Book review of Gary Brumback, Life's Triangles and America's Power Elites (2019)
To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
-Auguries of Innocence, by William Blake
There is an American Native game, counting coup, which is both rarefied and possibly the answer to the male testosterone/female co-opting of testosterone that has given rise to civilizational humanity since the so-called fertile crescent gestated the evil arts of subjugating man, woman, child and ecosystems to a small cabal of landowners (sic) who got humanity to work for food.
I always go to Daniel Quinn and other neotribalists to look at the long-range, way back, to give some justification to a tribal and hunter-gatherer past that for many of us is locked in our genes, accessible to fewer and fewer people daily as the world becomes a landmine of DNA-warping, cell-depleting, culture-sapping madness orchestrated by white men (mostly).
In our cultural mythology we see ourselves as having left tribalism behind the way modern medicine left the leech and the bleeding bowl behind, and we did so decisively and irrevocably. This is why it's so difficult for us to acknowledge that tribalism is not only the preeminently human social organization, it's also the only unequivocally successful social organization in human history. Thus, when even so wise and thoughtful a statesman as Mikhail Gorbachev calls for "a new beginning" and "a new civilization," he doesn't doubt for a single moment that the pattern for it lies in the social organization that has introduced humanity to oppression, injustice, poverty, chronic famine, incessant violence, genocide, global warfare, crime, corruption, and wholesale environmental destruction. To consult, in our time of deepest crisis, with the unqualified success that humanity enjoyed here for more than three million years is quite simply and utterly unthinkable.
What's lovely about my own intersection with Gary Brumback - the author of the book this review-dash-screed is enveloping: Life's Triangles and America's Power Elites: Can the Living Field be Leveled? - is that Gary reached out to me and solicited my comments and possible endorsement of this book (he's a regular contributor to Dissident Voice), through the auspices of one of modern civilization's double-edged swords - the world-wide internet.
I think it's both unreal and uniquely human to reach out across the digital universe, and when someone who is connected to me through my words, and finds some linkage, then I believe that's sign enough to make some connection deeper, or revealing.
It's gutsy for this 84-year-old former organizational psychologist to have reached out to me (I'm not now your typical thinker and writer), and the proof is in the pudding when it comes to his writing and then how the diner/reader of those ideas, through the grist of his words and grammar (courses), gets the true taste (or terroir) of the author's (chef's) orchestration of ideas and composition.
As many readers of my work know, I am captivated by holism and systems thinking, and many times I am looking at life - universalities - through my own optics. I understand the drive to want to understand how tidal wetlands work and how elephant seals can go down 7,770 feet for up to two hours without succumbing to the bends or nitrogen narcosis.
But inherent in that learning and yearning, I understand the power of attracting forces, both physics and metaphysics, and the value in coincidences, both mathematical and magical, and more and more, daily, I am grasping the reasoning for my own living and thinking and breathing. Here I am on the Oregon Coast (central) just having done my first day's class to be a certified marine mammal (and to help tourists/visitors understand the other zoological and ecological concerns) naturalist. I was about to fiddle with my short-story collection which is coming out in several months from Cirque Press, and I was also prepped to blog from my post here in Otis, Oregon.
Instead, I answered the email call from Gary to take a look at his book and write up something. What interests me most about fellows like Brumback is his tenacity to not only understand the world around him using a variety of tools from his 84 years on the planet, but also his desire to be one among us as writers - anti-authoritarian thinkers who deeply question the role of this country in the upsetting of people and cultures throughout the globe.
"Call of Duty" is what I see my role now turning 62 next week. I have engendered good will and hard learning in thousands of students, at public gatherings where I "ran the show" (a hat off to Ed Sullivan) and in my writing, big and small. I've written three parts to my hell-hole experience working with homeless veterans at the Starvation Army in Oregon. But in reality, the linchpin for me is my call of duty, call and answer, to carry forth in any way possible, the message of revolt. Speaking of revolt, I remember hanging out with Robert Bly on two occasions - one time in El Paso as we made it over to Juarez for tequila, and another time 23 years later in Spokane with bourbon and quietude. I wrote a promo article for his appearance in Spokane as part of Get Lit!. His poem, "Call and Answer," is powerful, even at 17 years old.
I bring this up as a tangent to describe some of what I interpret as the core value in Gary's new book:
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