Will John Grisham’s legal drama The Appeal (2008) join other literary works like Upton Sinclair’s political fiction novel The Jungle (1906) and Rachel Carson’s literary broadside Silent Spring (1962) [1] in influencing changes in real world legislation? In his PhD dissertation Gordon (2008) argued that literary works such as those by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Karl Marx, Ralph Nader, Jonathan Swift, Upton and Carson, serve as legislative flash points and have had a demonstrable impact on the law.

Grisham’s writing is clearly popular fiction and he has enjoyed writing books with no redeeming social value like The Broker, but he now wants to tackle social issues (Grossman 2006.) He has fierce political convictions and admitted that, “Everything I’m thinking about writing now is about politics or social issues wrapped around a novel.” He admires the work of Truman Capote, John le Carré and John Steinbeck whom he would like to emulate. So is The Appeal also an appeal to reason [2]? 

John Grisham’s legal drama/legal thriller/crime novels deal with the power and influence of major US corporations in America and their potential for abusing the American legal system. Previous novels concluded with the victims being vindicated and giant corporations paying huge rewards for damages to personal health and to the environment. But in 2006 there was already a shift when he published his first book of nonfiction, a true-crime story entitled The Innocent Man.

The Appeal (2008) is the most openly political book he has written in which he probed the world of US judicial elections, a burning issue in the US (AF-P 2008). The debate over the best way for states to select judges is more than 160 years old. According to Wall Street Journal’s Levy, within days of the release of The Appeal, “critics of judicial elections began to connect it to examples of real-life corruption. Mr. Grisham himself says his story has “already happened” in West Virginia. Others have tried to link the book’s intrigue to next month’s Supreme Court election in Wisconsin, where a controversial judge is facing a strong challenge for re-election, helped in part by business groups. Mr. Grisham has plenty of allies in his crusade among liberal interest groups, who insist that judicial elections somehow represent a blight on the rule of law  (Levy 2008-03-20).”

In The Appeal fictional Wall Street financier Carl Trudeau, launched his appeal against plaintiffs from cancer county where his company had dumped toxins for years, to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Then he stacked the Court by funding an unknown to run against incumbent Court Justice Sheila McCarthy. Trudeau flooded media with ads designed to vilify Justice McCarthy as an extremely liberal judge who would protect criminals not citizens and would restrict gun ownership. Trudeau’s campaign allowed Fisk to win the election. Grisham in the telling of this fiction, practically laid out a formula for CEOs, corporate lawyers and politicians to overpower and ruin ordinary citizens while enjoying financial huge gains. The characters are highly stereotyped with lawyers and CEOs who are clearly the bad guys in this story. 

The mysterious, expensive consultant Barry Rinehart works quietly in the background using financing from from industries like energy, insurance, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, timber, all types of manufacturing as well as doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and banks, to target supreme court justices whose values differ from these special interest groups. He engineers the fixing of elections so the unfriendly judges lose to their own groomed judicial candidate. (31 states elect their appellate and supreme court judges while the remaining states appoint their courts.)  “To Grisham, that is the sad truth: No one’s justice will be served. While chilling, Grisham’s tale of modern legal machinations is also, unfortunately, timeless (Patrick 2008-01).”

 “Literature—even persuasively powerful literature—does not operate in a void: conditions must be ripe if it is to draw energy from the social milieu and thereby attain a kinetic force capable of influencing the law. This [...] requires an alignment of narratives: the literary narrative with the larger cultural narrative within which it subsists (Gordon 2008:41).”

Tagging

law and literature movement, dedicated interest groups, big-money politics, Amicus-Curia, Plaintiff’ Paradise, judicial hell holes, consumer-friendly, Cancer County, cancer cluster, pulpit for reform, real world politics, US legal system, vexatious corporate litigation, senior academic lawyers, appelate benches of the Federal Appeal Circuit and the Supreme Court, M$ anti-trust investigations, Anti-Trust suit compliance issue, proven complicity, meritless SCO litigation, Patent and Copyright systems, East Texas fiasco, legal corruption, amicus-curia briefs, Commerce and Justice, Economic Crisis, US corporate malfeasance, US corporate greed, US corporate lack of transparency, tort, Rylands rule, Fletcher v. Rylands, Johnstown Flood, 

Timeline of related events

1860 One of the wealthiest industrialists in England, John Rylands, a textile manufacturer, hired a contractor to dig a large ditch and create a reservoir to add water power for one of his mills. The reservoir collapsed into an abandoned coal-mining shaft which connected to Thomas Fletcher’s neighboring coal mines. The reservoir flood destroyed those mines. (Wiki, Shugerman 2008)

1865 Fletcher v. Rylands, 159 Eng. Rep. 737, 740. The dispute in Rylands concerned escape of water onto neighbouring land. Later cases in which the Rylands test was applied involved the escape of all manner of wastes and materials, extending outwards to a broad range of inherently dangerous activities considered essential to modern life. The Court found in favour of Fletcher and ordered Rylands to pay for all the property damage to the mine. The Court agreed that Rylands had a duty in maintaining the reservoir and of being liable for all harm caused by it with broad scope of liability. This case was a major development in modern law and has influenced many subsequent rulings. The changes in negligence law as a field of torts has in some jurisdictions incorporated the Rylands rule. (Wiki, Shugerman 2008)

1889-05-31 In the mountains east of Pittsburg, a dam holding back a 450-acre artificial recreational lake, one of the largest reservoirs in the world, collapsed unleashing 20 million tons of water into the valley below, completely destroying Johnstown and killing two thousand people. The elite members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, titans-of-industry including Andrew Carnegie, Andrew Mellon, and Henry Clay Frick (also called the Bosses Club) ignored the dam’s crumbling foundation, warnings of structural problems and leakage. It was one of the most deadly disasters in American history. The public focused its anger on the South Fork Club and its wealthy members, and the media called on the club members to compensate the Johnstown victims. Before the Flood, the court emphasized the “great public interest” of industry’s unfettered development, and dismissed the “mere personal [and] trifling inconveniences” that were caused by industrial damage, and which must “give way to the necessities of a great community.” (Shugerman 2008.)

1890s There was a rise of populists as critics of industry’s excess in the 1890s and ruling leaned towards Fletcher against Rylands (Shugerman 2008.)

1980s- US Supreme Court Judicial elections became increasingly nasty, noisy, and costly (Pozen 2008:265).

1981 John Grisham (born 1955) graduated from law school.

1988 The Willie Horton ad from the 1988 presidential race was considered to be offensive and race-bating.

1981-1991 John Grisham practiced law for nearly in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation.

1983-1990 John Grisham served in the state House of Representatives.

1984-1987 Grisham wrote his first novel A Time to Kill (1987) in his spare time exploring the theme of what would have happened if the girl’s father in a real trial had actually murdered her assailants. “After four years of practicing I got this idea for what I thought was a very compelling courtroom drama – small town, the South, a racial conflict – all seen through the eyes of an attorney who was basically me. A guy who wanted to be a big trial lawyer. That was my dream. I wanted people to call me – people who could pay me for the big case (Grisham in Slater 2009-01-27).”

1991 John Grisham’s novel, The Firm, was one of the biggest hits of 1991, spending 47 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. Grisham gave up law and concentrated on writing. All his books have been bestsellers and six have been made into movies. Grisham lives with his wife and two children in Mississippi and Virginia.

1993 “Investor and philanthropist George Soros in 1993 created OSI as a private operating and grantmaking foundation to support his foundations in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Those foundations were established, starting in 1984, to help countries make the transition from communism. OSI has expanded the activities of the Soros foundations network to encompass the United States and more than 60 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Each Soros foundation relies on the expertise of boards composed of eminent citizens who determine individual agendas based on local priorities (OSI).”

1999  Tabarrok and Helland investigated “the forces that explain why trial awards differ across the United States. In 23 states judges are elected and in 10 they are elected via partisan elections. Elections have two important effects. First, defendants are often out‐of‐state nonvoters while plaintiffs are typically in‐state voters. [They] predicted, therefore, that elected judges will redistribute wealth from out‐of‐state businesses to in‐state plaintiffs. Second, the realities of campaign financing require judges to seek and accept campaign funding from trial lawyers, who uniformly are interested in larger awards. [They]  hypothesized that these two forces cause awards to be larger in states where the judiciary is elected rather than appointed. [They]  also hypothesized that the demand for redistribution will increase as poverty increases and, thus, that awards will be larger in states with greater poverty. Using a sample of over 7,000 cases across 48 of the 50 states, [they]  found significant evidence in support of these hypotheses ( Tabarrok and Helland 1999-04).”

1994-2000 “By most measures, Grisham was the most successful novelist of the 1990s, when he sold over 60 million books. For seven straight years, 1994-2000, he had the best-selling novel in the country (Grossman 2006 ).”

2004 Swift boating refers to smear tactics used during the US Presidential campaign against candidate John Kerry. Vietnam veterans who served on the US Navy’s swift boats mounted a smear campaign to oppose Kerry who was a swift boat commander in Vietnam but was later allegedly involved in antiwar activities. 

2005-02-18 President Bush signed the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005. This pushed for by business and Republican leaders since President Bush took office in 2001. It targeted consumer-friendly “Plaintiff’ Paradise” courts also termed “judicial hell holes” by corporations being libeled in mutiple-state class action suits (like those in Madison and St. Clare in Illinois and Jefferson County, Texas accused of being pro-consumer). Texas. Those “judicial hell holes,” and others in Alabama and Mississippi, are the favorite venues for some in the plaintiffs’ bar because of consumer-friendly juries and elected judges who routinely certified national classes and apply their state law and/or the laws of other states. Such cases after 2005 ended up in federal court, where corporate defendants tend to do better (O’Brien 2005).

2007 US Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler was publicly reprimanded for a conflict-of-interest violation.

2007 Harvard Law School’s Shugerman’s paper entitled “The Twist of Long Terms: Disasters, Elected Judges, and American Tort Law” was selected for the Yale-Stanford Junior Faculty Forum and the Conference on Empirical Legal Studies, New York University. “The received wisdom is that American judges rejected strict liability through the nineteenth and early twentieth century. To the contrary, a majority of state courts adopted Rylands v. Fletcher and strict liability for hazardous or unnatural activities after a series of flooding tragedies in the late nineteenth century. Federal judges and appointed state judges generally ignored or rejected Rylands, while elected state judges overwhelmingly adopted Rylands or a similar strict liability rule. In moving from fault to strict liability, these judges were essentially responding to increased public fears of industrial or man-made hazards. Elected courts were more populist: They were more likely to adopt strict liability than appointed courts. But surprisingly, state courts elected to longer terms were the most populist. Many of these judges never expected to face another election, but even without direct political pressure, they were the most responsive group of judges in adopting Rylands after the floods. This historical episode illuminates the differences between types of political influence on judges. Judicial elections generally may produce judges more sympathetic to public opinion and more responsive to recent events. Longer terms, shielding judges from opposing political pressure from industry favoring the fault rule, then allowed judges to follow those sympathies or new perceptions of public interest in favor of strict liability. The historical record suggests that judicial elections plus long terms shaped a more responsive bench. A shorthand for these effects are: filtering, role fidelity, and fear and favor. First, these elections created a populist filter: Elections seemed to have filtered out some elite jurists from major urban centers and filtered in more local lawyer-politicians, who would be more connected to public opinion. Second, borrowing from the language used by nineteenth-century advocates of judicial elections and by modern historians, I suggest that the elected judges’ “fidelity” to the people led them to perceive public opinion as an important factor in their decisions. Even with filtering and role fidelity, judges elected to short terms would still face the reality of “fear and favor,” due to special interests and partisan renomination politics. Elected judges with more job security could be more faithful to their role (hence, “role fidelity”) and could follow their own perception of public interest or public opinion, rather than industrial interests. The Article concludes with some priorities for judicial reform based upon this historical episode.”

2008-01 Grisham noted that there was a lot of truth in The Appeal. “As long as private money is allowed in judicial elections we will see competing interests fight for seats on the bench.” The Appeal was published in the midst of the presidential primaries making it all the more compelling (Memmott 2008).

2008 “In John Grisham’s new novel, Mississippi judges are bought, marketed and sold.  In a crowded courtroom, a jury delivers a multi-million-dollar verdict against a chemical company accused of tainting a town’s water supply with waste. The chemical company retaliates with an appeal, but in order to win, it rig the state Supreme Court. As judicial elections loom, the company hand picks an unsuspecting judge and manipulates him for the job. In The Appeal, Grisham provides a cautionary tale about judicial elections and political campaigns in general. Like the so-called “swift-boating” of political candidates in the last presidential election, Grisham’s characters resort to harsh smear tactics to defeat their opponents. Jacki Lyden spoke with Grisham about his novel, judicial politics and his personal political engagement. In a crowded courtroom in Mississippi, a jury returns a shocking verdict against a chemical company accused of dumping toxic waste into a small town’s water supply, causing the worst “cancer cluster” in history. The company appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court, whose nine justices will one day either approve the verdict or reverse it ( All Things Considered).”

2008-03-18 Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a progressive citizen advocacy group dedicated to bringing transparency to the electoral system, filed a compliant against Michael Gableman with the Wisconsin Judicial Commission claiming the little-known county judge from Burnett County in northwestern Wisconsin used attack ads that were “highly offensive and deliberately misleading” against Incumbent Justice Louis Butler claiming he found a “loophole” to free a convicted sex offender.” The ad placed a picture of a convicted rapist and Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler on the screen at the same time. Both are black. Butler handled the man’s appeal of his rape conviction when he worked as a public defender.

2008-04 “Challenger Michael Gableman defeated incumbent Justice Louis Butler to win a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Tuesday’s election. The results mean that a sitting Supreme Court justice won’t return to the bench for the first time in 40 years. The interest in the race by special interests is troubling to some, including the unseated justice, WISC-TV reported. Third-party TV ads were a centerpiece of one of the most negative Supreme Court races in state history (Channel 3000).”

2008-10 “The Wisconsin Judicial Commission alleges Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman violated the code of judicial conduct, which prevents judicial candidates from knowingly misrepresenting facts about their opponent. Gableman’s campaign ran an ad in the Milwaukee area before the April election against Incumbent Justice Louis Butler claiming he found a “loophole” to free a convicted sex offender.” Gableman defeated incumbent Justice Louis Butler in the April election. At the time, Gableman was a little-known county judge from northwestern Wisconsin. Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a progressive citizen advocacy group dedicated to bringing transparency to the electoral system, filed the compliant with the Wisconsin Judicial Commission on March 18. One local government watchdog group said fallout from recent Supreme Court campaigns is cause for concern.Channel3000

2008 Soros’ Open Society Institute made donations to dozens of groups seeking to sway the judicial selection process in states from Illinois to North Carolina, as well as funding national groups like Justice at Stake. According to Levy of the right-wing Wall Street Journal Soros and Grisham prefer “merit selection” where in order to keep politics out of judicial appointments, an appellate judicial commission selects a slate of judges from which the governor must choose. Right-wing critics argue that judicial commissions can also become agents of politicization leaning towards to left. Levy cited a 2007 “Harvard study” supporting his own views on an elected judiciary. The 2007 Harvard study mentioned by Levy was actually a paper presented at a Junior Faculty Forum based entirely on a historical analysis of how judges in the 19th century responded to Rylands (1865-). Given the complexity of the 21st century surely there are better sources for evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of merit selection versus elected judiciary. Grisham is merely drawing attention to potential areas of corruption and the lack of information available to civil society by using popular culture.

 

2008-12-08  US Federal authorities in New York arrested Marc S. Dreier in a $100 million fraud scheme, portraying his recent undertakings as a massive hedge fund fraud. The Yale graduate who 1996 founded the Dreier L.L.P. 250-lawyer firm in 2006 allegedly took advantage of the current financial crisis by selling phony debt to hungry hedge funds looking for deals. (Rashbaum and Kowan 2008-12-08)

2009-01 In a 2008 statewide survey entitled “Public Attitudes Regarding the Selection of Judges in the State of Washington” funded in part by Open Society Institute Professors Brody and Lovrich reported that,

“A little over 26% of respondents rated Washington’s current, non-partisan election method of judicial selection as good or very good, while 35% rated it bad or very bad; The largest areas of concern about the current method of selecting judges involved the lack of contested elections, the prominence of judges being appointed to the bench, and the lack of information available to voters to use in judicial elections; A little over 60% of respondents rated a commission system (merit system) of judicial selection to be good or very good, while roughly 16% rated such a selection system as bad or very bad; The aspects of the commission system viewed most positively were: (1) the use of a nominating commission as part of the appointment process; (2) the fact that retention elections provide voters with the opportunity to vote for or against all judges at regular intervals; (3) the fact that all judges may be held accountable by voters without the need for a person to run against a judge in a contested election; and (4) that judges always appear on election ballots at regular intervals; When asked to choose between the current system or a commission system of judicial selection, over 60% indicated a preference for adopting a commission system while about 23% preferred staying with the current system; Over 90% of respondents would support the development of a judicial performance evaluation program in Washington to provide information to voters about candidates in local and statewide judicial elections.”

2009-01-27 Wall Street Journal’s Dan Slater interviewed John Grisham to talk about his 22nd book. Grisham revealed that his favorite story was that of  Marc Dreier. “[I]t’s incredible. Pretending to be someone else? Taking over a conference room? I knew something was wrong when I read about his 120-foot yacht. When you’ve got a yacht that big you’re living like a billionaire. And you can’t do that as a New York lawyer. I don’t care how big your firm is.” Grisham explained that even as a writer of fiction that he could not improve on the real life stories of Dreier and Madoff. They have already been covered too much by the media. “The sushi restaurant (Dreier) owned? All the cars? The secretaries making $200,000 a year? It’s too much. When I see stuff like that my imagination just goes into overdrive (Grisham interviewed by Slater 2009-01-27).”

Notes
1. Randy Gordon’s PhD dissertation (2008) examined the impact of literary works on rehumanizing law and democracy. Gordon reiterated the argument that there “is a direct and demonstrable connection between publication of The Jungle and adoption” of the 1906 Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drugs Act (Gordon 2008:41). Historian James Harvey Young (1981) observed that two key political figures, James R. Garfield and Senator Alfred J. Beveridge presented President Theodore Roosevelt with Sinclair’s novel. Gordon also added that other landmark legislation in the meat packing industry book decades to be adopted. President, John F. Kennedy asked his Scientific Advisory Committee to investigate Carson’s claims and they largely vindicated Carson’s work (1963-05) particularly in the report’s condemnation of indiscriminate pesticide use and call for additional research into potential health (Gordon 2008:52).

2. Author and journalist Upton Sinclair’s influential novel entitled The Jungle (1906) about the corruption of the American meatpacking industry is an example of how fiction portrayed social reality and is an early example of is one of the finest examples of the “muckraking” tradition begun by journalists. In this novel Sinclair contrasted the lives of the “have-nots” and “haves” and deplored American “wage slavery”. Sinclair’s novel was first published in the left-wing newspaper The Appeal to Reason.

3. “Law is institutional normative order (MacCormick 2007).”

4. “The rhetoric of scientific objectivity, pressed too hard and taken too seriously, has led us to people like B.F. Skinner on the one hand and like Althusser on the other—two equally pointless fantasies, both produced by the attempt to be ‘scientific’ about our moral and political lives (Rorty 1996:573, 585).”

5. In his influential article on law’s autonomy by Judge Posner (1987) argued that law had been treated historically in practice and as a matter of training as if it were an autonomous discipline (Posner 1987:761 in Gordon 2008:17). 

6. The concept of “Narrative” as developed by Gordon’s in his literature review has a common thread of a “story,” a relational and temporal ordering of human events that culminates in “closure.” His sources include definitions of narrative as: “a story of events arranged in time sequence and offering some sort of meaning (Papke and McManus 1999:449)”; “the organization of material in a chronologically sequential order and the focusing of the content into a single coherent story . . . its arrangement is descriptive rather than analytical and . . . its central focus is on man not circumstances (Stone 1979:3)”; “first a ‘selective appropriation of past events and characters;’ second, a temporal ordering that presents these events with a beginning, a middle and an end; and third, an overarching structure that contextualizes these events as part of an opposition or struggle (97)”; “a recognizable discourse or operation . . . that . . . can be abstracted from [its] medium [of expression] . . . as in the plot summary (Clawson 1998)”; a story (99); “a metacode, a human universal on the basis of which transcultural messages about the nature of a shared reality can be transmitted (100).”

 

Webliography and Bibliography

2008-01-27. “Grisham’s ‘Appeal’ Tackles Down-and-Dirty Politics. ” All Things Considered. 

Agence France-Presse. 2008-01-09 “Author John Grisham has no shortage of book ideas.” Madrid. 

Asimow, Michael. “Analyse This! John Grisham’s Lawyers from a Megafirm.” Picturing Justice. University of San Francisco. 

Brody, David; Lovrich, Nicholas. 2009-01. “Public Attitudes Regarding the Selection of Judges in the State of Washington: Results of a Statewide Survey 2008.” American Judicatur Society and Washington State Judicial Selection Coalition. 

98 Brooks, supra note 91, at 1.

Clawson, Mark A. 1998. “Telling Stories: Romance and Dissonance in Progressive Legal Narratives.” 22 Legal Studies F. 353, 364 (citing and partially quoting Ewick, Patricia; Silbey, Susan S. 1995. “Subversive Stories and Hegemonic Tales: Towards a Sociology of Narrative.” 29 Literature and Sociology Review. 197, 200.

Gordon, Randy. 2008. “Rehumanizing Law: a Narrative Theory of Law and Democracy.” Ph.D., Law. The University of Edinburgh. 2008.

Grossman, Lev. 2006-10-09. “Grisham’s New Pitch.” Time.

Levy, Collin. 2008-03-20. “Grisham’s Judicial Appeal.” Wall Street Journal. 

Hamilton, Kevin J. 2008-01-29. New side to John Grisham: storytelling of substance.”  The Seattle Times. (Hamilton 2008)

MacCormick, Neil. 2007. Institutions of Law: an Essay in Legal Theory.

Memmott, Carl.  2008-01-28. “Grisham’s ‘Appeal’ rules harshly on bought election.” USA Today

O’Brien, Tim. 2005-03-21. “New Jersey No ‘Judicial Hell Hole’: State judiciary’s restraints may spare it full impact of Class Action Fairness Act.” New Jersey Law Journal. CLXXIX:12. 

Papke, David Ray; McManus, Kathleen H. 1999. “Narrative and the Appellate Opinion.” 23 Legal Studies. F. 449, 449.

Patrick, Bethanne. 2008-01. “Justice Denied.” Washington Post

Posner, Richard A. 1987. “The Decline of Law and an Autonomous Discipline: 1962-1987.” 100 Harvard Law Review. 761. 

Pozen, David. 2008. “The Irony of Judicial Elections.” 108 Columbia Law Review.

Rashbaum, William K; Cowan, Alison Leigh. 2008-12-08. “Lawyer Is Accused in Massive Hedge Fund Fraud.” New York Times

Rorty, Richard. 1996. “Solidarity or Objectivity.” in Cahoone, Lawrence. Ed. 1996. From Modernism to Postmodernism. 573, 585.

Slater, Dan. 2009-01-27 A Law Blog Q&A With John Grisham. Wall Street Journal. 

Stone, Lawrence. 1979. “The Revival of Narrative: Reflections on a New Old History.” 85 Past and Present. 3, 3.

Shugerman, Jed H. 2008. “The Twist of Long Terms: Disasters, Elected Judges, and American Tort Law.” Harvard Law School.

 

Tabarrok, Alexander; Helland, Eric. 1999-04. “Court Politics: The Political Economy of Tort Awards.” The Journal of Law and Economics. The University of Chicago. Vol. 42. 

 

99 Van Dunne, supra note 92, at 463.

100 White, supra note 90, at 6.

Young, James Harvey. 1981-06.“The Long Struggle for the 1906 Law.” FDA Consumer.

History, memory and archives cannot be used interchangeably. Musique 400, an Annapolis valley group proud of their local history presented an uncontextualized, direct reading of a play by Champlain’s settlers in honour of Nouvelle France’s governor complete with 17th century attitudes. Unfortunately the group did not mention Matthieu da Costa either.

read more | digg story

Production of the original version mentined above was cancelled. This blog traces the journey of navigating on the fringe: “Sinking Neptune.” Thanks to Stan Kristiansen for providing me with the correct url for Optative Theatrical Laboratories. I’ve just updated the link and now I’m heading to the media page you suggested.

Here are some resources I developed over the last fifteen years on inclusive communal memory work particularly in terms of weaving strands of divergent views of the same time and space.

.

Freudian Slip The catalyst for this layered image was Freud’s influential paper (1901 [1914]) entitled Forgetting of Proper Names in Psychopathology of Everyday Life. I remembered the image a couple of days ago when I submitted my first article Memory work for Wikipedia as a fully register contributor. The words memory and history are not interchangeable. Memory work has an ethical as well as an historical dimension. This image raises some ethical questions about how our stored memories can become entangled.

In it Freud examined the psychological process of forgetting the name of the artist who painted the Orvieto ceiling when his conscious thinking process was abruptly interrupted by memories of the recent suicide of one of his patients who had an incurable sexual disorder. He forget Signorelli’s proper name during this conversation with a stranger while traveling in Herzegovina. They had been discussing the Turks in Bosnia and Herzegovina when Freud’s thoughts turned to contemporary [racist] beliefs surrounding the sexual moeurs of Turks who allegedly valued sexual pleasure over life itself. From there Freud thought of Death and Sexuality. As one theme interrupted and replaced the other, he associated the series Signorelli. Botticelli, Boltraffio, Trafoi and could not recollect the proper name.

This is significant to me as it reveals unchallenged western prejudices about the East at the turn of the century.

Layers include a .jpg of Renaissance artist Luca Signorelli’s (1445 – 1523) masterpiece, the massive frescoes of the Last Judgment (1499-1503) in Orvieto Cathedral. The copyright on his work has expired since he passed away more than 70 years ago.

There is a topographical map of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a small iinsert of Freud’s museum which is itself th subject of controversy as rrevealed in Derrida’s book Archives Fever (1996). The uppermost layer is the diagram from the Freud’s article explaining how he made a Freudian slip.

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Memory Work: Wikipedia

November 3, 2006

Memory work

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Memory work is a process of engaging with the past which has both an ethical and historical dimension (Gabriel 2004). The premise for memory work or travail de memoire is that history is not memory. We try to represent the past in the present through memory, history and the archives. As Ricoeur (1955 [1965], 2000) argued, memory alone is fallible. Historical accounts are always partial and potentially misrepresent since historians do not work with bare, uninterpreted facts. Historians construct and use archives that contain traces of the past. However, historians and librarians determine which traces are preserved and stored. This is an interpretive activity. Historians pose questions to which the archives responds leading them to “facts that can be asserted in singular, discrete propositions that usually include dates, places, proper names, and verbs of action or condition” (Ricoeur 2000:226). Individuals remember events and experiences some of which they share with a collective. Through mutual reconstruction and recounting collective memory is reconstructed. Individuals are born into familial discourse which already provides a backdrop of communal memories against which individual memories are shaped. A group’s communal memory becomes its common knowledge which creates a social bond, a sense of belonging and identity. Professional historians attempt to corroborate, correct, or refute collective memory. Memory work then entails adding an ethical component which acknowledges the responsibility towards revisiting distorted histories thereby decreasing the risk of social exclusion and increasing the possibility of social cohesion of at-risk groups.

The concept of memory-work as distinguished from history-as-memory finds a textbook case in the Vichy Syndrome as described by Russo (1991). His title uses medical lexicon to refer to history-memory as dependent on working consciously with unconscious memories to revise accounts of history. This calls for an expanded archive that includes the “oral and popular tradition” (Gabriel 2004:11) as well as the written traditions normally associated with the archives.

Nora (2002) traced the surge in memory work at the level of the nation-state to the revisiting of distorted histories of the anti-Semitic Vichy regime (1940-1944) following the death of de Gaulle in 1970. Structural changes resulted from the end of the peasantry and the dramatic economic slump as oil prices worldwide rose in 1974. Added to this was the intellectual collapse of Marxism precipitated in part by Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago which forced the French to rethink attitudes towards the past.

Gabriel (2004) provided a model for reading the complexities of memory and forgetting by situating unheimlich within the heimlich, in a Freudian ‘one within the other structure’. As point of departure Gabriel examined Edgar Reitz’s eleven-part West German television series entitled Heimat. Reitz’ work was in response to a larger movement in Germany national memory work provoked in part by an American television series entitled the Holocaust followed viewed by millions. As European art in general and German art in particular resurged in the 1960s, artists like Gunther Grass and Edgar Reitz captured international attention as they grappled with issues of identity in a divided, post-Holocaust Germany. Gabriel developed the concept of an impulse towards national memory work in Germany that stemmed from a haunted subject yearning for a lost, far away, nostalgic place, a utopic homeland. “How do we confront that which we have excluded in order to be, whether it is the return of the repressed or the return of the strangers?” (Kristeva 1982). In other words, that which we fear as ‘other’ is within ourselves through our shared humanity. Repressed memories haunt all of us.

The concept of memory work is part of a sociological imagination from a post-national point of view. Expanding on Norbert Loeffler: The idea of one national history is only acceptable as a question, not as an answer.

Memory work is related to identity work often associated with displaced persons. Some of the most provocative research on memory work (Derrida, Cixous, Kristeva) has been authored by French ex-patriots who returned to France following the Algerian war of independence.
Oceanflynn 06:39, 1 November 2006 (UTC)
References:

Cixous, Hélene. 1997. Rootprints: Memory and Life Writing: Routledge

Derrida, Jacques. 1996. Archive Fever. Translated by E. Prenowitz. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Derrida, Jacques. (1986) Memoires for Paul de Man, Columbia University Press.

Gabriel, Barbara. 2004. “The Unbearable Strangeness of Being; Edgar Reitz’s Heimat and the Ethics of the Unheimlich” in Postmodernism and the Ethical Subject, edited by B. Gabriel and S. Ilcan. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Kristeva, Julia. 1982. Powers of Horror. New York: University Press.

Kristeva, Julie (1993) Nations without Nationalism, trans. L. S. Roudiez (Yale University Press, 1993)

Nora, Pierre. 2002. “The Reasons for the Current Upsurge in Memory.” Tr@nsit-Virtuelles Forum.22 Retrieved Access 2002. http://www.eurozine.com/articles/2002-04-19-nora-en.html

Ricoeur, Paul. 1955 [1965]. History and Truth. Translated by C. A. Kelbley. Evanston: Northwestern University press.

Ricoeur, Paul. 2000. La Mémoire, l’Historie, l’Oubli: l’ordre philosophique: Éditions du Seuil. http://www.theology.ie/thinkers/RicoeurMem.htm

Russo, Henry. 1991. The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France since 1944. Translated by A. Goldhammer. Cambridge/London: Harvard University Press.

I write using EndNote so this was the original entry I had added for Barbara Gabriel whose article opened so many doors for me:

In her brilliant article entitled “The Unbearable Strangeness of Being; Edgar Reitz’s Heimat and the Ethics of the Unheimlich” Barbara Gabriel provides a model for reading the complexities of memory and forgetting. As point of departure Gabriel examined Edgar Reitz’s eleven-part West German television series entitled Heimat. Reitz’ work was in response to a larger movement in Germany national memory-work provoked in part by an American television series entitled the Holocaust followed viewed by millions.

In the section entitled “Tropes of Purity and Danger”Barbara Gabriel (2004:165, 197) illustrated how a model of homogeneity depends on a constituent outside. In this essay Gabriel revealed how the concept of heimat resists interpretation. Freud situated the unheimlich within the heimlich, one within the other structure. Freud argued that the heimlich and unheimlich are doubles, not antimonies or opposites which slip and slide inside one another through different shades of meanings explored through Freudian recurrence and return, the haunted house, the double, death and the death drive, enucleation as castration, the prostitute and the primordial uncanny as maternal womb. which a closed meaning so that the haunted subject can continue to yearn for the lost, far away, nostalgic place keep the potential of a utopic homeland footnotes the way in which Kristeva (1982) introduced a diachronic register by mapping theory onto historical subjects. Kristeva created a synthesis between the work of Bataille and Mary Douglas. Douglas’s symbolic anthropological approach resisted the diachronic. Models of homogeneity depend on a constituent outside.

“Recent cultural theory around abjection moves deconstruction as well as psychoanalytic readings around the relationship between insides and outsides onto the category of social subjects (see Butler [1990, 1993]). Kristeva’s (1982) own analyses bring together the work of Mary Douglas and Bataille; what is new here, arguably, is the mapping of the theory onto the domain of historical subjects, shifting the synchronic work of anthropology into a diachronic register in ways ignored by Douglas’s pioneering work. I am indebted to Matti Bunzi for the insight that symbolic anthropology was long resistant to historical frameworks.”
“How do we confront that which we have excluded in order to be, whether it is the return of the repressed or the return of the stangers?” Cited in Gabriel, Barbara 2004

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Space invasion with fireplace and PC (1998-1999)

Space invasion with fireplace and PC (1998-1999),
originally uploaded by ocean.flynn.

I began making my first web pages when Dave and I lived here on Lac Gauvreau, Chemin de la Baie Ste. Anne, Ste Cécile de Masham, Québec. I had already taken my first contemporary social theory courses with Rob Shields. From that time onwards he has been a valued mentor for my grad studies. I was working on the year long PhD seminar course with Professor Wallot at the University of Ottawa. This Canadian Studies PhD was a life-transforming experience. It was education as its best. The institution provided everything a grad student could need including access to a super coach and computer lab. As always Dave and I were squeezing as much as we could with bare bones technology. I was using our first digital camera and this flat bed scanner. My son Dan, who was studying at the Cite collegiale in Ottawa, taught me just enough .html coding so I wouldn’t make too much of a mess for him to clean up. He was a bit of a purist.

This acrylic painting was painted over the Christmas holidays in 1998-1999. I had already painted the tree outside our cabin by Lake Gauvreau. The next day the branches were so burdened with snow I had to repaint them entirely. I decided to let them invade the inner space of the cottage since their presence was so insistent.

The painting is 30″ x 22.5″ on Arches paper.

It was shown in March 1999 at an exhibition on Bank Street in Ottawa, ON and again in a gallery on Great George Street , Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in the summer of 1999.

Space invasion with fireplace and PC was one of the first images on my Carleton University home page and on the collaborative, innovative virtual space called artengine. It is one of my favourite images and after our chaotic move out west I really don’t know where the actual physical painting is or the great high resolution digital images the professional photographer took of my work in May-June? of 1999.

One of the challenges for me is to find the kinds of sites that provide me with ideas I can build upon. For example, currently I am unable to simply use a search engine to find useful information on the concept of memory work. I have kept track of this concept over the years using my EndNote bibliographic database. My sister Sharon introduced me to EndNote c. 1992?, an authoring software for creating digital databases with a powerful cross-referencing ability. Thousands of useful entries later and numerous upgrades later I continue to thank you Sharon.

Folksonomy II

October 29, 2006

Folksonomy II Using Adobe Photoshop I layered Friedrich’s (1818) Voyageur au-dessus de la mer de nuages (1818), a Google Earth generated image of Garibaldi Mountain region, British Columbia (49.51.20.64N – 122.57.18.09W elev 6026′ eye alt 13964) and my del.icio.us tag cloud as it emerges from the fog of my thinking. Tags are user-generated so the author chooses how to categorize each .url. Eventually a pattern emerges from this exercise in taxonomy from the ground up. As I visit other peoples’ blogs and del.icio.us webliographies, I learn better ways to categorize certain theories and/or theorists. Gradually I changes these tags, folksonomies or ethnoclassifications so that I can better connect with others making similar journeys.
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This astounding high resolution image of this painting, Habib Allah (c.1600) “The Concourse of the Birds” is available courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is an illustration of the Persian mystic, Faridu’ud-Din Attar’s allegory (c.1100?) “The Conference of the Birds” which I believe is also called Mantiqu’t-Tayr Language of the Birds. This work may have inspired Herman Hesse’s “Journey to the East.” It describes the seeker’s parallel journey to self-discovery, self-actualization, self-realization through the elusive search for God.

Tag clouds, Head in the Clouds, Love and Cyberdelirium

Attar is said to have met Jalálu’d-Dín Rúmí (1207-1273 A.D.) when the latter was still a child enkindling (sp.) him with the insatiable longing for the illusive and unknowable divine essence of all things. (I believe both these Persian mystics, who of course had great impact on Persian literature, also influenced European writers such as the German Romantic poets? Their work is important to me in terms of its philosophical, political and ethical implications during the period of colonization. But that’s another tag cloud.)

Note the line in Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) comparing the advance of the army of celestial angels to the flight of all species of earthly birds flying over Eden to receive their names from the Creator. (This is from “The Argument,” “Sixth Book,” Paradise Lost in Paradise Lost and Regained, by John Milton, [1667 and 1671], at sacred-texts.com

“Ethereal trumpet from on high gan blow.
At which command the Powers Militant
That stood for Heaven, in mighty quadrate joined
Of union irresistible, moved on
In silence their bright legions to the sound
Of instrumental harmony, that breathed
Heroic ardour to adventurous deeds
Under their godlike leaders, in the cause
Of God and his Messiah. On they move,
Indissolubly firm; nor obvious hill,
Nor straitening vale, nor wood, nor stream, divides
Their perfect ranks; for high above the ground
Their march was, and the passive air upbore
Their nimble tread. As when the total kind
Of birds, in orderly array on wing,
Came summoned over Eden to receive
Their names of thee; so over many a tract
Of Heaven they marched, and many a province wide,
Tenfold the length of this terrene.”

I actually began my search this morning looking for 100 ways to say “love” in Arabic. This Sunday we will be enlarging our Irish-English-French family to include a beautiful, beloved West Coast daughter through marriage. So along with nurturing the largest sink load of unwashed dishes we’ve had in a while, I’m collecting words that refer to ways of loving. The physical painting I began for them is not going well. I thought I could use some inspiration. Although her family is Persian, I believe that until the last century (?) Persian poets used classical? or pure? Arabic as well as classical? or pure? Farsi. And I know she and I share a deep love for the Seven Valleys Haft-Vádí (1860). The Seven Valleys includes references and/or citations from Attar, Rúmí and Layla and Majnun.
According to Wikipedia, Kurdish poet Nezami (1100s?)’s famous adaptation of the story of Layla and Majnun (Leyli and Madjnun) from Arab folklore reads astonishingly like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I believe that Layla and Majnin are to the East what Romeo and Juliet are to the West? There is even a suggestion that Eric Clapton’s song Layla was inspired by this Arab-Persian-Turkish-Kurd classic.

In my search for 100 words in Arabic for love, I found this site (dairy products? – this I hope is wholesomely apolitical) and I selected these names:

Feminine names in Arabic referring to love
  • ‘Arub, Aroob – Loving to her husband
  • Dalal – Treated or touched in a kind and loving way
  • Dhakirah – One who remembers God frequently
  • Gharam – Love
  • Ghazal – Flirt, words of love
  • Ghaliyah, Ghaaliya – Dear, beloved, fragrant, expensive
  • Habibah, Habeeba – Beloved, sweetheart, darling; a wife of the Prophet
  • Hanan – Mercy; affectionate, loving, tender
  • Hayam, Hayaam – Deliriously in love
  • Hiyam – Love
  • Jawa – Passion, love
  • Kalila – Sweetheart, beloved
  • Mahabbah – Love, affection
  • Mahbubah – Beloved
  • Mawaddah – Affection, love, friendliness
  • Muhibbah – Loving
  • Wid – Loving, affectionate
  • Wisal, Wisaal – Reunion, being together, communion in love
  • Widad, Widaad – Love, friendship
Masculine Names in Arabic referring to love
  • Da’ud, Dawud – Beloved; a Prophet’s name (David)
  • Habbab – Affable, lovable
  • Hamim – Intimate, close friend
  • Kadeen, Kadin – Friend, companion, confidant
  • Kahil – Friend, lover
  • Kamil, Kameel – Perfect; one of the ninety-nine qualities of God
  • Khalil, Khaleel, Kalil – Beautiful, good friend
  • Mahbub – Beloved, dear
  • Muhibb – Loving
  • Khalil al Allah – Friend of God; title given to Prophet Ibrahim
  • Habib – Beloved
  • Safiy – Best friend
  • Wajdi – Of strong emotion, passion and love
My Favourite citations-within-citations from Seven Valleys – Haft-Vádí (1860)

In the ocean he findeth a drop, in a drop he beholdeth the secrets of the sea.

Split the atom’s heart, and lo! Within it thou wilt find a sun.

From the Wikipedia entry on Seven Valleys – Haft-Vádí (1860)

the path of the soul on a spiritual journey passing through different stages, from this world to other realms which are closer to God,[1] as first described by the 12th Century Sufi poet Attar in his Conference of the Birds. Bahá’u’lláh in the work explains the meanings and the significance of the seven stages. In the introduction, Bahá’u’lláh says “Some have called these Seven Valleys, and others, Seven Cities.” The stages are accomplished in order, and the goal of the journey is to follow “the Right Path”, “abandon the drop of life and come to the sea of the Life-Bestower”, and “gaze on the Beloved”.

The following paragraph from a translation of “The Conference of the Birds: Farid ud-din Attar” translated by Afham Darbandi and Dick Davis. London: Penguin, 1984 (~1177), also mentions the seven valleys.

“The allegorical framework of the poem is as follows: the birds of the world gather together to seek a king. They are told by the hoopoe that they have a king — the Simorgh — but that he lives far away and the journey to him is hazardous. The birds are at first enthusiastic to begin their search, but when they realize how difficult the journey will be they start to make excuses. The nightingale, for example, cannot leave his beloved; the hawk is satisfied with his position at court waiting on earthly kings; the finch is too afraid even to set out, and so on. The hoopoe counters each of their excuses with anecdotes which show how their desires and fears are mistaken. The group flies a little way, formally adopts the hoopoe as its leader, and then decides to ask a series of questions about the Way before proceeding. These questions are also answered by illustrative anecdotes. The last question is about the length of the journey, and in answer the hoopoe describes the seven valleys of the Way. The journey itself is quickly dealt with and the birds arrive at the court of the Simorgh. At first they are turned back; but they are finally admitted and find that the Simorgh they have sought is none other than themselves. The moment depends on a pun — only thirty (si) birds (morgh) are left at the end of the Way, and the si morgh meet the Simorgh, the goal of their quest. Though Attar treats his material in an entirely different way from Sana’i, it is possible that a shorter poem of Sana’i suggested the device of the birds to him. In Sana’i’s Divan there is a poem in which the different cries of the birds are interpreted as the birds’ ways of calling on or praising God. A second source may have been Kalila and Dimna. This extraordinary popular work, also called The Fables of Bidpai, originated in India and was translated into many languages. The Persian texts of Kalila and Dimna which survie are relatively late prose versions, but Rudaki, who lived early in the tenth century and was one of the first poets to write in Persian, made a verse translation of the work, which Attar could have known. Significantly enough, Rudaki used the same couplet form as Attar was later to use for The Conference of the Birds; but a direct influence is impossible to prove, because all but a few fragments of Rudaki’s poem have been lost. In Kalila and Dimna animals talk and act as humans; the fables usually have a moral point to them, and their narratives are allegories of human characteristics and failings. This is precisely the method of Attar’s Conference of the Birds, and the two works also show a similar kind of folksy humour. Another work which probably influenced Attar when he came to write his poem is the short Arabic treatise The Bird by Avicenna. This is the first-person narrative of a bird (clearly representing the human soul) who is freed from a cage by other birds, and then flies off with his new companions on a journey to the “Great King”. The group flies over eight high mountain peaks before reaching the king’s court; there are a few moments when Attar seems to echo Avicenna’s imagery (For an in-depth paper on The Conference of the Birds see this 1984 publication entitled “The Conference of the Birds: Farid ud-din Attar” translated by Afham Darbandi and Dick Davis. London: Penguin, 1984 (~1177). ).

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For an in-depth paper on The Conference of the Birds see “The Conference of the Birds: Farid ud-din Attar” translated by Afham Darbandi and Dick Davis. London: Penguin, 1984 (~1177).


Creative Commons

Creative Commons from my online Flickr album is composed of multiple layers. They include a .jpg of the Google Earth generated globe which is inverted, stretched and manipulated in 3 other layers, ripples from an M. C. Escher print and a stunning photo by a Professor Andrew Davidhazy from Rochester, NY. described on a few of the 80, 000+ references to him on Google as modest, talented, a great teacher and a ghost expert for photography. I have just licensed my work on line with the Creative Commons. Their icon lets people know that they can use your work for non-commercial reasons if they attribute it to you; they can make derivatives but they have to share-alike. Of course the challenge with Goggle Images is some of the most stellar images available are difficult to track down in terms of authorship because there are already so many derivatives. This was the case with this drop of water by this well-known professor who continues to do astounding work. I left a comment on his web blog but I re-entered it three times before I realized he had wisely included an administrator’s block for unedited entries. It may take him ages to even check his comments. When he does he will find to his annoyance in his busy life, that I’ve inadvertently left three. More than that I just emailed him instead of Flckr’s team re: emailing our Flickr photos to WordPress. He is going to put me on his ‘block permanently list.’

An Inuit friend reminded me that many Inuit of Canada view the world from a circumpolar point of view. In honour of my Inuit friends and students from time to time I view the earth through their lens. I positioned then froze the globe from a circumpolar point of view using a Google save screen option. So I have geotagged this to the north east of Baffin Island, perhaps somewhere near Pond Inlet. Hello to the family of Julia and Ernie! Their family photo in their traditional clothing taken when they visited you in Pond Inlet in 2005, is framed and hanging in our home on Vancouver Island.

Swicki Eurekster

October 22, 2006

This is the latest of my free internet tools
ocean.flynn
swicki at
eurekster.com

I have also just placed a 30″ x 36″ canvas and partially prepared my space for embodied painting. So I will add to this later, perhaps much later.

Thoughts I had wanted to develop in case I forget:

  • 100′s of ways one can say/write the word love in pure arabic
    why my score on Frimr plummeted from over 8000 to 3 when I added 3 missing digits to a my feed .url
  • How ugly are the sounds of the lexicon of the internet. Do they sound better in another language. There is no room for poetry in what is growing. I don’t think it would sound very good in ‘spoken word poetry’ or rap. Maybe I am wrong.
  • Whether I want to use the concept moral ‘topology of self’ as developed by Charles Taylor or to use ‘ethical topography of self’ that I prefer. Why?
  • Do I want to start my own blog, an organic, fluid, stretchy glossary of terms that are evolving as I navigate back and forth between disciplines, technologies, blog subcultures, etc.?
Del.icio.us Topographies and Tag Clouds An Adobe Photshop image consisting of 5 layered images: my Del.icio.us cloud tag, title layer, google generated 3-D virtual space with branching rivers as metaphors for organically emerging rhizomic pathways,

a miniaturized image of Vancouver, BC’s skyline, the del.icio.us tag cloud image (my first since I began to use this free social bookmarking tech tool) and an altered topographical map of a site where a meteor landed. This final layer was inverted so the meteoric collision with the planet became the sun in this delicious cloud.

‘Folksonomies’ is an organic emerging term in an organic emerging system. Is it perhaps an example of autopoiesis constituting and nurturing its own rhizomic organization? There are economic, political, social as well as ontological and axiological dimensions to the unfolding taxonomy of cyberspace. Tag clouds leave visible trails of a blogger’s inner life. Unlike solitary browsing through library stacks or flipping through pages of a book, internet searching and browsing leaves digital imprints that allow us to retrace where we were yesterday in terms of our understanding of a topic. Theoretically how well we understand a debate or discussion informs how discerning we are in our judgments. Our ethical topography changes as we travel and encounter Others whose ideas and/or values resonate or are in dissonance with our own. Encounters with the stranger, one whose experience differs greatly from our own in some way, provides us with an opportunity to re-evaluate previously held beliefs or assumptions. In welcoming the Stranger in friendship with a heightened degree of hospitality that includes a willingness to tolerate ambiguity temporarily, to briefly at least set aside prejudices, we open ourselves to the possibility of fresh insight that expands for both of us. It is only through the invention of unique terms such as folksonomies, or ethnoclassification or perhaps tag.clouds that I might filter through infinite numbers of blogs on taxonomy and find the like-minded individual who is concerned about the potential emergence of an inclusive taxonomy that somehow includes the more socially vulnerable not as objects of charity but as fully participating members in civil society.

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