Wisakedjak

I awoke this morning, back in my digs after a hard night’s drive, to news that the Canadian Geographic Society has picked the Gray Jay as Canada’s national bird, rather than the Loon. That was a surprise. Most Canadians would probably think of the shy and reclusive Loon as Canada’s unofficial national bird rather than the gregarious Gray Jay, which we from the Northern backwoods also call “Whiskey Jack”. It was a surprise because there is a lot of unusual myth and symbolism around the Whiskey Jack, and it suddenly reminded me of Trump.

Having spent much of my life growing up in the forests of the North, Whiskey Jack is a fairly common bird, and indeed of a curious, friendly and gregarious nature because it’s a thief and a trickster. They will be upon you in no time if you’re preparing or eating food in the bush, plopping down on your head or your lap or your arm in expectation of partaking of the feast. They love bacon, I’ve found.

Sounds very charming, sharing your repast with the wildfolk of the bush. I’ve always found them delightful birds, but they also remind of the over-friendly conman also. I’m sure you’ve encountered the type, who tries to charm his way into your confidence in order to take advantage of you in some way. I’m pretty sure that’s how the bird became associated with Trickster.

The Cree name for the Gray Jay is Wisakedjak, which has been Anglicised as “Whiskey Jack”. That’s how its name sounds in English. It is a Trickster figure, comparable (as the Wikipedia article notes) to the Siouian Inktonme or the Ojibway Nanabozho. And that brought to mind Mr. Trump, if you recall my earlier post on the unusual association of the name “Trump” with foolery or deception. It fits, of course. Trickster is also associated with the magical, and not always in the most delightful sense. The Trickster spirit can also be very malicious and spiteful, and usually foolishly so — like your “creepy clowns”. Trompe l’oiel is a style of art meaning “fool the eye” that was very prominent with the beginnings of perspective representation in the Renaissance, as I relate in my post on “Trump”, and it’s one of the reasons I have identified Trump as a Conjurer.

No doubt those who selected the Gray Jay as Canada’s symbolic bird were thinking of its gregarious and sociable nature, but forgetting the polarity in the symbol. It can also be cunningly deceitful. It also has a pretty harsh song compared to the melodious call of the Loon, of which I do I pretty good imitation — good enough, in any case, to often bring the loons to me.

All this is just to say that you should probably study Trump as an avatar of the Trickster archetype. There are some dedicated books on the Trickster archetype that could prove useful in understanding Trump and “Trumpism”, and I do believe that the Trickster spirit is very much involved in the “New Normal” and especially “post-truth” society, and in those terms indigenous myths about Trickster — Wisakedjak, Inktonme, Nanabozho, and so on — will probably teach you as much about Trickster and our times as any scholarly book or essay. The stories teach, not only the meaning of Trickster, and the strengths and weaknesses of Trickster, and treat of the Trickster’s double-nature, but also teach how to outwit and survive Trickster, who can be also be very deadly.

And it’s in those terms also that Goethe’s Mephistopheles, in his great play Faust, wherein he describes himself as “part of that power that would ever evil do, but always does the good”, very much resembles Trickster’s duplicity or double-nature, the seducer, and I have described Trump in those terms also as a Mephistophelian character. So I believe that insight into the archetype of the Trickster will also give you insight into Trump and mastery of “Trumpism” in the pattern of the stories.

Consider that as an exercise in the “transparency of the world”, as Gebser describes it, and more besides, because Trickster is also a very narcissistic type in the stories, so you may well come to understand, in a truly deep way, the whole of “chaotic transition” as the Trickster’s work. In the stories, Trickster always faces “blowback” from the effects of his audacious trickery and foolhardiness. So, in that sense too, the stories are lessons about the workings of the karmic law of action and reaction.

The Emperor’s New Clothes is also a tale about the Trickster, only it’s not the Emperor, it was the tailors who persuaded the Emperor they were making him a fine set of new clothes. The tailors might be compared to guys in Trump’s entourage like Steve Bannon and the “ratfucker” Roger Stone.

So, don’t wallow in the Slough of Despond. Learn the meaning of the Trickster, its strengths and its weaknesses. Trickster is always blind to his weaknesses, and that’s often the meaning of the stories and how Trickster, while weaving illusions and snares and traps for others, often falls into his own snares and traps himself. It’s that dynamic process we’ve been calling “ironic reversal” — unintended consequence, perverse outcome, revenge effect, “blowback”, and so on.

 

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13 responses to “Wisakedjak”

  1. donsalmon says :

    Scott, is it a requirement for a Trickster to know what he is doing? If Trump really has no conscious idea, is he then “possessed” by an archetype? My sense of him (this comes from having seen his “antics’ for several decades when I lived in New York City) is that he is really as shallow as his critics make him out to be. When he was “tutored” for 6 years by Roy Cohn (who was the man who coached Joe McCarthy, another utterly ordinary, lackluster and shallow individual) all he learned was what his father had told him when he was a small child – the most important thing in life is to win; losers are contemptible. If someone hits you, hit them back harder.”

    Seems a bit one dimensional for a trickster. Sri Aurobindo, you might say, out-tricked the British empire when he came up with his non-cooperation idea (which Gandhi transmuted into the one dimensional non-violence idea; very different). As our meditation teacher (an Indian who as a child was caught up in the Hindu-Muslim riots after Gandhi was assassinated) once joked to us, “look at us, all sitting on the floor here. We could put the whole furniture industry out of business” – or as he once said to NBC news reporter Gabe Pressman who asked him at an anti-Vietnam war protest, “What would you do in Vietnam if you had a gun in your hand?” “”I don’t know. I wouldn’t know which way to shoot.”

    I doubt it was conscious deceit when Trump’s biographer, Tony Schwartz, tried – after months of intense interviews – to get a sense if there was anything he really cared about. he asked Trump what would be a truly meaningful experience for him. Trump looked genuinely confused and then blurted out, “Well, I guess getting a great piece of ass.”

    I think there’s no there there. The Americans have elected a debauched version of Chauncey Gardner (Peter Sellers, in the movie “Being There.”)

    • Scott Preston says :

      No, Trickster isn’t conscious. That’s what makes him archetypal, and why he keeps falling into his own snares and traps. In some ways, the shaman is the conscious side of the Trickster. Take Castaneda’s don Juan, who called his own art “Controlled Folly”. Hermes is the archetype of the Trickster, and therein lies the paradox of the Hermetic, as being either unconscious or conscious, in the former, the Trickster, and in the latter case, the “magician” or the artist. As the saying goes, “only a hair separates the false from the true”, and this is a good example.

      I might have mentioned that the Gray Jay is related to your “Mockingbird”, and I believe the Mockingbird is also a kind of Trickster bird in American lore, no?

  2. Scott Preston says :

    Notable article by Cornel West in today’s Guardian. I think he’s right, that Sanders would have beaten Trump. One way or another, neoliberalism was doomed to self-destruct. It’s only unfortunate that it had to be through a semblance of neo-fascism.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/17/american-neoliberalism-cornel-west-2016-election

    You could say,though, that regardless of whether it was Trump or Clinton or Sanders, the “empire of chaos” would have been the outcome in any case. Probably very true. But Sanders would have been, in all likelihood, more effective in using government to buffer the blows of chaotic transition. More than that I think he could not have done. Now, I think, it’s going to be pretty raw.

    • donsalmon says :

      I wish you were right about Sanders; I voted for him. But i doubt it. There was a comment to Cornel West’s article that made what I thought was an excellent case (an awful thought: Biden might have won – but then we would have postponed the end of the neo liberal era)

      *****
      Can we just put a stop to the notion that somehow Sanders would have slid in to victory. He’d never faced a national battle with the GOP. Ever. And Clinton pulled many a punch so as not to alienate his supporters. But the GOP would have been vicious. Here’s a sampling, as reported by Newsweek. I am a little stunned by the naiveté of some progressives. Sanders ran to push Clinton to the left. That’s why he ran as a Democrat, and that’s why he supported her after he was mathematically out of the race. And that’s why he worked so hard to get the Democratic platform to include almost 80% of his policy objectives. He did not intend for his supporters to blow up the entire fucking country and blow all those objectives because they didn’t get 100% of what they wanted immediately. He is a savvy politician and was in it for the long game. His supporters blew the long game and potentially any hope for the planet, because now there won’t be any action on climate and money will drown our political process further. Nicely done.

      http://www.newsweek.com/myths-cost-democrats-presidential-election-521044

      “So what would have happened when Sanders hit a real opponent, someone who did not care about alienating the young college voters in his base? I have seen the opposition book assembled by Republicans for Sanders, and it was brutal. The Republicans would have torn him apart. And while Sanders supporters might delude themselves into believing that they could have defended him against all of this, there is a name for politicians who play defense all the time: losers.

      “Here are a few tastes of what was in store for Sanders, straight out of the Republican playbook: He thinks rape is A-OK. In 1972, when he was 31, Sanders wrote a fictitious essay in which he described a woman enjoying being raped by three men. Yes, there is an explanation for it—a long, complicated one, just like the one that would make clear why the Clinton emails story was nonsense. And we all know how well that worked out.

      “Then there’s the fact that Sanders was on unemployment until his mid-30s, and that he stole electricity from a neighbor after failing to pay his bills, and that he co-sponsored a bill to ship Vermont’s nuclear waste to a poor Hispanic community in Texas, where it could be dumped. You can just see the words “environmental racist” on Republican billboards. And if you can’t, I already did. They were in the Republican opposition research book as a proposal on how to frame the nuclear waste issue.

      “Also on the list: Sanders violated campaign finance laws, criticized Clinton for supporting the 1994 crime bill that he voted for, and he voted against the Amber Alert system. His pitch for universal health care would have been used against him too, since it was tried in his home state of Vermont and collapsed due to excessive costs. Worst of all, the Republicans also had video of Sanders at a 1985 rally thrown by the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua where half a million people chanted, “Here, there, everywhere/the Yankee will die,’’ while President Daniel Ortega condemned “state terrorism” by America. Sanders said, on camera, supporting the Sandinistas was “patriotic.”

      “The Republicans had at least four other damning Sanders videos (I don’t know what they showed), and the opposition research folder was almost 2-feet thick. (The section calling him a communist with connections to Castro alone would have cost him Florida.) In other words, the belief that Sanders would have walked into the White House based on polls taken before anyone really attacked him is a delusion built on a scaffolding of political ignorance.”

      • Scott Preston says :

        Rather moot, given the outcome in any case. But I can well believe Sanders has a few skeletons in the closet. Even most saints did. Whether or not they prefigure how someone acts in later life, or shape current policy, is the question. None of us should hold the follies of our youth against ourselves, unless we only continue on the path of folly. I’m sure Sanders learned along the way as much as any of us do.

        But regardless of that, the “brutal” playbook assembled by the Republicans to discredit and defame Sanders may not have worked anymore than the one assembled by the Democrats to defame and descredit Trump, and we know how effective that was. Not. Neither Sanders nor Trump (least of all Clinton) are the endgame of “chaotic transition”. They are part of the transition, which is upon us whether we will it or no. The only issue is whether it will be more or less orderly than absolute chaos. But it looks like the gods have decided and are going to have some sport with us first, so to speak. Reminds me of the robot cops in THX 1138.

        I could go into why Sanders could have been more effective in his campaign. He was no Tommy Douglas — the Canadian socialist who was considered a national treasure, even by conservatives. Douglas, though, was a Baptist Minister, and he taught the “Social Gospel” and it resonated with a lot of the religious, and still does, with groups like the United Church of Canada or Kairos. Given the role of religion in the US still (it’s not so prominent in Canada) the Social Gospel may have been very effective. The closest I’ve seen anyone there come to that is Martin Luther King. And he, apparently, also had a few skeletons in the closet.

      • Scott Preston says :

        And speaking of Trump and Clinton and playbooks, I noted that David Petraeus is in the running for Trump’s secretary of state. The duplicity is rather galling given how the Trumpistas attacked Clinton over her use of the private email server while Petraeus was convicted of compromising classified information, if I recall correctly. Can’t expect consistency or integrity, let alone truth and transparency, from a Trump Administration I suspect. I’ll have to resurrect some of the themes of the old Dark Age Blog again, especially on our “Four Riders of the Apocalypse” — Double-Talk, Double-Think, Double-Standard, and Double-Bind. That was pretty much the core of TDAB.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Let’s get real: there was no candidate who could stave off or buffer the blows (already keenly felt) of the inevitable — even on the perimeter — because every candidate who runs for public office is a by-product of the very “Matrix” in need of transformation and any “outsider” would shortly be normalized to it because there’s nothing (fully fleshed out) waiting in the wings with which to replace the ideologies that got us into this mess in the first place. If there had been even the remotest chance of a win, Jill Stein would have been torn apart as well and was attacked relentlessly regardless because that’s how politics presently work in this godforsaken, factionalized country. It’s hardly the “Art of the Possible”.

        It may not look it on the surface, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the people of this country are further along the road to “maturity” than any of our institutions. Scott said it himself: “our institutions will be the last to change” and that rings just as true now as it did then. On the bright side, so many things are looking up in other endeavors that receive little if any attention in the “mainstream”. Alas, the only messages I’m hearing anywhere, especially over Trump’s election, is “Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.”

        • Scott Preston says :

          Many countries with fairly strong social safety nets still, despite neo-liberalism, are not experiencing the same degree and intensity of social conflict as the US. That doesn’t mean they aren’t facing the same dilemmas, quandries and conundrums as the US. We’re all in the same quagmire at the “end of history”, but our responses to that quagmire are rather different in different countries, although it’s only a matter of degree, not of kind.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    Roy Greenslade also writing in The Guardian about post-Enlightenment/post-liberal society.

    https://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2016/nov/17/is-liberalism-really-to-blame-for-britains-and-americas-ills

    “liberal”, bear in mind, has quite different meanings in different countries. A Canadian “liberal” is a much different sort of creature than an American “liberal”. And even in Russia, the “Liberal Party” is a neo-fascist party. It is, in effect, part of “chaotic transition” that words and names just don’t mean the same thing to people who speak them. Tower of Babel.

  4. abdulmonem says :

    Narration, words speculation,conveying of information and neutral analysis are not the main errand of the human in this trying life, that is they are not supposed to be an end in themselves but to be a guiding tools to help, make a firm stand that helps to navigate in the sinking water of human polarity, whose purpose is to choose the high self not the lower self as the horse of our life in this world that is replete with antagonistic forces. We are both the watchers and the performers, the emissaries and the masters. We are basically designed as critical thinkers and evaluators in order to help us exercise our freedom responsibly. This is exactly the meaning of presence. The language of the pocket is not a language of presence. It is the language of the low self, the language as it is apparent is the one we chose with all its negative repercussion and its hollow men and women that have no eye for truth or justice, the foundation of any healthy society. We have built an ill society by our own choice that has been misled and still being misled,not only by the false ground it has been built on but also through occupying it with ghosts of concepts that distancing it from knowing the truth and reign with justice. I hope the choice of the gray jay is not an indication that Canada is going trumpist.

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