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Thursday, June 22, 2000

Subdury Meltdown (News from "Home")

Here's Garrett*'s latest report on the goings on back in Maui:
Tue, 20 Jun 2000 09:17:06 -1000

The school staff/board/lynch mob got together and kicked out my girlfriend. I'm feeling nauseated by the whole thing. The motives were understandable, and not unreasonable, but the way it went down just makes me ill, even if it's not at all surprising. Primate social groups are brutal, in times of stress they pass the time by playing "lets all get together, pick a member of the tribe, and kick them out." And it would be comical to see this behavior in humans, as I have over and over, if it weren't for the fact that it seems equally embedded in our primal psychology to, as the target of this action, react with distress and heartache.

It started Friday night, when, in J's absence, the board meeting got together and, rather than addressing the issue that: "gee, the school has no money," decided to tackle the issue of: "Garrett* and J's relationship is inappropriate and tarnishing the school's image. And J is a bad staff member." Never mind that it's the board's job to think about the budget, and the School Meeting's job to handle staff matters. I had to sit there for four hours and field questions to help the mob struggle with the issue of my girlfriend. When J got home later that evening, she didn't talk to me for an hour because I had forgotten to feed her horses that night. Then, when she stopped being mad, I told her what had gone down as accurately as I could. She took it all in, and decided to resign her staff position. I was impressed -- it was an admirable and intelligent decision made in the face of a bunch of squabbling, non-confrontational idiots who could only gather enough strength to stand against a young girl in a group and behind her back. After gathering it's strength, the group said it wanted to talk to J on Monday night. I figured a resignation letter and a thumb to the nose was an excellent response.

But J was scheduled to fill a staff time-slot Monday morning, and she went. Rumor had gone around, and the kids told her the staff/board/lynch mob was a bunch of weenies, and she shouldn't resign. And a particularly non-confrontational Mauitian kept calling her and saying "We just want to talk with you, so everyone can express themselves. We didn't ask for your resignation. Meet with us, it will be wonderful." My ass.

I told J what she was in for, but she agreed to meet the gang anyway -- as is her way. I cooked her a last meal and sent her in. The group looked around, clearly not knowing what to do "gee, who's going to throw the first stone?" The alpha male, absent from the Friday meeting, lobbed an accurate description of the main issue of sex, and how it looked bad for two staff members, one half the age of the other, to be on the property and in a relationship. Most of the herd winced, and denied that was the issue. Idiots. Then the other rocks came in: J is not trained enough to be staff, J does things without getting enough permission, etc. J listened to all of it with a stiff upper lip -- she's strong -- but the group beat her down after a couple of hours of that.

There's a defining moment in a group vs. individual bully session that signals when the group has won. It's when the individual, having lost rationality through the continued harassing attention, wells up with tears and says "I'd give up anything to remain a part of the group." That's when the group knows it no longer has any resistance to tearing into flesh. It doesn't matter that the individual, on previous rational reflection, had decided he or she didn't really give a rats ass about the group -- it just seems to be the way that the primal interaction works. I've done it. J did it.

After that, the group got her to agree to resign, to sell/remove her beloved horses, to move out of her/our home, etc.

Made me sick.

After that, the group started hugging each other. I left. If they want to hug and make each other feel better after fucking over a girl's life, they're welcome to do it without me. I went back to look in the paper for available apartment rentals, of which there are few -- few other then the ad I placed to rent out a school apartment and generate more school income. I asked J about it later, and she agreed that the hugs and nicey-nicey talk were mostly fake.

As long as J was moving her life all around anyway that night, she took a gander at our relationship. Now, me, I'm still burning in the flames of a residual attachment to an x-girlfriend who pretty much loathes me and isn't talking to me any more. I've been getting over it, slowly, and painfully, and hoping that those emotions dissolve into entropic death even faster than the rest of me. But, since I got burned last time for not being honest, I've been honest with J, while trying not to impose my baggage on her, so she knows what's up with me. So, anyway, it's messed up because J loves me and I don't love her. And I don't lie to her.

So, she wrote an email to my x. Telling her that she loved me, and she wanted me to be happy, but that I didn't love her, but that I still loved the x so would she take me back? I didn't stop her, but I didn't encourage her either. I think I know the x well enough to know that she'll send a vituperous email, if any, to me about what an asshole I am, and a consoling letter back to J about how she deserves better. But I don't know, I'm a physicist, and should really stay away from people and stick to predicting simple things, like higher dimensional spacetime curvature, and the motions of spherical cows. Maybe good things will happen, like deciding I hate the x and should moon over J as I would enjoy.

Nah. The way my life works: the school will kick out my girl, I'll leave the school because of nausea and be the schools scapegoat for shutting down "gee, we can't pay our mortgage AND give Garrett* his deposit back," I'll still be pained by thoughts of my x, my girl will find someone better (and closer to her age) who can love her, and my x will hit it off with my best friend who's never been in love. The saga continues. Until it doesn't.

So now Garrett*, Samantha and I are talking about alternative plans for the fall. Perhaps I won't be going back in September after all. It's almost irrelevant to me, so many pluses and minuses on all sides.

I was in Costco (San Diego) this morning, and due to the neighborhood and time of day it was populated almost entirely by elderly folks. A year ago, these people would have looked on the side of slow and tired to me. But this morning, they looked so amazingly mentally engaged, aware, thinking... all this because my perceptions are still calibrated to Maui standards. I fear for my brain if I move back there permanently. And I wonder if this is what east-coasters think of Californians? I need to hang out in Boston for a few months.

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com