The microcosm concept.

The “octogenarians” was constructed with two intersecting ideas. the first is that looking at the decade of the 60s is of particular interest be cause it represented an era of focused concern on problems of inequity and social justice.This remains true despite the usurpation of national concern and interest by then growing  involvement  with Vietnam.This concern took the form of a series of federally fueled initiatives. The second is that focusing on one of these initiatives (Model Cities)allows us to look at what happened through a magnifying retrospectoscope.Because most of us were present in New Haven or around New Haven and Washington at that time.We octogenarians have a more or less uniform view of what transpired.(Relatively unaffected by ontological process,a lovely word referring to the deliberate distortion of truth to allow for the production of a set of facts to be used in argument that derives not from occurrences but from the desired conclusions being argued for.)We KNOW that New Haven was the original model city although it is not listed as a New Haven “first”.

Today’s America(11/2014) is embroiled in conflict and concern about Ferguson Mo.Ferguson follows close upon the heels of Tampa Fl. The details are similar the shooting of a black teenager by someone representing actual police power or what appears to be somehow delegated police function.The result was the death of two young men.Even should we conclude that everyone was somehow a victim there is no gainsaying that two of the victims are dead and irretrievable.Looking through our retrospectoscope of New Haven in the 60s we come upon a police/community exercise aimed at keeping blood off the streets.written up in 1971 as “When Warring Groups Meet” and published in the journal “Social Psychiatry” it identifies the exercise as a failure because it ended in repudiation by the vocal black community after violation of a cardinal rule by one member of the New Haven Police who was not part of the exercise.But it identified a new community  leader and did keep “blood off the streets”. The police chief who allowed the exercise and supported it was later appointed to lead the security team at the U.N. by the Johnson administration possibly indicating the intense interest in New Haven manifested by the LBJ administration.One of the relatively inapparent observations had to do with an unacknowledged police function i.e. immersification, another complicated term (english has no shortage of them) meaning keeping people in their place.Acknowledgeable in countries that practice class and/or racial  discrimination it cannot be acknowledged in a country professing equality and equal opportunity as well as the separation of church and state. The victims of the operant function have no problem in noting it and pointing out the discrepancy in the operation of police discretion.Governmental bodies that cannot acknowledge it leave the individual commanders and officers to justify it whenever it rears it’s head.They cannot without resorting to societal biases in some disguised form.The notion of the “beast man’ with superhuman strength becomes a justification for the use of lethal , near lethal, or unjustifiably severe force.(Particularly hard to invoke when the victim is an elderly black woman wandering a Los Angeles Freeway).The police who took part in the exercise 50 odd years ago learned that the people in the community were like themselves and put the officer who came in off the streets with his gun and tried to make an arrest out of the room.Some of the gang members later detained or arrested admitted to being treated better by the police.Of course some denied that it made any difference.

What is there about designated boundaries like center lines and automobile pathways?Perhaps it has to do with the identification of the auto as the essence of freedom only impingeable upon by certified authority and not by the poor and immersifiable.

The other tragedy of Ferguson is the removal of the issue from proper operation of due process.While a jury might well have come to the conclusion reached it was not the function of the directed grand jury to do so.

While the vigilante of the greater Tampa area traverses the earth clinging to “the gun” almost like a wraith condemned to mimicking the usurpation of police function(a la the hammer of Thor”) by continually skirting the interface between individual responsibility and police power , the black young man is still irretrievably lost.However Tampa did not discard the established process.((however flawed)

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9 Comments

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  3. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an incredibly
    long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t
    appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again.
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  4. I like your observation, Katherine.
    A healthy future is going to take a great deal of “conscious honesty between strangers”. I think that I can add to that another necessary ingredient. It has to do with enhancing the probability that that which is honesty shared actually correlates well with the real world. Somehow we have to train the many thoughts that exist within our own mind to communicate honestly with each other. To the degree that one is at war with the self, it is hard to avoid conflict with others (and nature too).

  5. I think you are right, Don. The cure for racial and gender illness of that era was legislative and Rule of Law, the bluntest, most brutish effectors of human change. I believe that the next step is conscious, individual process that is sometimes shared as a dyad: conscious honesty between strangers.

  6. I am delighted that we have here a fine statement within which we can explore some other perspectives.
    The 60’s did indeed have their dramatically focused issues. We Octogenarians were part of this scene. But that decade was more than those screaming issues that filled the bleeding headlines of the day. It is valuable to bring to our understanding the context of history, before and after. Something that did not change was human nature. Some things that did not change were the philosophic meanings of justice, equality, and liberty (“Ideas we act on” as clarified by Mortimer Adler). We had a constitution that by law promised every individual citizen, no matter how unequal they may be in other measures, an equal protection of “rights”. Euclid pointed out, “Things that are equal to the same thing are also equal to each other”. By being treated equally under the law, no matter all our diversity, each citizen is in this way equal. But human nature in many ways unleashes forces that are in conflict with this ideal templet. We are inclined to embrace (and reject) “groups” such as “family” and “tribe” to the exclusion of equal justice for individuals. Racial identification is a major, but not the only “tribal” interest to distort the ideal of guaranteed equality for the individual. In many parts of our country racial bias denied for many blacks the constitutional promise of an equal individual application of the law. The decade of the 1960’s stands out as a focused effort (among many) to correct this injustice. Given the human-nature inclination to give special favor to “tribal” factors (that logically exclude equal treatment of others) the effort requires constant vigilance. This vigilance requires us to be wary of continuing attempts to favor by law any “group” (which must erode individual rights). Because the nature and measure of the specific racial problem was group defined, the degree of correction (success or not) also tends to be that of group measure. The chosen cure for our racial illness involved a large government-imposed injection of a similarly dangerous virus (group-think). Seemingly forgotten is the bigger prize and our greatest potential loss – that of individual rights. Somewhat more distant now, there remains for us and our children the ultimate goal of achieving maximum levels of color blindness, maximum levels of individual equality under the law.
    Don Spencer

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