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Friday, 31 October 2008

Mr Thorndike, I presume.....

At Large Mansions, Concretia, despite her status as Ace Of Spades in our own house of cards, still stands resolute. Battered, but resolute. I attend Friday morning's Introduction to Social Anthropology Lecture with the abomination that is Concretia very much on my mind. Pretty soon, the anticipation of basking in the rays of knowledge cast by my Lecturer cast thoughts of Concretia from my mind, and I arrive at the lecture, five minutes early, sit in my accustomed seat (the furthest away from the furtive sounds of texting), and assemble, in good order, my pens, highlighters, notes, textbook, writing pad and lecture notes. All is going well, and it is a good early (by University standards - I have been to Large Mansions to meet my tradesmen, sent a few e-mails and had breakfast) start.

The lecturer fires up Powerpoint and the first slide hits the screen. I halt in the middle of note taking, because the topic of the lecture is "Dirt, Pollution, Taboo and Abomination". The blasted slab jumps immediately back into the forefront of what passes for 'mind' in the Old Noggin, and I have to regain a little composure before fully attending today's topic. As it happens, the topic does not actually refer to Concretia, although the definition provided for 'pollution' by Mary Douglas, the anthropologist of "matter out of place" certainly applies. Without, at this time describing the topic in detail, I find it spooky (perhaps because it is HAlloween) how many anthropologists have come close to the findings of the masterpiece "Civilization- Why???", and if it were not for the fact that some of these people stumbled upon their research some time ago, I would have justifiable grounds for crying "Plagiarists! They're all out to copy me". At the end of the lecture, I decide to introduce the lecturer, gently, to the concepts of "Civilization- Why?" by asking her if she can point me in the general direction of some cross-cultural studies on taboo "as I've been doing a bit of work in the area myself".

She looks at me closely,

"...Well....yess and no. Have you been talking to Richard?"

The glint in her eye, and the tone of her voice are a dead giveaway that she is a victim of a phenomenon I have very recently learnt about, namely "Classic Conditioning". Not only that, but her attitude demonstrates another phenomenon that I have very recently been lectured on, and that is the phenomenon of "priming".

Further evidence, as if it was needed, is provided when she stats hastily (Flight or Fright Theory, MicGuiness, 1465) gathering up her laptop and lecture notes. Richard, it seems, her research assistant, has obviously "primed" her to my advances, and in a clear case of classic conditioning if I ever saw one, she has reacted, not with free-will (or ID, as Freud has it), but as a typical Structuralist, and with a mien suggestive of the whole "Frustration-Aggression Complex" (Tyler-Hammick, 1902) has started salivating (probably because she recognises an opportunity to nick me whole theory) which, if you ask me, is as Operant as it gets.

I come round, and realize that the whole thing has been a horrible dream, and that I'm so tired that I have fallen asleep during 'Onka's Big Mokka' , a film about recirocity in Papua, New Guinea. Later that day, back at Large Mansions, I do demomstrate some real aggression towards the scaffolder who still has not removed the scaffold (that we had erected so that the place could be roofed) and who is now holding up all our work on the new extension. Later that afternoon the scaffold gets removed, which makes me happy, but what does not make me happy is that dealing with tradesmen (yes, unfortunately they are all MEN) is just same-old, same-old pointless macho bullshit, and the reason that the scaffolder has been dragging his feet is because I shouted at him weeks ago and he's been sulking/proving-a-point ever since. I did'nt realize, and just thought he was an idiot, which is why I shouted at him in the first place.

I've done this construction politics/ shit in various guises for twenty years, and it is just so old. Uni could not have come at a better time and despite the fact that I'm as genuinely confused about the facts I am learning in Uni as my dream would suggest, it is new. And not just new-therefore-novel-therefore-good, because with our Gypsy-esque lifestyle, we have 'done' new to Death, and 'new' for it's own sake lost it's appeal about three moves ago (Ontario-Nova Scotia-Birmingham), but new as in interesting, challenging, fun, thought-provoking.

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