The cloistered world of boarding schools engenders a strained socialisation in students and I suppose in staff as well. One is often forced into the company of people with whom one has little or nothing in common. The loudest ethos often the voice of a bully predominates. I never subscribed to the notion of having to get on with everyone, because man is a social being etc. To me it implied that everyone was the same, that there was no such thing as individuality, difference or freedom of choice in a person.
But in my solitary studies I discovered that accomplishments in human endeavour were achieved by individuals, often against collective, social pressure. The mundane reality, however, was that I carried a feeling of insecurity with me wherever I went: in my satchel, in my hurley stick, in my voice when I had to speak or read aloud. Trust is bred in an environment of love and stability. I missed out somewhere on the skill of trusting people. My pen was the only instrument that flowed freely, as if doubts themselves sought outlets through ink. I did quite well academically, particularly at history, for which I won the school gold medal.
I mean Patrick was dead, and both she and I were in Ireland all the time since. It seemed a cruel form of justice to me that I should see my mother less frequently than other boys whose parents were stationed abroad. I did not mix well. I frequently took off to the library rather than have to engage even in mere phatic communication.
We queued for sweets on Friday evenings. And on Sundays I got a double supply because I was not one of those pupils who went home at weekends. Sweets were good. Sweets could mollify that heartsinking gloom that suffused empty dormitories on damp Sunday evenings where every sound had its echo. I remember my first year boarding, the school hired a projector. Raffle tickets were used for admission. I got the number eleven. In my class there was a small, skinny fellow with a snub nose which accounted for his nickname of Pug.
He resented me because I kept to myself, because I refused to bow down to him or join his gang, and also perhaps because I had got first in the class in the history examination. He came strutting along the corridor one day flanked by a couple of his cronies. I greeted them in Irish as was the custom. A brown paper bag and my ticket fell to the ground. One of the cronies opened the bag.
He saw the ticket on the ground. Pug smiled. But there is nowhere to run in a boarding school except into a field. All power left my body as Pug knocked me down and held me in a half nelson until I submitted. I knew the fear was there all along but I could never pinpoint the cause of it. And there it was staring me in the face all the time. I also learned that day why I liked history. It provided a cover. It let you off the hook. You could project your personal fears into the national psyche. You could blame other races for your own shortcomings.
And nobody need ever know. I never got to see the films. I was told by a teacher to go away and be more careful with my ticket in future. I saw re-enactments of Zorro all right, on classroom desks with rulers as swords, and for a while some pupils went around marking Z on copy books and walls. Some of them even made cardboard masks. Pug met me again. He wore a mask, but it was easy to see it was him. He wanted to fill me in on what the film was about. He had a blade. The cronies opened my shirt and held my mouth, and Pug cut the letter Z on my chest.
It was just a superficial cut. I kept my handkerchief pressed against it to save my shirt. It would stop bleeding if I stayed long enough in the library. It was a funny way to start learning a language, from back to front. It reminded me of our history teacher saying to us that we should learn history backwards because we leave school before we get to the present. I was sent to the Saint John of God clinic. I delighted the doctor there or so she said by imagining all sorts of ogres and dragons in the shapes she held up for me to see on cards.
She gave me two colouring pencils, green and navy-blue. In my diary I was to mark green for the dry nights and navy-blue for the wet nights. I was praised for the green nights by the doctor, but not by my mother. And as for the green nights, she said nothing at all. When I was home that year I vaguely recollect talk of trouble in the North. The UVF had failed to find some well-known republican whom they were searching for, and they killed an innocent man instead simply because he was singing rebel ballads.
My mother was very upset about the incident. I worried about her being on her own, especially when I heard about her being burgled, but once again she remained reticent about such matters and insisted on my staying in boarding school to finish my studies. I remember coming home in March of my last year at school. The air was icy. People were muffled in heavy coats and scarves and gloves and their hot breaths were visible as if trying to proclaim an existence of their own. Everyone was rushing about sure of where he was going and impatient to get there.
Everyone that is except me. On the train there was a lot of talk about some IRA man who had been arrested that morning. I thought it strange how some of the passengers, although decrying the loss of the Pillar, expressed disappointment about the arrest. It was as if they were sad that the culprit had been outfoxed by the police. Maybe there is an anarchic strain in many of us deep down. And there were others who kept their tongues behind tightly closed teeth. Mam was listening intently to the news on the wireless when I arrived.
She did not greet me. She did not hug me. The trouble that animal has caused. She was going over the top. I mean the guy or guys? She spoke, however, almost as from a primary source as we say in history , as if she knew who the accused person was. The British media hyped the explosion up too: they called it a terrorist act. Her health is poor. Despite her emphysema, she continues to smoke. Mam has become forgetful. Not that she was ever very thoughtful — she was always selective about what she installed in her memory bank.
She instructed me what to remember or forget. Remember your prayers. Wash behind your ears. Remember to study. And forget? Forget anything that touches the heart or questions that delve too deep. But now her forgetfulness is spontaneous. She goes upstairs and comes down again and asks me why she went up in the first place. She talks about selling the house. My mother is locked into a time warp. She looks at house prices in old newspapers. She quotes from the Irish Independent of the forties, price 2d Mam hoards old papers.
It depicts a snowstorm: people are huddled in capes as they cross a mountain with a beast of burden; and a bare tree, bent by the storm, struggles alone for survival. There is a writing desk: mahogany with a yellow leather top. By the window an earthenware pot houses a golden Lobivia cactus which my father had grown from seed. Mam said that he used to talk to the seed to coax it into life, to bring sunshine into a dull room. Beside the pot there is an old gramophone and records in faded sleeves. One of the drawers in the writing desk is locked. I find the key for it in an envelope in an open drawer — my father would not have won a medal for concealment.
When I unlock the drawer I find diaries and letters, lots of them. I lift up one of the diaries and a cutting, gone mustard, from an old newspaper, falls out. Signed: Patrick. On flicking through some of the pages with their sepia-coloured photographs, I stop at one with a turned-up corner. A beautiful young girl crouching on all fours looks straight into my face. Her eyes are so alive that I swear they moved.
But of course this has to be my imagination, as my mother would say. But for me she came alive; she unwound herself from the confinement of paper and the wooden prison of the drawer and entered inside my head. An interesting observation: while I was attracted to her, I was not aroused physically despite her nakedness. Rather, her vulnerability evoked in me a desire to protect her, to shield her from the world. And the magazine was faded and crinkled.
It smelled of age. To dwell lustfully on her would be a sort of necrophilia. Why did my father mark this page? Is it only in our fantasies that we find compatibility? But then I never was. Too many imaginings, too many dreams. My father died from a heart attack. He was elderly when he married. I have no memory of him. Mam, understandably, finds it all too painful to talk about him.
So, since I discovered the diaries, I have been secretly reading extracts from them the last couple of times I came home. Mam has not twigged it yet. I read randomly when she is elsewhere engaged. He was very fond of literature, and the mahogany shelves of his study are crammed with literary books and manuscripts and poems.
I also counted six different bibles. I sometimes take down his books and try to feel the breath of his life in them and imagine my pen blending in with his annotations. And of course one of the books has the hollow inside. They reveal a cryptic universe which leaves me fearful at times to delve too deeply.
What is diplomacy? I look up a dictionary. Such a wonderful change from Madrid. I can smell the sea air. I can breathe. Wandered along the Ramblas. Never thought I would see her again. Despite heavy makeup, I still recognise the little girl inside. Stayed overnight. Long journey kilometres but worth it — fertile. Besides, distance reinforces anonymity. Will go again next Thursday; easy to find a pretext.
My mother is packing, clearing things, filling boxes. She really meant it after all when she said she was moving. So many years spent semi-reclusively in a suburban house, and now it is all to end. It was the last break-in that made her snap. Thieves gained entry by prising open the latch on the kitchen window. I got a six inch nail and hammered the window permanently shut. Too late! She wants to move into an apartment, protected by intercom and security guards. She treats them as fixtures. Her feather brushes lightly over them as if they are little sticks of furniture with nothing inside.
Words are breaths.
We are allowed so many, and then they are all used up. They took my cross and chain. Ricordo la voce di mia madre che lo supplicava. Era per i soldi? Non eravamo poveri, anche se mio padre, intendo dire il mio vero padre, era morto. Era stato un diplomatico, quindi non ci aveva certo lasciati nella miseria. A questo punto dovrei dire che mia madre era una donna di straordinaria bellezza. Quel libro adesso si trova nello studio del mio defunto padre, in mezzo a libri veri, come una specie di cimelio di famiglia.
Insomma, non che si fosse sistemata per davvero. In quanto unico membro maschio della famiglia, pensavo che il mio ruolo fosse di proteggerla. Vidi un gigante di fronte a me.
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Ricordo grandi stivali neri, molto lucidi. Le barbe erano fatte per nascondersi. Tutti i bambini lo sapevano. Le barbe erano per le grandi occasioni. Le barbe non erano per cose banali come riscuotere assicurazioni. Tacque quando entrai nella stanza. Era stato colto alla sprovvista. Disse che quel giorno non si sentiva bene e che Mr. Counihan stava solo cercando di consolarla.
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So we elect a President whose mother was an anthropologist , and you think that might bode well for the public appreciation of our field. And shortly thereafter, the big business publications — Kiplinger and Forbes — publicly branded it as the worst major. It seems almost as if the Republicans had declared war on anthropology, along with the creationists and the racists. Then we have the one-two punch from the guys claiming to be Joe Science. Jared Diamond pretends to be an anthropologist, but does things that no competent anthropologist would do, and interprets other peoples as no competent anthropologist does.
That is to say, he soft-pedals the historical context of other cultures, and imagines them to be stand-ins for his own ancestors. Napoleon Chagnon is a sadder story, because he is not a pseudo-anthropologist, but an incompetent anthropologist. His methods for collecting, analyzing and interpreting his data are outside the range of acceptable anthropological practices.
Yes, he saw the Yanomamo doing nasty things. He has a right to his views, as creationists and racists have a right to theirs, but the evidence does not support the conclusion, which makes it scientifically incompetent. And so, after the New York Times runs a puff piece on Chagnon in the Magazine , and a critical review of his book simultaneously in the Book Review section , it seems as though the best we can hope for is a draw. But wait! Into the fray comes their distinguished science reporter Nicholas Wade, with a second puff piece on Chagnon.
Why is it so important to the Times? Judging from his work since then, I am inclined to attribute its meritorious aspects to his co-author. More recently, Wade has been pushing genetic determinism as hard as he can from his pulpit at the Times. And you know who his antagonists are going to be. Except that anthropological genetics means something different to anthropological geneticists than it does to Wade. To anthropological geneticists, it means the mutual illumination of genetics and anthropology, often using the technology of the former to study questions framed by the latter.
To Nicholas Wade, however, it means that the Chinese excel at ping-pong because of their genes for it p. The book was reviewed in the leading science journals by leading anthropological geneticists. The reviewers in Nature found it to be a work of social darwinism that phrase is not bandied about as a compliment these days. Rebecca Cann in Science had this to say :. As a graduate student … I often wished that there were science writers energized to follow the new insights from geneticists as closely and rapidly as others reported interpretations of fragmentary fossils.
Well, be careful what you wish for. And she continued,. The book also reveals some unpleasant truths about science writing that currently passes for objective and informed. It is decidedly anti-science. It fact it sounds almost as if he is beginning to believe his own bullshit. Bad start, though, because it means that even now, neither Chagnon nor Wade apparently understands what the Yanomamo actually tell us about anything.
The problem, simply put, is that Chagnon's statistics were rubbish, because he neglected to include the children of killers who had themselves been killed. As Science reported it over a decade ago ,. Chagnon's figures on reproductive success did not include dead unokai. The obvious question, in Ferguson 's view, was whether the greater reproductive success of unokai was offset by higher mortality. Responding in American Ethnologist , Chagnon calculated the same figures without the headmen and came up with a correlation similar to, although smaller than, his previous figure.
Here is a translation into scientific terms. Chagnon's apparent statistical conclusion linking killers and babies is bogus because of a flaw in the data, which means that it is invalid to derive the conclusion that Chagnon derived. The best he can do is claim impressionistically that he hopes Ferguson is wrong.
See my previous post for the commies.
The point is that if the ostensible statistical relationships are mirages, then the only people they are going to be able to convince are other cult members. But science is supposed to be able to convince skeptics, not other cult members. And finally, explains Wade, the entire field of anthropology is like, totally anti-science, even the American Anthropological Association. Chagnon are now an indelible part of its record.
Sure sounds like the American Anthropological Association is indelibly anti-science.
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How delible is it? Wade is wrong, wrong, wrong. Instrumentally, perniciously, and anti-intellectually. Which side are you on? Anonymous February 19, at PM. Jonathan Marks February 19, at PM. Bill February 19, at PM. Marnie February 19, at PM. The Sloc. February 20, at PM. Jason Antrosio February 20, at PM.
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