily really rethinking everything because someone at Slate says so.  Still ...
It's worthwhile for Twitter to consider that it has managed to become a powerful platform for what Jacques Ellul would have called sociological propaganda.  The usefulness of social media depends a lot on what  you're using it for, why you're using it for that end, and how aware you are that you're using mass media by way of using social media.  I'm not the least bit convinced that most people who are using it fully or truly understand the significance of that usage.  The reason, this blog being what it is, that I have doubts about that is because I used to attend and be a member at Mars Hill Church.
I even wrote thousands and thousands of words about how, just using content available through social and mass media content I was able to piece together who the parties involved were in the Andrew Lamb disciplinary case.
Way back in 2012 I wrote the following:

... Mars Hill has lamented that they were not contacted by authors to verify the facts or seek explanation regarding the cases prior to publishing articles. But if Mars Hill was so concerned that nobody contacted them to verify the facts why did Mars Hill suspend its entire campus blog network and associated archives in early March 2012? Why did Mars Hill scrub away all references to spouses or offspring in pastor profiles? The question at hand has not been why bloggers and journalists didn't contact Mars Hill to verify facts about Andrew's case. The question is why Mars Hill said they regretted the press not verifying facts, yet undertook a massive information purge of the very facts the press, in the past, could have looked up without having to talk to anyone directly?

... So when Mars Hill lamented that nobody contacted them to verify the facts related to Andrew's case that lament was specious precisely because during this period of time they were, if anything, probably suppressing access to facts that were easy to look up before the controversy made the news. What does an information purge that has gone unmentioned in the press or blogs suggest? It suggests this-- bloggers and journalists verifying the facts connected to Andrew's case was the last thing Mars Hill wanted to happen.

Then later, this:

Someone could have done a massive info-dumping project showing all the still publicly accessible, on record information necessary to identify the key parties involved in the Andrew case and have done this months ago.
That was 2012.  I ended up discussing all the stuff I had managed to find about a year or so later in the series "A Confluence of Situations", which has fourteen parts total.  One of the reasons I was able to find out as much as I did was because although Mars Hill as an institution was purging content the individual members and former staff still had their Twitter feeds up and their blogs and associated posts up and so it was not that difficult, knowing the campuses Mars Hill had in place thanks to their advertising their existence, to work back from Matthew Paul Turner's not very successful attempts to anonymize Andrew's case.  At the Ballard campus only two men in eldership had documentable second marriages. Bill Clem's wife Jeannie died and Noriega's second marriage was documented by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer back in 2002 or so.  This thematically gets to stuff I will probably discuss again when I finally get material together to the point where I feel I can satisfactorily discuss Justin Dean's book PR Matters
A church as an institution can be as responsible (or irresponsible) as it chooses to be about using social media as a mass media tool and all of that can be irrelevant if the individuals in the leadership culture, regardless of what level they're in it or their family members, do not also understand the significance of the tools they're using.  If I may be indulged a moment of speculating here in 2018, what the leaders of Mars Hill Church didn't seem to understand was the significance of their social media usage.  They began to purge content in times of crisis without realizing something I was aware of, that they had so cross-pollinated so many media platforms in mass and social media terms that they couldn't possibly purge their content as fast as I could compile it and document it for the public record. But, perhaps equally important was that I knew the culture enough to know that the leadership figures and associates at Mars Hill were also using social media and mass media in the same way.  I knew enough about the ways people within Mars Hill used social media, whether Twitter or blogs or Facebook or whatever, to recognize that just because stuff was purged at the official websites didn't mean there wasn't content floating around in plain sight in the other platforms over which Mars Hill had no direct jurisdiction.  The tragicomic irony of the Andrew Lamb disciplinary case was that the people who did the most to give away the identities of the parties involved were the parties involved ... and Mark Driscoll by dint of bragging so much about real estate acquisitions from the pulpit in his sermons.
In that sense Mars Hill Church/Fellowship was a truly exceptional church culture but in the worst possible way.  If there's a lesson by way of Twitter and churches to be gleaned from the rise and fall of Mars Hill it might simply be that if something's important enough you don't put it on Twitter unless you want the whole world to know.  I didn't run anything that I couldn't verify or felt unsure about, so while I'm sure there are still people associated with Mars Hill from the past who may be angry at things I at some point published the unfortunate reality is that if "you" didn't put it in a mass or social media platform for the whole internet-reading world to see I couldn't have found it. 
Now I actually do agree with Justin Dean that church leaders need to think about how and if they use social media.  I would suggest, however, that they want to reconsider using the platform.  To go by the way people actually behave on Twitter it seems like it's all advertising or animosity.  Or both.  There's nothing wrong with the world today that is going to be made better by someone who distills what they believe their intellect and wisdom to be in a tweet ... or a tweetstorm. 

Atlantic Monthly article on a likely trend that the older will get poorer in the US

More and more older people are finding themselves in a similar situation as Baby Boomers reach retirement age without enough savings and as housing costs and medical expenses rise; for instance, a woman in her 80s is paying on average $8,400 in out-of-pocket medical expenses each year, even if she’s covered by Medicare. Many people reaching retirement age don’t have the pensions that lots of workers in previous generations did, and often have not put enough money into their 401(k)s to live off of; the median savings in a 401(k) plan for people between the ages of 55 and 64 is currently just $15,000, according to the National Institute on Retirement Security, a nonprofit. Other workers did not have access to a retirement plan through their employer.
That means that as people reach their mid-60s, they either have to dramatically curtail their spending or keep working to survive. “This will be the first time that we have a lot of people who find themselves downwardly mobile as they grow older,” Diane Oakley, the executive director of the National Institute on Retirement Security, told me. “They’re going to go from being near poor to poor.”
The problem is growing as more Baby Boomers reach retirement age—between 8,000 to 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day, according to Kevin Prindiville, the executive director of Justice in Aging, a nonprofit that addresses senior poverty. Older Americans were the only demographic for whom poverty rates increased in a statistically significant way between 2015 and 2016, according to Census Bureau data. While poverty fell among people 18 and under and people 18 to 64 between 2015 and 2016, it rose to 14.5 percent for people over 65, according to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure, which is considered a more accurate measure of poverty because it takes into account health-care costs and other big expenses. “In the early decades of our work, we were serving communities that had been poor when they were younger,” Prindiville told me. “Increasingly, we’re seeing folks who are becoming poor for the first time in old age.”
This presents a worrying preview of what could befall millions of workers who will retire in the coming decades. If today’s seniors are struggling with retirement savings, what will become of the people of working age today, many of whom hold unsteady jobs and have patchwork incomes that leave little room for retirement savings? The current wave of senior poverty could just be the beginning. Two-thirds of Americans don’t contribute any money to a 401(k) or other retirement account, according to Census Bureau researchers. And this could have larger implications for the economy. If today’s middle-class households curtail their spending when they retire, the whole economy could suffer.
The retirement-savings system in the United States has three pillars: Social Security, employer-sponsored pensions or retirement-savings plans, and individual savings. But with the rise of less stable jobs and the decline of pensions, a larger share of older Americans are relying only on Social Security, without either of the two other pillars to contribute to their finances. This by definition means they have less money than they did when they were working: Social Security replaces only about 40 percent of an average wage earner’s income when they retire, while financial advisors say that retirees need at least 70 percent of their pre-retirement earnings to live comfortably.
Today’s seniors are so reliant on Social Security in part because companies that once provided pensions began, in the 1970s, to turn the responsibility of retirement saving over to individuals. Rather than “defined benefit” plans, in which people are guaranteed a certain amount of money every year in retirement, they receive “defined contribution” plans, which means the employer sets aside a certain amount of money per year. This switch saved companies money because it asked employees, not employers, to take on the risks associated with long-term investing. This means that the amount people receive is more affected by the ups and downs of the stock market, their individual wages, and interest rates. In 1979, 28 percent of private-sector workers had participated in defined-benefit retirement plans—by 2014, just 2 percent did, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, a nonprofit. By contrast, 7 percent of private-sector workers participated in defined-contribution plans in 1979—by 2014, 34 percent did.  
It's a stark way to put things, if today's seniors are doing worse and worse what may be in store for today's thirtysomethings in the gig economy?  I don't really miss the 1990s as a job market, where it was rambling from one temp gig to another and while it was probably technically true to say the economy had bounced back a bit I don't regard the overall legacy of Clinton as necessarily one that we can or should replicate in either foreign or domestic policy.  As a callow youth I was in favor of NAFTA but I also didn't think we'd turn around and start bombing the former Yugoslavia (or that we should have).  That groups who were trained to battle the Soviet influence and aggression would eventually turn out to regard us as the more significant adversary was ... well ... not hugely surprising in some ways.  It was shocking on 9/11/01 but if you have spent any time considering our foreign policy approach in Cold War terms there were a couple of fronts on which our strategy for success in one context could be seen as easily boomeranging on us once those contexts passed. 
Almost two decades ago even people at Slate were writing about how paying of the national debt was probably not that important and not that big a deal.
But then the two parties have been just fine with the national debt and trade deficits so long as it was only the worry or fault of the other party during an election cycle.  The idea that whatever al Qaeda became it was aided along the way by a bipartisan investment doesn't come up for ideologues who want to blame everything on the red or blue.
I've never been a fan of Randroids and have found it ultimately impossible to admire the approach of people like Rand.  Even if a person reads Burke it's possible to argue from his argument against the abolition of stabilizing institutions and norms that what we should not try to do at this point is try to privatize or abolish the social safety net upon which more and more elderly and disabled people are reliant.  But then when I look at what putatively progressive and conservative Americans claim these days I'm not sure any of them have actually read Burke so much as they've read whatever talking points radicals and reactionaries have to say about Burke. 
I'm not convinced that as these things seem to go the mainstream Democratic party or the Republican party cares that much about thirty to forty years from now when today's twentysomethings may be approaching retirement age.  When Social Security was developed the average life expectancy wasn't as long as it is now.  A person might die within a few years of being eligible for programs upon which a person might now be reliant for ten or twenty years or more. 
Our deficit won't go away and that raises some questions I'm not sure are addressed at a mainstream level regarding the long-term viability of a variety of programs.  If our creditors call in their debts (whether or not the national debt is collectible is another topic) what happens to the systems that would depend on the fiscal competency of the United States?  I linked earlier to an article that mused upon two different ways the United States could, in theory, default on its debt.  The assumption was that that's so far in the future as to be abstract.
Which might be at least a small part of how we got here. History is full of the things that nobody believed was going to happen because the results would be too inconvenient for them to plan as if that were ever going to be the case actually transpiring.
I saw a piece at The New Republic with a headline asking if it were possible to revive the glory days of the Johnson years on account of the Great Society programs.  LBJ's legacy is inseparable from that but also from Vietnam.  I just don't think we want to go back to those years when people had reason to worry we'd get sucked into a nuclear conflict.  That risk didn't go away even after the Cold War ended, obviously. 
I've never been a particularly optimistic person and now doesn't seem like a time to be optimistic.  It's not that the world's going to end.  I think Jameson's axiom that it's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism is a misreading of our world, though a forgivable one, because if Hollywood is showing us its true colors in the mainstream film it makes then it's far, far easier for Americans to imagine the end of the world than a world that isn't saved by an existing America.  Arrival did not have its linguist be someone from China, for instance. But then Arrival was not ultimately about its science fiction set up or formal plot, it was about art itself and the nature of language to mold and shape how we conceive of the reality we live in, and it was also about a tension between those people who believe in fate and accept it and those who reject it.  So in that sense Arrival, though formally a science fiction story,
There's not going to be a science fiction movie in which the linguist is from China or Mongolia or is even Native American, for that matter.  That's not how studios think.
But I digress.
A century ago World War I wrapped up and the story we've had told about it since is that the Germans were the bad guys.  Why?  Well ... we could be cynical and say that the Germans were the bad guys because instead of doing what all the other white European colonial empires were doing in invading regions populated by non-white people the Germans had the bad manners to take military action against fellow whites.  That's cynical, yes, but I admit to being cynical about the ways in which white radicals and reactionaries have increasingly spent the last forty years scapegoating each other for a legacy that is altogether shared.  Is Trump a racist?  So what?  Wasn't Woodrow Wilson a racist?  Wilson, of course, did not have command over the surveillance state that we have and who paved he way for that surveillance state?  Look over the last century, it will look pretty bipartisan overall.
If the systems we have in place are in any danger of becoming insolvent as they are neither of the big two parties is going to attempt to d more than find ways to scapegoat each other respectively for a common legacy. 
And at a larger level, I wonder these days whether or not the United States is a society that has put so much of its life on credit that when the bill comes do it will be beyond what we can collectively ever pay. 
That the elderly, disabled and those too young to be able to gainfully be employed in the systems in place will be harmed seems to be moot, there's not really a need to doubt that as such. 

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Sherman Alexie addresses sexual misconduct allegations, some context for their potential significance in light of an interview from last year

Last time I wrote about Sherman Alexie it was with disappointment.

I thought that a poem that he wrote that made the rounds on account of regarding someone as a cave man was, to be blunt, pandering hackwork.  I thought the way he handled the controversial about how he greenlit the publication of a poem written by a white guy who passed himself off as Asian was okay, actually, because he articulated what I consider to be a fair-minded concern that a poetry scene was too dominated by poetry teachers and academics and that the controversial guy in question at least didn't fit that bill.

The newer news about Alexie is ... more disappointing, even if it may turn out nothing has transpired, though it may turn out otherwise.

Prominent Seattle writer Sherman Alexie issued a statement Wednesday acknowledging that he’s hurt people over the years, addressing for the first time anonymous accusations of sexual harassment against him that have swirled on the internet for days. In breaking his silence, however, Alexie said he rejected “the accusations, insinuations, and outright falsehoods” made by another writer who, while not accusing him of sexually harassing her, “has led charges against me,” he said.
The allegations have been confined, at least publicly, to anonymous comments on blog posts and social-media feeds. But the online furor has already resulted in fallout in the literary and Native American communities, with a college renaming a scholarship that had been in his name, references to him being removed from a children’s literature blog and an upcoming book, and a national organization that had just awarded him a prestigious national prize now saying it’s evaluating its next steps.

In his statement, Alexie said: “Over the years, I have done things that have harmed other people, including those I love most deeply. To those whom I have hurt, I genuinely apologize. I am so sorry.”

He also said: “There are women telling the truth about my behavior and I have no recollection of physically or verbally threatening anybody or their careers. That would be completely out of character. I have made poor decisions and I am working hard to become a healthier man who makes healthier decisions.”
The statement ended: “I am genuinely sorry.”

Alexie did not respond to requests for an interview.

He is one of the Pacific Northwest’s best-known authors, winning some of the literary world’s most prestigious national prizes and appearing on best-seller lists. His 26 books often drew on his experiences growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, Stevens County, and his work spanned many genres: children’s and young-adult literature as well as adult fiction, short stories, poetry and memoir.
Alexie is the latest prominent figure to be swept up in the #MeToo movement, which accelerated last fall after The New York Times and The New Yorker published stories about sexual-misconduct allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Since then, dozens of notable figures — including Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. — have been accused of sexual misconduct.

To date, the allegations against Alexie have been more vague.

NPR is reportedly being put in the loop with those who have allegations.  The thing that immediately sprang to mind was an interview with Alexie NPR did last year as he was promoting his recent book.

When you grow up in a warrior culture, an extremely masculine culture, tears can be seen as a sign of weakness. ... Any surrender, any conceding of anything can also be seen as a sign of weakness. I've always been a rather androgynous, emotional person, so my emotional state, my androgyny — I was more androgynous as a youth than now — but I think all of that combined to make me a target.
It wasn't just the influence of tribal cultures, it was the assimilation into fundamentalist Christianity, which is even more warrior culture, even more honor culture, and even more suspicious of difference. So I was getting bombarded not only by the more fundamentalist aspects of my tribe, but the more fundamentalist aspects of our assimilation into Christianity. So that was going on all around us, and, in fact, in second grade we had this ex-nun teacher who put us into stress positions as torture.
On learning that his mother was conceived by rape
She told me that in my teen years as I was going to school off the reservation, as I was preparing for a life off the reservation, as I was preparing to become this person I am now. Looking back, I think it was my mother's highly dysfunctional way to tell me, to warn me, about what a man can be ... hoping that I would become a good man, a man who treated women with respect. A man who honored women and their power, and a man who would not become a criminal. I think it was her highly dysfunctional version of the sex talk.
So there's that.
There are times when I wonder whether or not scapegoating fundamentalist Christian upbringings is too easy a play by liberal and progressive authors.  For instance, to go by how they wrote about people they considered enemies I wasn't so sure that Dan Savage or Mark Driscoll circa 2000-2010 were really all that different from each other.  I know Alexie has complained that the average Native American is more socially conservative than even the most socially conservative white guy, but there's a point at which people of Native American lineage can regard Alexie as talented but ... also ... kind of a whiner.  He can have a sense of humor about it, his real self excoriating a cinematic self in The Business of Fancydancing, but that film was ... eh.
The other trouble with fundamentalist is how vague it is.  You could have a fundamentalist Baptist or a fundamentalist Presbyterian or a fundamentalist Pentecostal and have some fairly drastic differences across those divides.  Plus ... I sort of dimly remember Alexie describing himself as Spokane Indian Catholic decades ago and in conventional nomenclatures regarding American religion fundamentalist Catholic is a bit tricky. 
It's true that Native Americans are Christians, though.  That's not been too hard to establish.  Whether they practice Christianity in ways that white evangelicals and WASPs might approve is an altogether different matter.
Still, in the lights of Seattle secularists I would probably be billed a fundamentalist of some stripe and yet I spent half a decade chronicling what I regarded as dangerously authoritarian cultural dynamics in Mars Hill.  Roger Williams would probably be regarded as a fundamentalist by contemporary standards and he founded Rhode Island. 
Which is to say that sometimes it doesn't pass the smell test when guys scapegoat fundamentalism or Native American warrior culture and then, as time goes by, If he's sorry he hurt people after he has ... whatever he's done in respect to shifting from what he regarded as the warrior cultures of his Native American tribal background or fundamentalist Christianity casting those things off doesn't seem to have precluded him ending up in the situation he's in now.
The irony of the Seattle Times byline is that Kiley and Shapiro both spent some time covering the meltdown at Mars Hill Church..  I would think if there's any would be "lesson" here in the post  _Weinstein cultural moment it's that no one should imagine that "our" team whatever team that may be, is exempt from bad behavior and predatory conduct toward men, women or children just because of ideological litmus tests and shibboleths. 
 It's not like Harvey Weinstein was stumping for the GOP or George H. W. Bush or Bob Dole in the 1990s.  It's not as though Woody Allen didn't have scenes in his films where his character was aghast that a woman would read National Review.  It can sometimes seem as though, regardless of ideological or religious or a-religious commitments, people find it much ,much easier to scapegoat their ideological enemies for being the sole possessors of vices that span the entire human species. 

To have read any number of paragraphs written by authors at The Stranger over the last twenty years was to get a clear sense that loathing and insularity was not just the domain of fundamentalist Christians.  Dan Savage and his fan base and Mark Driscoll and his fan base were not so different in bearing, even if they often frequently differed in vocabulary. 

Whatever Alexie actually did do that he's sorry for, he did it as someone who publicly distanced himself from whatever he regarded as fundamentalist Christianity "warrior culture" and that of his Native American background, too.  Yet whatever it was he did that he's sorry for, he did it anyway.  Now is not the time for any of us to convince ourselves that we're better than "those" people simply because of ideological talking points.  It would seem clear enough that makes no difference at all in practice for those with ears to hear and eyes to see, ,but of course not everyone does. 


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

at TNR, an overview of books about the art market of the 21st century and how modern art serves the wealthy (as though that's never what it's always done?)

...In her 2014 book Big Bucks: The Explosion of the Art Market in the Twenty-First Century, the veteran art market reporter Georgina Adam surveyed the forces that propelled the stratospheric rise in the market for contemporary art, attempting to explain why, for instance, one version of Andy Warhol’s 1963 screen print Liz could sell for $2 million in 1999 and another from the same series for $24 million in 2007, only a few years later. What was once a niche trade overwhelmingly based in the United States and Western Europe has expanded into a global industry bound up with luxury, fashion, and celebrity, attracting an expanded range of ultra-wealthy buyers who aggressively compete for works by brand-name artists. “When I started out, 30 years ago, millionaires had boats and jets—but didn’t necessarily have any art at all,” Thomas Seydoux, the former chairman of Impressionist and Modern art at Christie’s tells Adam. “For the very wealthy today, it’s not fine not to be interested in art.” 

In her follow-up Dark Side of the Boom: The Excesses of the Art Market in the Twenty-First Century, Adam, a longtime editor at the Art Newspaper and contributor to the Financial Times, considers the negative effects this influx of money has had on the art itself. As contemporary art is increasingly viewed as an asset classalongside equities, bonds, and real estateAdam sees artworks often used as a vehicle to hide or launder money, and artists encouraged to churn out works in market-approved styles, bringing about a decline in quality. 
Art’s imbrication in networks of money and power is hardly a contemporary phenomenon. Many of the great masterpieces of Renaissance art, for instance, were commissioned by members of the nobility. The origins of the modern picture trade date arguably to the 17th century Dutch Republic, where, in the absence of monarchical or church patronage, artists began producing domestically-scaled genre paintings for sale on the open market. In the early 20th century, the art dealer Joseph Duveen—later the 1st Baron Duveen of Millbank—made a fortune selling Old Master paintings he acquired from cash-poor European aristocrats to wealthy American industrialists like Andrew Mellon. As Duveen famously quipped, “Europe has a great deal of art, and America has a great deal of money.” What has changed is speed and scale: There is, Adam argues, more art being produced and sold than ever before, as artists, galleries, and auction houses attempt to keep up with the demand of a new class of international “UHNWIs,” Ultra High Net Worth Individuals attracted by the lure of profit and prestige.

As Adam describes, two significant changes at the end of the 20th century set the stage for today’s inflated contemporary art market. The first was the expansion of the base of potential buyers: The fall of communism in Eastern Europe and economic liberalization in countries like China and India created a new wave of billionaires eager to flaunt their wealth. In China, which has consistently ranked among the top three largest art markets by value since 2009, demand has also been boosted by a government-sponsored museum-building boom. Over 1000 new museums, a combination of state-run and private institutions, have opened in the past decade; as of 2017, there were approximately 200 privately owned museums devoted to contemporary art. Crucially, building private museums serves not only as a status symbol for the country’s elite, but a means of gaining state approval for lucrative real estate development deals.

The second major change was the shift away from Old Masters and Impressionists as the core of the auction business. Historically, selling contemporary art had been the province of galleries and private dealers; the work of living artists went to auction only infrequently. But the major auction houses, Sotheby’s and Christie’s, recognized that promoting the contemporary market could open up vast new revenue streams. They began to function more like luxury brands. ...

As much as I love the arts the implication that the fine arts have ever been particularly beyond being the domain of wealthy elites is a bit hard to swallow.  There have been artists working in what we know of now as fine arts who had an interest in appealing to as large an audience as possible (let's just say Mozart and Haydn, for instance, had this in mind).  Rossini comes to mind, although in the lexicon of serious minded German inspired post-Beethoven criticism Rossini doesn't count as even being really good art, more middling in a Wagnerian polemical vein. 

But then advocacy for the fine arts tends to skate past matters of class and caste much of the time.  If we are living in some kind of neo-gilded age it may well be that the eole who wield wealth and influence feel they aren't the plutocrats of our era because they're more into rock, pop, pop art and satirical reimaginings of art conventions as cognitive frames than into the Old Masters or Impressionists.  If you can plunk out John Lennon's "Imagine" at a piano then even if you own billions in whatever it is you own, you're not one of them, not really.  As I have sarcastically noted about kids who can go to Oberlin or Cornish or whatever private school in liberal arts suits their fancy, merely being able to quote Walter Benjamin doesn't mean you aren't part of a privileged elite or ruling caste.  My concern with the popularity of the Frankfurt school in literary and journalistic sectors is less because I have issues with Adorno's aesthetics (though, frankly I do) than my concern that American students can wield Frankfurt school writers like some kind of fetish of authenticity that exempts them from being what would be, in more old school Marxist polemics, an indication that they were all part of an enemy class in terms of socio-economic advantage, or ... to put this still another way, people with the academic privilege of being able to wield the term "privilege" generally don't recognize how much they have of it in the midst of their spotting it in someone else.  An old saying from a Palestinian Jewish rabbi about not seeing the mote in one's eye trying to remove the speck from the other might come to mind ... but then we live in a day when the people most likely to invoke that point of comparison have probably not learned its essence with regard to themselves, too. 

Still, in an era where even advocacy for the fine arts can be associated with the spell or stink of ultra-wealth we might want to have some caution about some of the laments that the fine arts are under threat in the age of Trump.  I'm not so much contesting that as wondering whether the inequalities that people have seen in arts patronage have been addressed yet. 

And, in a way, the lesson that I'm not sure people with liberal/left sympathies in Anglo-American contexts seem able to accept about the liberal arts and fine arts that reactionaries do seem to get is that the professional artist is the servant of an empire, not the other way around.

the dyhnamics of patronage and the dynamics of media and profusion of work can change things.  Opera can't hold a candle to movies for public attention and acclaim.   It's of no consequence to many people what gets done with a Wagner production, whereas if it turns out a copyright infringement case gets traction against The Shape of Water that's more of a newsworthy development.

Now whether or not you consider Ta-nehisi Coates a public intellectual it's interesting that the recently released Black Panther was adapted, so I've heard, from a storyline he wrote for Marvel. Coates announced today he's writing Captain America.  He name-dropped Christopher Priest and Dwayne McDuffie as pioneers and inspirations (and well he should, I think McDuffie's writing for the Justice League Unlimited Cadmus arc was fantastic!). 

Let's stop a moment and consider that Coates has shared that he's excited to be writing comic books.  Now for me I don't see any tension between this passion he's got for the medium and his interest in ideas.  I don't see it as a contradiction in terms or some kind of oxymoron that a writer would like comics as an art form and care about political ideas and literary activity.  Obviously I don't because I wrote tens of thousands of words about Batman: the animated series and about Pixar films and about Nolan's Batman films.  Some of the more interesting riffs and ruminations on our society and its times have been embedded in cartoons and comics that, as best I can tell ,academics have in many respects ignored from the traditionalist side and that, as mass media under the aegis of the market, can also get sort of ignored by people with a bit of leftish angle as the results of capitalism.  But, and I'm admitting to speculation here, if Walter Benjamin were alive today he'd be riffing on Optimus Prime and Megatron long before he'd get around to writing about Jameson ... or even someone like Coates. 

A fine arts world that can give us a Jeff Koons is simply never going to be in a position to condemn the vulgarity of movies made by Michael Bay ... or maybe even Uwe Boll.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

former Mars Hill Portland aka Church at 3210 Taylor Street subjected to administrative dissolution as of last month, reincorporation process to officially be Redeemer Church as a corporate entity undertaken

One of the things we've had going on here at Wenatchee The Hatchet is a side project of keeping tabs on the campuses that spun off from the implosion of Mars Hill.  While Justin Dean has made the rounds on the podcast circuit promoting his book and talking about how most of the spin off campuses are doing fine, it's ... not entirely clear how up to date Dean's information is.

Take the former Mars Hill Portland that became Redeemer in doing-business-as but was known by another name in the Oregon Secretary of State records, documented with some help from commenters over at this blog post earlier.

Then there's this. Check out the more recent entries.

Administrative dissolution as of January 11, 2018? 
Notice Late Annual November 22, 2017.

In November 2015, according to official State records, Redeemer Church, AKA: The Church at 3210 SE Taylor Street, changed the number of it's officers from 7 down to 2.

So the officer roles do look like they dropped down to just two people playing three roles, president, secretary and registered agent respectively. 

Now according to the Oregon Secretary of State there are a number of grounds for administrative dissolution

The Secretary of State may commence a proceeding under ORS 65.651 (Procedure for and effect of administrative dissolution) to administratively dissolve a corporation if:
(1) The corporation does not pay when due any fees imposed by this chapter;
(2) The corporation does not deliver its annual report to the Secretary of State when due;
(3) The corporation is without a registered agent or registered office in this state;
(4) The corporation does not notify the Secretary of State that its registered agent or registered office has been changed, that its registered agent has resigned, or that its registered office has been discontinued; or
(5) The corporation’s period of duration, if any, stated in its articles of incorporation expires. [1989 c.1010 §138]

One of the most salient changes in the governance of what used to be Mars Hill Portland is that Tim Allen Smith isn't listed as any of the officers in the newly reconstituted Redeemer Church.

At the moment what may be happening is that the entity is reincorporating so as to officially be known in corporate terms what they have advertised themselves as being on their website.  That seems like the best guessed based on the available documentation so far.

"If" something else has been or is going on that's not something that we can address here at Wenatchee The Hatchet at the moment.  But, since we've been documenting stuff by way of LLC listings and so forth for years now, we can, at least, do that much.

As yet the elder roster looks pretty much the same as it has been.


The Elder board of our church currently consists of: Pastor Eric Appleby, Pastor Jon Crist, Pastor Kevin Kelly, Pastor Ryan Mount, Pastor Dan Ortega, Pastor Tim Smith and Pastor Jim Swanson. Two of the Elders of Redeemer Church are also paid staff. They are: Tim Smith, in the role of Lead Teaching Pastor and Kevin Kelly, in the role of Executive Pastor.

God has called all of these men to lead by example and to serve with love, humility and grace, placing care and service to the flock over their own interests. Should you wish to speak to any of our Elders, please email indicating whom you wish to speak with and they will get back to you promptly.

If something is going on down in Portland here's hoping someone can tackle that closer to the site itself.  Wenatchee The Hatchet hasn't been to Portland in about a dozen years.

IF you want to get caught up on a few things connected to mars Hill Portland and its post-MH existence or the role Tim Smith played in the history of Mars Hill there are tags for that now. For folks who might want to revisit the history of Mars Hill attempts to create a music label/record label go to the posts with this tag.

For a more comprehensive index of tagged posts about various aspects of Mars Hill and its history go over here.

The later history of what was once Mars Hill Portland got volatile at a few points and Warren Throckmorton has blog posts about that.