A To Z Challenge – U

april-challenge

When NBC convinced Johnny Carson to move his Tonight show from New York City to California, the changeover happened quite quickly.   His Burbank studio was ready far before he had a chance to buy or rent accommodations on the Left Coast.

He was put up for almost two months in a luxury suite at a ritzy local hotel. I don’t know if it was just having to live in unfamiliar, if posh, surroundings; if there was some friction between him and hotel staff and management; or if it was just an easy target for the gag-writers jokes.

Every night for weeks, there was a snide comment, and the Sheraton Universal was changed and referred to in his monologues as the Sheraton Unspeakable, the Sheraton Unreasonable, the Sheraton Uninhabitable, the Sheraton Untenable, the Sheraton Unbearable.

It was almost amazing how many U-shaped insults were crafted.  Finally, one night it became simply the Sheraton Unique, and we come to the word for this post about

letter-u

I recently composed a post about how huge percentages of the population have an overwhelming compulsion for conformity. They must be like everyone else, and everybody else must be exactly like them.

When the grandson was small, he was diagnosed with a variety of food allergies. Several of them caused behavioral problems, something the non-plagued are often not aware of.  Certain chemicals and compounds in food can cause physical and neurological stress, in turn causing moodiness, edginess, irritability, anger and lack of focus.

As a child it was relatively easy for his mother to watch his intake and ensure that he took his medication. As he neared puberty, and his character was developing, he regressed to sullen disinterest, if not disobedience, more so than most tweens.  Careful cross-examination revealed that he was sneaking foods from classmates, and not taking his pills.

When he was asked why he was doing this, even knowing his allergies, his answer was that he didn’t want to have allergies. He didn’t want a restrictive diet.  He didn’t want to take pills.  He just wanted to be like everyone else.

It didn’t take long to prove to him that ‘everyone else’ wasn’t like ‘everyone else.’ His Mom and his Grandma had to avoid certain foods and take medications.  When he looked closer, he found classmates with similar restrictions and needs.

Grandma, the chef, pointed out that the spelt-based cookies, cakes, bread and rolls, even the spelt-crust pizza, with lactose-free cheese and tamarind sauce, instead of tomato, were treats that no-one else got to have. Did he want her to stop making them for him?  The way to a man’s head, as well as his heart, is often through his stomach.

As a knowledgeable adult he can control the allergic affects, although he is still careful. As well as being a friendly, caring young man, he is largely indistinguishable from the rest of the herd, but he takes pride in knowing that he, like all the rest of us, is one-of-a-kind.  He is unique!  I don’t know why more of us can’t embrace that.

You Better, You Better, You Bet

coke-vs-pepsi

O Great God CONFORMITY, give us the power to make everyone else, just like us!

conformity

Yea, verily, in the beginning was the EGO. And the EGO begat an Opinion.  And the Opinion fed upon the EGO, and the EGO raised up the Opinion, until it was greater than Creation itself.

fixing-others

This was going to be a light, fluffy piece about the cola wars and pizza, until I realized how serious and ongoing this idea actually is.

The very history of the human race is a history of those with any kind of power, forcing the rest to agree with their often-incorrect opinions.

It was already old 4000 years ago, when Moses climbed a mountain. When he finally came back down with the Ten Commandments, the first thing he and his cadre of cronies did, was disobey Commandment number four – Thou Shalt Not Kill – and executed 3000 Israelites without a chance to recant, for holding an opinion that wasn’t even officially prohibited before Moses left.

The Inquisition was 500 years of torture and murder of anyone who dared stray from a very narrow religious path. The Crusades were a series of long distance religious disputes.  The Thirty Years War was not fought for riches or territory, but for the right to impose opposing Christian dogma on individuals, cities and nations.

Towns near the ever-changing line of combat could have their religious allegiances forcibly changed from Catholic, to Protestant, and back to Catholic, half a dozen times in a year. One town was known to have a number of….weirdos – vegetarians, artists, free-thinkers, Gnostics – heretics of the worst sort.  When Tilley and his forces arrived, he gave the order, “Kill them all!  Let God sort them out.”

Every man, woman and child; every dog, cat, pig and chicken was slaughtered. The town was burned and pulled down, razed to the ground till no stone stood upon another.  Thousands of innocents were slaughtered, just to ensure the elimination of a few who held contrary opinions.

Too often I’ve heard the Coke is better than Pepsi claim, or listened to gearheads argue whether Ford or Chevy is better.  When I researched for my P Is For Pizza post I was amazed at the vehemence of opinions.  Theirs was right, and everybody else was wrong.  Thick crust!  No, thin crust!  New York style!  New York sucks, Chicago style rules!

This might be understandable, if all people, and all colas, were the same, and some folks were willfully disagreeing, just to be disagreeable. To some people’s taste buds (mine included), Pepsi is refreshing, and Coke is too sweet.  It makes no sense to hold forth on whether Doc Martins are better shoes than UGGS, to a person in a wheelchair.

Other than my (often) aforementioned ‘Ego And Insecurity’, I don’t understand the driving need of so many people to foist their opinions upon others. ‘Live and Let Live’, or the Biblical, ‘Do Unto Others as You Would Have Done Unto You’ doesn’t seem to enter into the equation.

I know that none of my gentle readers would force their beliefs on others, but I’ll bet that you have seen, and been peeved by, all too many who have.  Anybody want to cite specific examples??

Insanity

Straitjacket

Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your children.

I was doing some research the other day, and stopped off at Bible.org.  Anything scientific, modern or technological is automatically suspect, so I wasn’t surprised when my eye spotted the headline of an article which read, Psychiatrists Have Been Torturing Insane People For 500 Years.

As a compulsive wordsmith, that caught my attention. A quick check revealed that the word, and occupation, psychiatrist, only came into existence about 125 years ago.  Previous to that, there were men known as psychiators, untrained, unlicensed and uncontrolled.

Driven by self-righteous ego, they were usually interested in power, self-aggrandizement, and enforcing what they viewed as acceptable social norms – shades of The Inquisition. They were often church men, good Christians, and it was they who tortured people who often were not insane, but merely free-thinkers, independents, and weirdoes, marching to a different flautist.

Insanity

As in my post on torture, you could be snatched off the street, or from your home, at any time, for any reason – or none. Might made right.  Cross an undrawn line, and a husky man or two would do worse than sell you into slavery.  Tell your father that you wanted to work at a newspaper, rather than learning how to make gloves; tell your mother you didn’t want the arranged marriage to the fat old farmer; ask your boss for an evening off to go courting, and just see what happened.

Have a look at the list of ‘insanities’, above. Any of these could get you involuntarily committed to an insane asylum, and resisting and insisting that you weren’t insane, was proof that you were.  The list-makers did seem to be fixated on masturbation, in all its variations.  I think they needed more psychological help than the unfortunate wretches they abused.  And I’d like to know how an 1880s nut-house got an Internet address.

Despite the implication that the bad treatment was all the fault of those evil Psychiatrists, these often-self-appointed Guardians of Conformity used many well-known methods to break the will and minds of their charges.  One was wet-sheeting, where they wrapped you tightly in cold, wet linen, and left you on a bed, unable to move, sometimes for days.

Drugs were now commonly available, and widely used. They could be included in what little poor food you got; you could be held by attendants and have it forced down your throat, or directly injected with the new hypodermic syringe.  They included diuretics, which caused you to wet yourself, emetics, which would cause you to vomit, purgatives that roiled your gut, and made you shit yourself, and opiates that suppressed intelligence and will, and blurred reality for you.

On the physical side, beyond the restraining wet-sheeting, one of the favorites was the chair.  You were strapped into a sturdy wooden chair with arms.  Four ropes were attached to the corners, and then those were attached to a single strong rope, suspended from a high ceiling.  Loaded with some of the above drugs, you were then spun round and round – and round, while also swinging back and forth.  Fifty spins in one direction, then forty in the other, then thirty the first way, then twenty, etc, etc!

When the ride came to a stop, you were Inquisitioned. “Admit that you were insane.”  “I was never insane! I am healthy and normal!”  “Wind him up again boys.”  “No, No more! I admit that I was insane.  I am better now and will behave well.”  Caning was common, as well as pitch-black sensory-deprivation solitary confinement.

One facility even built a giant wooden wheel, two feet in thickness, and twelve feet in diameter, its axle sitting on tall posts. An offender was shoved in through a small port, the door latched, and then left for up to 36 hours.  There was no light, no food, no water, and no toilet facilities.  What little air, was redolent with the reek of previous tenants’ leavings.  Like a hamster, you could walk, but that only rained feces and almost-dried vomit on you.

An open mind can always stand a closed one, if it has to – by making room for it in the general picture. But a closed mind can’t stand it near an open one without risking immediate and complete destruction in its own terms.  In a closed mind, there’s no more room.

Gordon R. Dickson, author – Tiger Green – 1965

The 1889 date above just about matches the time when Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and others, began humanely treating mental disorders, which most of these poor souls did not have. Sadly, these propaganda pits did not die out.  As late as the 1950s, white women with non-white boyfriends or husbands could be snatched and incarcerated till they ‘learned better.’

At the same time, unwed mothers could be permanently locked away in places like the Magdalene Sisters homes, where their delivered babies were quietly buried in the back yards, and the women were forced into 16 to 18 hours a day physical labor, to pay for their unwanted keep, while those darned Psychiatrists were busy torturing folks. Insanity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.    😦