[xmca] torturers, Moyers, and Uncle George

From: Peter Smagorinsky (smago@uga.edu)
Date: Mon Apr 24 2006 - 13:22:51 PDT

I don't have any of the recent posts handy on the extent to which we
construct our own settings, but I've found the discussion problematic
because it assumes that we know what our setting is and so can act
knowledgeably in relation to it. But is this always the case? I offer the
following story, excerpted from a talk recently given by Bill Moyers, that
suggests that we don't. p

Its fascinating what is revealed to you. Joseph Campbell told me a story
(also recently recounted by Davidson Loehr) about the Australian tribe that
used the bullroarer to keep people in awe of the gods. The bullroarer is a
long flat board with notches, or slits, at one end, and a rope at the
other. When you swing it around your head, the action produces a musical
humming. The sound struck the primitive tribes as other-worldly, causing
them to tremble in fear that the gods were angry. So the elders would go
into the forest and come back with word of what it would take to placate
the gods. And the people would oblige.
Now when a young boy in the tribe was ready to become a man, a ritual took
place. Wearing masks, the elders would kidnap him and take him into the
woods, tie him down, and with a flint knife slice the underside of his
penis. It was painful, but the medicine man said this is how you became a man.
It meant shedding ones innocence. At the end of the ritual one of the
masked men dipped the bullroarer in the boys blood and thrust it in his
face, simultaneously removing his mask so the boy could see its not a god
at all its just one of the old guys. And the medicine man would whisper,
We make the noises.
Ah, yes its not the gods after all. Its just the old guys Uncle
George, Uncle Dick, Uncle Don. The "noise" in the woods is the work of the
old guys playing gods, wanting you to live in fear and trembling so that
you will look to them to protect you against the wrath to come. It takes
courage to put their truth-claims to the test of reality, to call their bluff.

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