Thursday, February 26, 2015

Thirsters 2015.2.26

"A is for Anthropology in STEAM (enhanced STEM) not Art" has been my mantra.  I studied psychological anthropology at Princeton some, and knew about Clifford Geertz and his thick descriptions of cock fighting long before most people.  So I was glad to join Dr. Tag (on her way to see grand vistas), Christine, other friends (and Friends) tonight, for a free ranging discussion of International Development as its own ingrown subculture.

As evidence of its being ingrown, you'll find little talk of Iron Mountain, i.e. the Maslow anti-pyramid of military services that form the bulk of "foreign aid".  A lot of the best toys come in one color:  camo.  But development specialists are supposed to tippy toe around the big gorilla and just speak of civilian programs like health care and birth control.  And yet Anthropology cozies up to the military in HTS type programs -- you'd think there'd be more cross-fertilization in the discourse.

The USA pacifies its poor by giving them an option:  military service.  The bulk of foreign development work in North America involves Beltway Goons running the creaky old primary irrigation system, of defense contractors, into the ground.  They haven't the imagination for anything better, like ending poverty.  Starvation could have been eliminated as a major cause of death by 2000.  Humans chose the path of lower intelligence, afraid of what it might mean to grow into a next chapter.  Nostalgia for infancy is not just an ontogenic phenomenon.

The Millers, a father-daughter team (Peter also from Princeton, Kate a visiting anthro professor at Reed), did a great job reviewing an extensive literature spanning decades, and in that small annex to McMenamins we had people with development experience all over the world.  Comparing notes is important, reflecting on what we've learned.  My family lived in Lesotho, Bangladesh, Philippines, Egypt, Bhutan, Florida, Italy, Oregon to name a few.

Just as a racist is someone who believes in races, nationalists believe in nations.  I find it easy, as a 1900s baby, to slip into the old habits and think like a land lubber.  "When in Rome...".  However, even if Einstein was one of the first to think outside the box, he was neither the last nor the only.  We may want to avoid the prefix "post" as in "post-nationalist" as the next chapter involves a flood of new nations (domains), both physical and virtual (e.g. Rogue Nation).

One might call this chapter "making light" of sovereignty, i.e. accepting its more tongue in cheek aspects, the more farcical side (like those hopelessly gerrymandered districts).  But then role playing games were never not serious, given "role" is just an anthropology word for "whatever a person does in society" i.e. there's no other game in town.

Speaking of small world after all, I'd forgotten, if I'd known, that David Chandler, in our Quaker meeting, was born just outside of Bangalore, India.  Me?  Chicago, Illinois.