The Couch

About Power

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smokinpristiformis
child of the stars
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#126 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 11/03/09 - 3:09 AM:

Err. Daily painting can cause stillness because the solvents are attacking your brain...


...but I get this feeling that that was not what you meant to say. sticking out tongue
Zum
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#127 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 11/03/09 - 10:53 AM:

laughing

No, but I love it, Smokin.
Zum
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#128 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 11/04/09 - 2:11 PM:

Thinker: what you wrote way back and maybe months ago, about vulnerability producing or permitting oppression, is right on. I finally got the message. Thanks.
Thinker13
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#129 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 11/05/09 - 11:07 AM:

Zum wrote:
Thinker: what you wrote way back and maybe months ago, about vulnerability producing or permitting oppression, is right on. I finally got the message. Thanks.



Welcome,Zum.
Zum
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#130 - Quote - Permalink
Posted 11/16/09 - 1:22 PM:

In Ralph Ellisons' Invisible Man, abuse of power is set forth as experienced by a member of a group singled out for oppression. I believe the book came out in the 1950's. The story is set in the U.S. in the 1940's or 1950's; the protagonist is an African American man. Today one could write a similar book--if one could write as well as Ellison--about a woman in any one of various countries or about any impoverished person anywhere. The foregoing does not exhaust or even weary the possibilities.

The book contains a number of unforgettable scenes. (Has anyone read it?) At a congregation of men, African American kids are invited to box; they are to be paid for doing so. The protagonist has gone there because he has been told that he has won a scholarship; for the occasion he has prepared a speech. His hosts have not told him about the boxing requirement. He is desperate to go to college; he boxes and gets knocked about rather badly. Next, coins are put on a steel plate; the young men are invited to pick them up. Of course they reach for them; the steel plate, they find, is electrified. The hosts derive amusement from all this. At last the protagonist gives his speech though his mouth is full of blood. He receives his prize.

Ellison writes without self-pity or manifest anger, simply showing abuse of power through bizarre events and symbols, subtly mocking the protagonist's naivete. There exists a kind of unhappy enlightenment, attained through suffering; the protagonist is still on the wrong side of this.

Still tame and hyper-obedient, he attends a college in the south. Essentially, his tractability gets him kicked out of the school. I won't go into the circumstances, so unbelievable they probably happened somewhere. The college president, Bledsoe (Ellison is as good with names as are Shakespeare and Dickens) abuses power as ruthlessly as did the scholarship-givers. The chief difference is that he knows he does so and admits it.

In this book, to be a member of an oppressed class is to be invisible. Indeed, the book presupposes that the practice of oppression begins with an act of partial self-blinding.

The protag, who is never given a name, goes to New York; there he joins The Brotherhood, a political organization allegedly dedicated to social reform. He is competent, intelligent, disciplined, and as naive as before. He works hard; eventually the leaders sell out and abandon the African American contingent, having decided that conspicuous disaster among them would increase their membership and personal power. In a showdown scene between the protagonist and the chief of that section of the Brotherhood, the former, now in the travail of his enlightenment, argues ethics, argues common sense; the chief verbally blocks and parries, striding about the room; a glass eye pops out of his head, falls to the floor and rolls around. Unperturbed, he picks it up and shoves it back into the eye socket.

The Brotherhood probably represents the American Communist Party as it then existed, or as Ellison saw it.

The protag leaves the Brotherhood, grieved at having "fallen outside of history," a calamity equivalent to losing one's religious faith. He is in trouble with vengeful persons in the Brotherhood and with followers of Ras the Destroyer, an independent political who makes speeches in the streets from a ladder. Ras and his followers think that involvement with the Brotherhood is treasonous and despicable. Our hero goes on the run. To facilitate invisibility of a kind different from the thematic one, he buys sunglasses and a hat from a drug store. In this slender disguise, he is repeatedly taken for Reinhart--that is, he is called Reinhart and spoken to as Reinhart, but each time in a different context, and each time to an essentially different man. As it turns out, there's Reinhart the drug dealer, Reinhart the lover, Reinhart the pimp, Reinhart the gang boss who collects protection, and, finally, Reinhart the preacher. The protagonist never runs into Reinhart the flesh and blood man, but learns a great deal about him and his quintuple life. A dreadful option is suggested to him. Reinhart: the rind is the heart; the outside is all there is. Appearance is reality.

Running from his enemies, he goes down a manhole, like a raccoon at dawn. He finds a warm place underground, with lots of physical power outlets. To keep himself warm, he leaks power out of the city. He decides to hang out there and eat ice cream topped with with sloe gin, until

And so the book ends.

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