The Art of Tetman Callis

Some of the stories and poems may be inappropriate for persons under 16

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Nailing jelly to the wall

August 18th, 2017 · No Comments

“The trick never ages; the illusion never wears off. Vote to stop abortion; receive a rollback in capital gains taxes. Vote to make our country strong again; receive deindustrialization. Vote to screw those politically correct college professors; receive electricity deregulation. Vote to get government off our backs; receive conglomeration and monopoly everywhere from media to meat-packing. Vote to stand tall against terrorists; receive Social Security privatization. Vote to strike a blow against elitism; receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our lifetimes, in which workers have been stripped of power and CEOs are rewarded in a manner beyond imagining.” – Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas?

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But we never listen

August 17th, 2017 · No Comments

“The history of thought should warn us against concluding that because the scientific theory of the world is the best that has yet been formulated, it is necessarily complete and final. We must remember that at bottom the generalisations of science or, in common parlance, the laws of nature are merely hypotheses devised to explain that ever-shifting phantasmagoria of thought which we dignify with the high-sounding names of the world and the universe. In the last analysis magic, religion, and science are nothing but theories of thought; and as science has supplanted its predecessors, so it may hereafter be itself superseded by some more perfect hypothesis, perhaps by some totally different way of looking at the phenomena—of registering the shadows on the screen—of which we in this generation can form no idea.” – Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough

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Dust in the wind

August 16th, 2017 · No Comments

“For ages the army of spirits, once so near, has been receding farther and farther from us, banished by the magic wand of science from hearth and home, from ruined cell and ivied tower, from haunted glade and lonely mere, from the riven murky cloud that belches forth the lightning, and from those fairer clouds that pillow the silvery moon or fret with flakes of burning red the golden eve. The spirits are gone from even their last stronghold in the sky, whose blue arch no longer passes, except with children, for the screen that hides from mortal eyes the glories of the celestial world. Only in poets’ dreams or impassioned flights of oratory is it given to catch a glimpse of the last flutter of the standards of the retreating host, to hear the beat of their invisible wings, the sound of their mocking laughter, or the swell of angel music dying away in the distance.” – Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough

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Turn and face the strange

August 15th, 2017 · No Comments

“Myth changes while custom remains constant; men continue to do what their fathers did before them, though the reasons on which their fathers acted have been long forgotten. The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice.” – Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough

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MILF

August 14th, 2017 · No Comments

“If we survey the whole of the evidence on this subject, we may conclude that a great Mother Goddess, the personification of all the reproductive energies of nature, was worshipped under different names but with a substantial similarity of myth and ritual by many peoples of Western Asia; that associated with her was a lover, or rather a series of lovers, divine yet mortal, with whom she mated year by year, their commerce being deemed essential to the propagation of animals and plants, each in their several kind; and further, that the fabulous union of the divine pair was simulated and, as it were, multiplied on earth by the real, though temporary, union of the human sexes at the sanctuary of the goddess for the sake of thereby ensuring the fruitfulness of the ground and the increase of man and beast.” – Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough

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Ignorant ingrates we may often be

August 13th, 2017 · No Comments

“We stand upon the foundations reared by the generations that have gone before, and we can but dimly realise the painful and prolonged efforts which it has cost humanity to struggle up to the point, no very exalted one after all, which we have reached. Our gratitude is due to the nameless and forgotten toilers, whose patient thought and active exertions have largely made us what we are.” – Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough

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Let’s talk about it

August 12th, 2017 · No Comments

“People keep saying, ‘We need to have a conversation about race.’ This is the conversation. I want to see a cop shoot a white unarmed teenager in the back.” – Toni Morrison

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The sources of power

August 11th, 2017 · No Comments

“The ancient Germans believed that there was something holy in women, and accordingly consulted them as oracles. Their sacred women, we are told, looked on the eddying rivers and listened to the murmur or the roar of the water, and from the sight and sound foretold what would come to pass. But often the veneration of the men went further, and they worshipped women as true and living goddesses. For example, in the reign of Vespasian a certain Veleda, of the tribe of the Bructeri, was commonly held to be a deity, and in that character reigned over her people, her sway being acknowledged far and wide. She lived in a tower on the river Lippe, a tributary of the Rhine. When the people of Cologne sent to make a treaty with her, the ambassadors were not admitted to her presence; the negotiations were conducted through a minister, who acted as the mouthpiece of her divinity and reported her oracular utterances.” – Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough

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If

August 10th, 2017 · No Comments

“If the deity is one who delights in charity and mercy and purity more than in oblations of blood, the chanting of hymns, and the fumes of incense, his worshippers will best please him, not by prostrating themselves before him, by intoning his praises, and by filling his temples with costly gifts, but by being pure and merciful and charitable towards men, for in so doing they will imitate, as far as human infirmity allows, the perfections of the divine nature.” – Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough

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Pay to play

August 9th, 2017 · No Comments

“Intellectual progress, which reveals itself in the growth of art and science and the spread of more liberal views, cannot be dissociated from industrial or economic progress, and that in its turn receives an immense impulse from conquest and empire. It is no mere accident that the most vehement outbursts of activity of the human mind have followed close on the heels of victory, and that the great conquering races of the world have commonly done most to advance and spread civilization, thus healing in peace the wounds they inflicted in war.” – Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough

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Cropping the tall poppies

August 8th, 2017 · No Comments

“No human being is so hidebound by custom and tradition as your democratic savage; in no state of society consequently is progress so slow and difficult. The old notion that the savage is the freest of mankind is the reverse of the truth. He is a slave, not indeed to a visible master, but to the past, to the spirits of his dead forefathers, who haunt his steps from birth to death, and rule him with a rod of iron. What they did is the pattern of right, the unwritten law to which he yields a blind unquestioning obedience. The least possible scope is thus afforded to superior talent to change old customs for the better. The ablest man is dragged down by the weakest and dullest, who necessarily sets the standard, since he cannot rise, while the other can fall. The surface of such a society presents a uniform dead level, so far as it is humanly possible to reduce the natural inequalities, the immeasurable real differences of inborn capacity and temper, to a false superficial appearance of equality.” – Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough

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Our gang

August 7th, 2017 · No Comments

“More mischief has probably been wrought in the world by honest fools in high places than by intelligent rascals.” – Sir James George Frazer, The Golden Bough

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Babies for the state

August 6th, 2017 · No Comments

“The socialization of reproduction completed the process begun by the socialization of production itself—that is, by industrialization. Having expropriated the worker’s tools and concentrated production in the factory, industrialists in the opening decades of the twentieth century proceeded to expropriate the worker’s technical knowledge as well. By means of ‘scientific management,’ they broke down production into its component parts, assigned a specific function on the assembly line to each worker, and kept to themselves the knowledge of the productive process as a whole. In order to administer this knowledge, they created a vastly enlarged managerial apparatus, an army of engineers, technicians, personnel managers, and industrial psychologists drawn from the same pool of technical experts that simultaneously staffed the ‘helping professions.’ Knowledge became an industry in its own right, while the worker, deprived of the craft knowledge by which he had retained practical control of production even after the introduction of the factory system, sank into passive dependence. Eventually, industry organized management itself along industrial lines, splitting up the production of knowledge into routinized operations carried on by semiskilled clerical labor: secretaries, typists, computer card punchers, and other lackeys. The socialization of production—under the control of private industry—proletarianized the labor force in the same way that the socialization of reproduction proletarianized parenthood, by making parents unable to provide for their own needs without the supervision of trained experts.” – Christopher Lasch, The Minimal Self

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Keeping an even keel

August 5th, 2017 · No Comments

“A man with taste, particularly literary taste, is less susceptible to the refrains and the rhythmical incantations peculiar to any version of political demagogy. The point is not so much that virtue does not constitute a guarantee for producing a masterpiece, as that evil, especially political evil, is always a bad stylist. The more substantial an individual’s aesthetic experience is, the sounder his taste, the sharper his moral focus, the freer—though not necessarily the happier—he is.” — Joseph Brodsky, “Nobel Lecture”

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Efficiency and productivity

August 4th, 2017 · No Comments

“I started out my working life as a waiter. There is a saying in the restaurant business: ‘Full hands in and full hands out.’ It means that you never enter the kitchen without bringing an empty plate or glass with you, and you never leave the kitchen without grabbing a plate that needs to be delivered to a table. It’s a simple rule that creates quite a bit of efficiency during busy shifts. I’ve always tried to apply the same rule to my law practice. If I’m taking a trip downtown for one client, I make sure to look for two or three other things that can also be accomplished in the same trip.” – Mark Unger, Attorney-at-Law

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Good luck with all that

August 3rd, 2017 · No Comments

“Our culture’s trek to the present has been a Long March through one province after another of philosophical folly: Plato’s Ideas, Aristotle’s essences, Descartes’ mind-body distinction, Kant’s Ding-an-sich, Husserl’s phenomenological method, the logical positivists’ scientific method—all in quest of absolute, suprahistorical Certainty. At last we have learned from the great antiphilosophers—James and Dewey, Nietzsche and Heidegger, Wittgenstein and Foucault—that this Certainty is not to be had, and that wanting it was all along a lack of maturity, a failure of nerve, a yearning for what Nietzsche called ‘comfort.’ There is no God, in other words, and no telos. “ – George Scialabba, “Consequences of Pragmatism”

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Thor of the boardroom

August 2nd, 2017 · No Comments

“Modern culture has produced a distinctive character-type, our equivalent of the Homeric warrior-hero, the Athenian gentleman-citizen, the Christian saint, the 18th-century honnete homme. The defining activity of this character-type is manipulation; its most common embodiments are the aesthete, the therapist and, above all, the manager. All three express their culture’s understanding of social relations as primarily instrumental: by the consumption of other people as interesting sensations, or by the deployment of morally neutral expertise to achieve organizational goals. In a developed society that has renounced the ideal of virtue, of universal, rationally justifiable norms, this is the form taken by the war of all against all, and these characters are its warrior-heroes.” – George Scialabba, “After Virtue”

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Let’s make one, then

August 1st, 2017 · No Comments

“The absence of God spells the ruin of man in the sense that it demolishes or robs of meaning everything we think of as the essence of being human: the quest for truth, the distinction of good and evil, the claim to dignity, the claim to creating something that withstands the indifferent destructiveness of time.” – Leszek Kolakowski, Religion: If there is No God . . .

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What it’s about

July 31st, 2017 · No Comments

“In theory, the outcome of elections in the United States reflects, with only minor distortions, the political preferences of the electorate. That’s what representative democracy is supposed to mean. Only it doesn’t work out that way. More precisely: the range of choices over which the American electorate is allowed to exercise its preference is sharply and systematically constrained. Electoral politics is dominated by two major parties, whose programs, to the extent they differ, correspond to the needs and goals of opposing sectors of the business community. The goals and ground rules that all sectors of business agree on constitute the framework of public policy, rarely or never challenged in the electoral arena. Policy proposals that fall outside this framework — i.e., good new ideas from the left — remain invisible and inaudible. This is not a conspiracy theory. Business leaders do not meet in secret to decide how best to delude the public mind and thwart the public will. They don’t need to. In a capitalist democracy, business control over the state is assured structurally. There are two reasons for this. First, since most people are economically vulnerable — they depend on employment rather than on ownership or some other entitlement to survive — the best predictor of their voting behavior is likely to be the state of the economy at election time. Overall, the state of the economy is determined by the level of investment. Since investment decisions in a capitalist economy are made privately, governments must nurture that most delicate of blossoms, ‘investor confidence.’ The second reason for business dominance is that political participation in a mass society costs a lot of money. Voting may be free, but setting the agenda is enormously expensive. To work out and put forth a detailed political program at the national level requires information, organization, and publicity, and all these require cash. Since the only people with spare money are capitalists, they have an effective monopoly on political speech.” – George Scialabba, “Right Turn”

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Not to pass the time

July 30th, 2017 · No Comments

“If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skull, why then do we read it? What we must have are books that come upon us like ill-fortune and distress us deeply.” – Franz Kafka

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What you can get away with

July 29th, 2017 · No Comments

“There is a difference between a damage caused by continued vibrations of trains which are performing a necessary public service, and a damage caused by a single blast set off on the private property of another. It is such differences which make law not mainly the product of logic, but of experience, social necessity and distribution of the cost of consequences. Our common existence may require the law to hold that damage to property caused by unavoidable vibrations of passing trains is damnum absque injuria whilst to permit one owner, by a blast on his own property to shake down the house of another, requires a rule which recognizes that however free from negligence the first may be the second innocent person should not suffer. The very essence of fairness seems to suggest that if one, in order to obtain a certain type of use or enjoyment of his own property, is compelled to blast, he must, as part of the cost of such use or enjoyment, pay the damages he causes to his innocent neighbor.” – Justice James H. Wolfe, Madsen v. East Jordan Irr. Co.

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Just lie back and relax

July 28th, 2017 · No Comments

“The tendency of every utopian movement is totalitarian: when perfectibility is the assumption, coercion must be the result.” – George Scialabba, “The Crooked Timber of Humanity”

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Apples are not oranges

July 27th, 2017 · No Comments

“The aims of scientific method—predictiveness, universal applicability, logical simplicity, ontological parsimony—cannot be imported into the study of psychology, history, or politics. Individuals and cultures are radically diverse, ineffably deep, infinitely complex. Only imaginative identification, a renunciation of the urge to theoretical mastery, and a yielding to the sheer particularity of things can produce genuine understanding. Even more important than this interpretive pluralism is ethical pluralism. Moral no less than aesthetic values are radically diverse. Both within and among human beings, conflict, or at any rate tension, is inevitable. Compromise is possible, but not perfect harmony.” – George Scialabba, “The Crooked Timber of Humanity”

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Freedom isn’t free

July 26th, 2017 · No Comments

“Whatever else liberal democratic societies have had in common, there’s this: they’ve all been rich. The two pillars of liberal ideology—the right to undisturbed enjoyment of one’s property and the right to a fair share of society’s resources, at least enough for a decent subsistence—may be fundamentally inconsistent, but the contradiction has usually remained implicit. There’s generally been enough money around to keep everyone off the streets, except for a minority of desperate or adventurous souls, quickly crushed by the National Guard and the secret police. In a society that makes more promises than it can keep, prosperity is the root of all harmony. When prosperity fails and those promises are called in, choices have to be made.” – George Scialabba, “Liberalism Reconsidered”

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Imagine all the people

July 25th, 2017 · No Comments

“Culture and psychology are central to politics. But cultural politics must reckon with our psychic ecology: the sum of our adaptations, over the course of two million years, to infantile dependence, territoriality, scarcity, mortality, and the other hitherto inescapable limits of human existence. We are organisms; we cannot flourish at just any tempo, pressure, or scale. Imagination itself is an evolutionary adaptation, whereby we master a threatening environment when young by binding or investing fantasy within nearby entities – parents, neighborhood, church, ethnic group. These intense primary identifications can and should be gradually left behind, but they cannot be skipped, on pain of shallowness, instability, and – paradoxically – an inability in later life to stand firm against authority. Cultural politics should aim to reform rather than abolish marriage, the family, hierarchy, authority, morality, and law. These institutions and practices evolved to serve essential purposes. They are not purely, or even primarily, strategies of exploitation. To consider them prisons rather than temporary outposts is not radical but superficial, like considering religion and myth mere lies rather than inadequate attempts at explanation. Cultural radicals will sometimes, in fact, need to defend these institutions; i.e., insist that some way be found to achieve their formative or protective purposes. As the global economy and mass culture lay siege to inwardness, plow up our psychic root system, and alter the very grain and contour of our being, conservation increasingly becomes a radical imperative.” – George Scialabba, “Don’t Think, Smile”

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You can’t get there from here

July 24th, 2017 · No Comments

“Utopia, then, is in the future. Why is this worth emphasizing? Revolutionists and abolitionists, utopia’s false friends, insist that it can be constructed out of present materials through a heroic act of will. This is to underestimate recklessly the depth and subtlety of the necessary changes and the intricacy and inertia of every moral culture. Utopia is impossible unless, among an overwhelming majority, solidarity and trust are nearly instinctive; responsibility, self-reliance, initiative, honesty, and other civic virtues are practiced much more widely than now; and democratic habits of self-confidence, candor, and tact are far better developed. Channels of communication and public information are as yet rudimentary. And let’s not forget rhetorical skills like wit, fluency, and concision: without a vast improvement in the general level of these, attendance at all the necessary meetings on the way to utopia will result in an epidemic of premature brain death. With all these moral and psychological changes in place, we can make a start on the technical problem – no less complex, probably – of reconciling equity and efficiency in production and distribution. Obviously such drastic and intimate changes, on the requisite scale, without undemocratic coercion or divine intervention, cannot be accomplished in a generation, or probably even in a few generations. Carrying off a general strike may be a fine thing, but creating a new moral ecology is an infinitely more difficult and valuable thing.” – George Scialabba, “The End of Utopia”

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Where it is

July 23rd, 2017 · No Comments

“To search for a democracy of individual participation, particularly if the goal is to restore the give-and-take of face-to-face relations in the neighborly community, is to swim against the tide of history. The main drift in modern industrial life has been toward expanding scale and complexity, the centralization of power and the growth of hierarchical bureaucracies. Popular revolts against these overwhelming realities have been only sporadically successful, in part be cause the demand for individual autonomy and active participation in public life must sooner or later run up against the desire for stability, privacy, and the material comforts promised by the modern industrial nation-state.” – James Miller, “Democracy is in the streets”

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What’s the price on that?

July 22nd, 2017 · No Comments

“Critical rationality, as propagated by the Enlightenment and modeled on the natural sciences, has (along with market rationality) undermined the cultural authority of virtually all moral values, norms, customs, and beliefs in virtually all modern societies. The moral foundations of Western culture have been hollowed out. To the question ‘why be good?’ there is now no philosophically compelling answer, even if most people don’t know it yet. The name of this condition is nihilism: the eventual result may be spiritual paralysis or, worse, a war of all against all and of all against nature.” – George Scialabba, “Enlightenment’s Wake”

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Divided we stand

July 21st, 2017 · No Comments

“Is it necessary to choose between cosmopolitanism and agrarian populism? Let us hope not. The liberal virtues and the republican virtues are both indispensable. But that does not mean they are, at this moment, equally urgent or equally vulnerable. The apparently irresistible thrust of global capitalism threatens the latter virtues far more than the former, rootedness and psychological integrity far more than mobility and personal growth, perhaps even — to stretch a point — independence and self-reliance more than impartial benevolence. The ‘heroic ideal’ and the ‘tragic sense’: these phrases already sound archaic. But our civilization has not outgrown what they signify; it has merely forgotten. Cultural amnesia is not the same thing as progress.” – George Scialabba, “Cultivating Humanity”

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Not to mention everything else

July 20th, 2017 · No Comments

“The truth about human nature is very bad news for socialism.” – William Barrett, The Truants

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