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Helter Skelter: Charleston

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof, born April 3, 1994, was named by the FBI as the suspected killer on the evening of June 17, 2015, where a mass shooting took place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. The church has long been a site for community organization around civil rights. Nine people were killed. | Photo: Archives | Dylann Roof, Charleston, Violence, Shooting, Jail, Prisoner, Murder, Hate,

No, It's Not Some TV Spinoff, But The Oldest 'News'

You may be a lover, but... this wasn't some spinoff TV series.

We are all familiar with the infamy surrounding the misappropriation of a Beatles song by the vengeful manipulator Charles Manson. While perhaps an easily understood motive beneath his otherwise generalized anger at a 'civilization' which enabled him to despise its allowance of his personal circumstances, the race war he had hoped to help hasten was but a blatant symptom of his--and that 'civilization's--deeper anomie: the glorification of ignorance itself.

One of the most prominent proofs of this status quo (a terminology we'll reach in a moment) is the equation of knowledge with antidotal stature, embodied in the habitual refrain in the face of any seemingly senseless action: 'We need more education about...(FAVORITE CRISIS HERE).' What is missing from this proposition? It is wisdom, the faculty which distinguishes 'could' from 'should'.

In the film 'Men in Black' that sagacious old school character, Zed, summed the situation up nicely: "Gentlemen, you're all we've come to expect from years of government training."

His remarks might well apply to the government training experienced by most of us, whether via public schooling or otherwise (given that government grants certain privileges to, say, religious institutions)-- local school boards are government. And, while the ancient academies had their faults, they certainly brought wisdom to bear in the education of their charges, so much so that Socrates trial centered upon charges of 'corrupting the morals of youth.' Understanding that morals have to do with the societal mores of each time and place, it is only important here to note that this famous trial took place in republican Athens, the vaunted cradle of our western democratic 'civilization'.

Now, whether private, public or hybrid these government-sanctioned institutions have had a long history of doing--often by default ideology--to their students what Socrates was wrongly accused of. Example: when and if the 'history' of Native Americans has been taught, it has routinely reflected the hypocrisy of labeling 'other' as somehow inferior, deliberately mistaking and misrepresenting that other as inferior. And this ideology stems all the way back in America's history at least to Jefferson who secretly wrote to Congress concerning the ways and means of depriving the tribes of his East of their domain peacefully and economically.

Part of this letter is reproduced here, available in 'whole by simply searching 'Jefferson's Confidential Letter to Congress':

Sharon Tate and Charles Manson
Sharon Tate and Charles Manson

Rather than further glorify the face of a monster, we thought it more appropriate to remember the beauty and innocence of the faithfully departed, Sharon Tate. The photos below Sharon show an aging Manson from 1969, 1970 and 1971, while the bottom row shows him becoming more frail in 1986, 2009 and 2011. |
"First, to encourage them to abandon hunting, to apply to the raising stock, to agriculture and domestic manufacture, and thereby prove to themselves that less land and labor will maintain them in this, better than in their former mode of living. The extensive forests necessary in the hunting life will then become useless, and they will see advantage in exchanging them for the means of improving their farms, and of increasing their domestic comforts."

Enough said. We now return you to your TVs and 'Helter Skelter: Charleston', already in regress.

The black men and women who significantly built and fought for this country all the way back to Jefferson's Revolution have fared as poorly, despite having been enlisted to help with America's arrogant 'manifest destiny'. [Can you hear Bob Marley's 'Buffalo Soldiers'?]

No scholarship beyond these few examples is necessary, only the awareness that even amongst the most learned of Greek or extant times the glaring absence of wisdom--'should we?'--is utterly conspicuous, just before our tearing eyes, and under our crinkled noses as these limbic human faculties yield to our mouths, mouthing the rhetorical: 'Why?'

Unless and until we admit this moral (as in mores) failure, our 'only human' excuses will suffice less and less, and we will continue the status quo habits of mind and summon more education, eschewing the 'only humane' evolutionary small step into the perhaps most ancient of our capabilities, wisdom, wherein resides truest shelter from this fatal feedback loop of Helter Skelter.

In Stephen King's novel, 'The Stand', the military man, the very symbol of steadfast rectitude, realizing what his institutional blindness has unleashed trembles as he recites Yeats haunting 'The Second Coming', 'the center cannot hold, things fall apart...' Later in that book, as they are struggling to rebuild, survivors gather at a governmental assembly at which one of the engineers working on the power plant asks: 'Haven't we done this...before?'

Wisdom, then, and the getting of it, and the dispensing of it, is summoned and from within our very beings, to be cultivated in the young. Else, 'rough beasts' will drag us, slouching toward...?

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Updated May 6, 2017 5:51 AM EDT | More details

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