Airing a Fevered Brain
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2 reasons I joined facebook:
1--Be in touch with family scattered across at least two continents.
2--Be available to old friends I'd otherwise never see again.
It's wonderful that people are lining up to be in touch with me. Truly. My crusty little heart is melting a bit at the edges. But I want to see you in places that are more wholesome, freer.
Now I'm going to go post this elsewhere on the net so that if FB gets into one of it's "your words belong to us" modes, there's somewhere else that posted a few minutes before, so I can argue that they are, in fact, mine.
I think it's ridiculous. Or annoying. I'm not good with the flag anyway. I see it as a pose, not patriotism. And he's kinda a dweeb. Has agency shirts that he wears out on field visits. I guess my usual pose is low profile as possible. Which, of course, is one reason I hate the whole help thing. I hate not being let to just do my thing in the world, without becoming a center of attention. I don't like being intruded on. introvert...
I can deal with the fact that I'm hopelessly out of tune with the hip and cool; but I end up believing that I'm not a dyed in the wool square/nerd/dweeb. Don't know what I am, just one of those odd outliers, I suppose.
On the other hand she wants to read my blog. (But apparently, not reposted, but in the original, wtf?) Oh yeah. My secret to blogging well? Honesty and vulnerability. I can't fit her into this picture.
Finally, apparently she knew about Scott's death and my dismemberment and watched progress on the internet. I haven't double-checked--but I'm pretty damn sure there was no card. Really, that may piss me off more than anything, but in some of the worst times of my life she didn't reach out even though she new what I was going through (in outline at least)?
You can't make Facebook or your child's childhood to be a place of unicorns and rainbows--and by the way, Mommy freaking out and becoming verbally abusive whenever something threatens her idealized view of reality?... Your unicorns have sharp teeth. Or is that "blood on their hooves"? I forget.
Google "unicorns sharp teeth" and you get this pic. From Facebook. Sometimes my gods with wacky senses of humor nail it.
Edited to add: I've been spending too much time composing emails in my head to her. This post hits my highlights.
Is it ethical to go to work tomorrow? or should I stay here? I'll be miserable either way.
Talk me out of it, please.
Reading Stalin biographies was hard. It should be hard. It was also fascinating. Stalin is on some level an every man writ very large, indeed.
Of course "large" is inaccurate in many ways. He was small--small pox and probably malnutrition in childhood did that. And he was petty--nursing grudges for years, and repaying them in horrible ways. And, he seems to have had life long inferiority complex. Whatever other ends the Great Terror served (and I with my limited knowledge think it was a confluence of many things) it also cleared out a number of intellectuals out of the party. "Cleared out" is a pathetic phrasing. Killed. Killed in secret, not letting surviving family members where their loved ones were. Not that the families didn't have other problems to worry about. Like being hauled off the the gulag. Killed after torture. Killed after rigged, staged trials that often ended with the "guilty" parties thanking the apparatchiks of the party for rooting out their errors in Bolshevik doctrine. Or thanking them for something. It didn't matter--still taken to cellar and shot in the head.
And for the rest of his life, Stalin played the intellectual, and probably got away with it in his immediate circle, a) because he was the most intellectual one left standing; and b) he was the puppet master, pulling the strings, the lion that they did not want to activate because he was so deadly.
Of course, back to Great Terror Mindfuck--often his victims thought they had been arrested by mistake, and if Stalin knew he'd get them out. He counter-signed the death warrants of thousands. And there's the occasional person yanked off the death lists, merely sent to gulags, or even freed--and that is clear evidence that he read the things instead of merely initialing as it were. (In some cases he asked the executioners how they had died, last words and the like. Spiteful.)
There are multiple lenses to view Stalin. Gangster is a very apt description. Although, he was careful to work through others. I don't know if he ever killed anyone himself, I'm sure he would have if he had to, but he liked to have a layer or two between him and the corpse factory floor. I think he liked the power of having people kill for him. And I'm sure that the staging of the show trials included the irony? horror? of his working both ends--killing but being the one they appealed to. Or their wives or family appealed to. Anyway, it's so twisted it's hard to hold on to all the levels of his manipulation and while I haven't returned Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar to the library yet, I don't want to open it to get those facts right.
There is a holographic aspect of his life. His family, two wives, three children, and in-laws. And some of those in-laws spent time in the gulags or other prisons. His first wife died after years of neglect, including not having proper food and taking train journeys when it was too hot, and I forget the rest again. It was during his years underground--active revolutionaries shouldn't be married with families--too fucking hard on them. I think that one's son died of suicide while captured by the nazis. Actally, I have to sort of give it up to Stalin, for not trading for his son. I don't see that his children should be awarded anything more than a regular soldier. Second wife probably died a suicide, after a scene at a party to celebrate the anniversary of the October Revolution. Some people want attribute the death directly to Stalin, saying that people at her university had been telling her about disappearances and the famine. I find that doubtful. These people were very able to justify the means by the ends. I don't think that the awakening that that would imply was possible. Her son ended up an alcoholic with a bad case of Crown Prince Syndrome. (Which I just invented.) And there was his daughter, Svetlana. Whom he adored. Well, up until the time she got interested in men. Then it got a lot more complicated. And there we have another strict father unable to accept his daughter's sexual coming of age. I actually respect Svetlana. I think she did well with the cards she was dealt. I don't think she's come up with a lame apology for her father's heinous acts. Others of her generation did.
And just outside was a circle of friends? Interconnected because they all lived in or near the Kremlin, in apartment houses, I can almost imagine them borrowing sugar and having cozy coffees together, sort of like Rob and Laura Petry and their neighbors. And of course they all worked together. And the kids played together. And after work they'd have dinner together. And they would all go to vacation together. Sure they each were staying in their own house, but near each other, more going back and forth, more dinners together. I can see that they would, over time, develop their closed circle of values and not have any sense that they were doing evil. And that cozy group was periodically torn apart by arrests and disappearances.
Larger than the central committee and politburo circle was the party. Again, Stalin cut through them like a hot knife through butter. As I say, he was killing off the intellectuals, but he was also cleaning up the party of "Old Bolsheviks", Leninists, Trotskyists, heroes of the Civil War, anyone whom he perceived as a threat. I get the impression that if you hadn't laughed at one of his jokes in 1924 he would save that until 1938 when you'd find yourself in a prison cell.
And the great circle was of course Russia/the USSR. Again, many killed, millions. 20 million is the number I see most often. I don't know how that number was come by. There was bureaucratic evidence when the archives were opened up in the 1990s, but there was a lot of information purged as well. I know that the industrialization of England wasn't pretty, I know less about Germany, and France. And the U.S. I do know that it's an ugly process wherever, whenever it occurs. Is it possible to come up with some measure of how many lives were lost and how much they suffered and compare these transformations directly? Can we say that the industrialization of this backwards nation, bringing it to a world power was worth the suffering? Can we say that suffering in 19th century Manchester is comparable to the famine in the Ukraine?
Does even asking that question make me insane?
In the side trips on the web I have run into an apologist or two who say that industrialization was a good thing and that was a price paid. (Okay, I'm severely shortchanging and paraphrasing their arguments. I do't know what to say, and I'm not here to talk about them.)
Can we say that in the center of this whirlwind of concentric horrors that Stalin himself was a microcosm of the suffering, of cutting out parts of himself as he cut out family, friends, colleagues, compatriots? I don't know. His childhood sucked. Apparently he was beaten daily by his father, a drunken shoemaker. His mother may have beat him as well. and was beaten by her husband. not a healthy atmosphere. And so, some of his smallness might have been "failure to thrive" in a family that didn't nurture a very bright and talented boy. But what does that mean? Stalin was vile, and must remain vile. There are lessons to be learned from him, but he cannot be rehabilitated. I hate it when I make statements that bald, but some people demand to be damned by all.
Sometimes it's just amazing. www.amazon.com/Commissar-.../ref=sr_1_1 contains dozens to hundreds of photos that morphed inside Stalinist Russia. Here's a group shot. Here's the same shot reprinted ten years later, with a smaller group. With bushes filling the space where certain comrades were. Here's Stalin surrounded by other people in Petrograd during the revolution, here he is, by himself, somehow those others are gone. Imagine what he would have been like with photoshop.
As he got older, he became another old bore telling the same old stories over and over. Sometimes reminiscing fondly about comrades he had had shot twenty years ago, as if it were merely time that separated them from him. He'd stay up late after dinner, forcing his close colleagues, some of whom hated him at this point, to hear the same stories and sing the same songs over and over, night after night. How utterly fucking human, just like any old bore. And his death, his death is a nice piece poetic justice. He had a stroke and was left on the floor, for hours, in a puddle of his own piss, because everyone there was too scared to pick an old, sick man off the floor and put him someplace better. I don't think he would have been saved if they had found and started to care for him right away. Stroke care is much better than it was in 1950s and Soviet Medicine was probably behind ours in that sort of extreme care. And of course, his regular doctors were in prison on his orders. And if there's anyone more deserving of spending a good portion of his last week lying in a puddle of his own piss, I don't know who it is. And it's only a small drop of revenge against the suffering he caused. None of us can outrun suffering I suppose. IN the end he was as helpless as an ordinary Russian.
The books I read are both by Simon Sebag Montefiore. The 2nd he wrote deals with his childhood, youth and his work in the Bolshevik underground up until the October Revolution. www.amazon.com/Young-Stal.../ref=sr_1_1
The first deals with his years in power, early 30s, through 1953. www.amazon.com/Stalin-Cou.../ref=sr_1_2
The civil war and the rest up to and including the death of Lenin and the manipulating that Stalin did to get himself in power is not covered. I hoping Montefiore is working on a book that covers that, because I'm sure I'll go back to that some time. I'll find another biography if I must. Probably a good idea--see things from a different analytic perspective. But not this week. I've been submerged in that for long enough for while. Maybe next fall...
That's a picture of him with Svetlana. I cannot say that the monster was incapable of love, but I'm not going to say he was good at it.
I did quite well, too. A little bit of a tendency to confuse the brake and gas (it should be like a joy stick--forward is faster!) and not very aggressive on lane changes, but I drove all the way from my neighborhood to the Berkeley Marina and back.
I didn't kill anyone or hit anything or scrape something. That's good.
Now I sort of want ot eat lunch and a tiny bit want to throw up and I want to take a nap.
Image from: www.mobilityfreedom.com/produc...ols.htm
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