Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger

Shepherd
January 13, 2023

Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger

I’m Doin’ Fine, on Cloud Nine!

I’m excited to be back in touch with you after some respite, some time as a guest on various podcasts, and a life-affirming sojourn in Cuba (and oh yeah, the annual holidaze). What better time to reach out and connect. I’m on Cloud Nine!

21st Century Cloud Nine (Beach Bunny):

20th Century Cloud Nine (The Temptations):

We are all participants in anthropology, humanity’s project of self-examination. Dr. Adam Gamwell and I share this wide-ranging view, and we had a fun conversation on his popular and engaging podcast, This Anthro Life. He’s a great ‘caster and we had a ball. So come on in, check it out and let’s party . . .

HERE!

Design: Margaret Bialis

Greetings from Cuba!

January 17 is International Trickster Day!

I know you’re busy preparing. Why January 17th? Because it is the birthday of SIX great tricksters: Harpo Marx, Betty White, Muhammad Ali, Emmy Hennings, Andy Kaufman, & Mack Sennett.

Harpo Marx

Harpo Marx

Here’s a recap of what it all about. Should it pique your interest, and if you haven’t already, check out my two books, maybe recommend them to a friend who matters to you. I, just wanna celebrate, share laughter, and help you help the world become a better place.

Robert Downey Sr. is featured in the documentary “Sr.” put together by his son, Jr. He’s talking about his politically acerbic and still hilarious film Putney Swope, where a militant Black man is chosen, through a trickster prank, to lead a Madison Avenue advertising agency. This sets up the dynamic between art, satire, fun, and social change, and the trickster’s ability to not take anything too seriously. This is a 2022 movie, but the trickster wisdom comes from a 1969 television interview with Downey Sr.:

It seemed there was something going on that hooked into whatever was socially going on and what the movie was (Putney Swope). So it was a nice mirror. It wasn’t really about the movie as much as it was about society. If everybody could get turned on to having a sense of humor about themselves, I think we could get over a lot of things that we take very, very seriously.We could approach the serious matters in a different way, like war and poverty and all the things that are going on.

Robert Downey, Sr.

We have a word for difficult, and a word for easy,

but we need a word for something about which it is difficult

to understand that it is easy.

—Jordan Stuart Ellenberg
Mathematician, Author

Interview with Myself, Part 1

Thanks for coming in, Dr. Siegel.
Thanks for having me! And call me Dogfriend.

Okay, Dogfriend. Let’s get right to it. What’s up with all this trickster baloney you’ve been peddling?
Yeah. Well, it’s interesting. Among Americans I know, or am getting to know, when Trickster comes up, they generally take a step back, they’re wary. Heck, no one likes to get tricked, and I think that’s the hesitation, a little bit of needless mistrust. Trickster’s pure heart only seeks connection, fun and enthusiasm…and Trickster opens the portals of possibility, from whence we can imagine and create a better world.

Wait just a second! What the Sam Hill do you mean by “Trickster anyway?”
I’m glad you asked, because that’s the other reason for misunderstandings. Trickster is not a concept we’re used to. In archetypal terms, we Westerners are steeped in and familiar with the Mother and the Warrior. Trickster is unfamiliar and misunderstood.

Every culture on earth has a Trickster god of some sort, and in most of them, Trickster is celebrated, worshipped, and beseeched for advice and help. They’re powerful but antiwar.

Ten attributes recur in Trickster folklore, mythology, religion and culture.[1] In a nutshell, they’re morally indeterminate figures who don’t take anything seriously, they just want to have fun. They stumble through this world, eventually coming upon a dilemma that is resolved through moral discovery. And satire is in their nature; they hold a mirror up to society. Thus, this moral indeterminacy, which takes some folks aback, is a transient, liminal state, a stage we all go through on our way to moral discovery. So…fear not!

Betty White

These semi-divine Tricksters, you can’t kill ‘em. They like crossing boundaries, they’re often loners. They play tricks, but a good number of their tricks backfire, thus they accept the risk of humiliation as part of the deal. They might lie, but they’re just as likely to also be a savior. They time travel. Their ravenous appetite for food and sex explains much of their behavior. They like fart jokes and poop jokes. And they are either born powerful, or they achieve power through trickery, but not by raising armies or waging war. In fact, tricksters mock power, and this is one reason why they play an essential role in progress towards a better world. [2]

Trickster is the god of the crossroads, of important decisions, and thus the gateway to opportunity and possibility. Trickster gods are also the interpreters of all languages. They can give or prevent access to bigshot god. And they add a bit of chaos to the mix, a chaos from which a new and better world can come into being. Impressive, but in the West, they get no respect.

Why would that be?
When France, England, Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, the United States, or other powers built their empires, they waged war on those they sought to colonize, or on their rival imperialists. They had to raise armies and convince their soldiers that they were the good guys and thus it was okay to kill and enslave the ‘bad guys.’ To pull off this cooptation of morality, they would put a doctrine in place, and add the hocus pocus of religion and the blessings of that religion’s god. Having set out on these campaigns to accumulate power and wealth, they couldn’t afford to have a powerful, revered, and mirror-toting morally indeterminateTrickster god running around and influencing folks, questioning authority and moral doctrines. But you can’t kill an archetype, so the ruling classes of the West either conflated Trickster with the Devil, and thus encouraged his defeat, or handcuffed Tricksters, leaving them with the privilege of speaking truth to power, but trivializing and repressing them, stripping away their power, ridiculing their humor, making them easy to dismiss. This is what we recognize as the court jester.

Emmy Hennings

Who was Emmy Hennings? Look her up!

Okay, but aren’t you just substituting religions that include Tricksters for other religions that either repress or just don’t include them?
I’m not proposing any religion. I’m coming at this from a more Jungian perspective, that these archetypes represent personality profiles that inhabit our psyches. They all live in us, and in the world. Some dominate our psyches more than others. For example, grownups who are playful as they were when children will, consciously or unconsciously, engage with the Trickster.

But political and religious institutions try to manipulate archetypes—making the Trickster into the jester, amplifying the Warrior, adopting a Mother-based doctrine, etc.—to further their own interests.

And this idea of the jester as Trickster rendered harmless, is that still true in 2023?
Not exactly. The antiwar and art movements that came about in the time of World War One I call Trickster’s jailbreak. Specifically, dada. dada was as much an antiwar as it was an art movement, the birth of the absurd in art to expose and mock the most absurd war yet.[3] And Western artists and satirists ever since have been free to avail themselves of Trickster antistructure and (non)sensibility to make their points, to influence politics. To use the energy of art to transform the world. And therefore, through the blessings of the Trickster, we can discover morality anew and do away with doctrine tainted by the stench of imperialism.

Since World War I and the Trickster’s jailbreak, the US has produced at least five great models for humanoid tricksters. In the world of the gods, i.e., fictional characters with supernatural powers, we have Bugs Bunny. In the world of culture and art, the great feminist Mae West, and the most famous person to have never become famous, Lord Buckley. In sports, Muhammed Ali. And in politics, Yippie Abbie Hoffman. Today, I observe Sacha Baron Cohen, The Yes Men, and the whole Birds Aren’t Real phenomenon with great interest. There are more, and I present their profiles through a Trickster lens. But not just because they are good stories, but because I believe that we all need to make room in our psyches for Trickster in order to get to the better world we want. To use a cliché, get in touch with our inner Trickster. So Trickster is alive and a growing influence in the post-imperialist West.

Sure. But, um, really? Please say more about what this has to do with the world we live in today.
Well that’s what Part 2 is all about!

Look at Muhammed Ali. He can hit you pretty hard.
But he can just as easily crack a smile and say ‘just kidding!’

Interview with Myself, Part 2

Recent history has proven that dramatically bad things still happen: An insurrection against the world’s oldest democracy. A murderous military invasion leading to a brutal war in Ukraine, as nonsensical as most. A resurgence of industrial era fascism—Bolsonaro, Erdogan, Orban, Duterte, Putin, Modi, Jinping, Kim Jong-Il, Trump—with the tools of marketing and untethered social media at their disposal. And as we peer out the windows of our gas-spewing vehicles, we notice, just as we noticed over fifty years ago, the collapse of our sustaining environment.

Yet a lesson we must take from this is that dramatically good things can happen as well.

OK, bring Trickster back now…gently, please, I’m getting dizzy.
In the religion of the Yoruba, from Nigeria and as practiced in Cuba, Elegua appears as the Trickster god of the crossroads. Elegua, known by other names—Papa Legba, Eshù Elégba, etc.—opens doors to other worlds, to possibility. Though you might be getting tricked, and you are swimming in Elegua’s waters of moral indeterminacy, it is by risking some chaos that one finds the possibilities for dramatically good things to happen, and perhaps make them so. While Elegua’s wisdom is sought after for advice on how to conduct daily life and interpret the problems of individuals, such Trickster magic can also apply to society at large.[4]

Petitioning Papa Legba at the Crossroads
Rick Jacobi

Alright, Dogfriend, wrap it up.
We live in a Warrior culture. The approach—to bludgeon problems through the defeat of adversaries—has imprisoned our psyches. It’s divided and paralyzed this country since the Vietnam War at least, though the hawks and doves conundrum can be traced back even further. We’re tempted to overcome the Warrior with the Mother, who knows best, but is susceptible to doctrine, which brings on its own problems, such as critique from free thinkers, and antagonizing Warrior types. You can’t kill either of them. We need the Warrior, we need the Mother. I just wish that the Warrior would sit down and shut up long enough for other perspectives and ways to solve our problems to get some air.

We choose war and we choose to harm the environment way too easily, way too often. Let’s see what Trickster has to say, what messages from the gods Trickster might interpret for us, what light might shine in a world where we don’t take everything so seriously, but we don’t turn our backs on our problems either. The tough question is whether Trickster mockery of power is confined to an amusing little spot in our consciousness, or can that energy be released in a way that leads us to imagine and build a better world.

Postscript: But What About the War in Ukraine?
Yeah. Ick. One man’s mental illness and Warrior infatuation causes the murder of his own troops and thousands of innocent Ukrainians. How do we stop fighting power with power? Can we ever? Or can we also fight power with tricks?

The North Atlantic Fellas Organization, NAFO, a name that spoofs NATO, directs its Trickster soul online via social media, mocking Russian power as it supports Ukraine’s defense. To raise funds, they let supporters purchase a custom text that is printed on an artillery shell to be fired at Russian forces, or orcs,[5] as the Fellas call them. They have dog and cat memes and all the fundraising swag to go with it. But their main thrust is to mock Russian power, to fight Russian disinformation campaigns, and in general befuddle them. Here are some quotes from Wikipedia’s NAFO article:

The Fellas make appearances in various edited still images and “TikTok-style videos of Ukrainian troops set to dance music soundtracks,” and are “spliced into war footage to mock Russia’s military and praise Ukraine’s soldiers.”

British-Lebanese journalist Oz Katerji asserts that NAFO “has hampered Russia’s propagandists and made them look absurd and ridiculous in the process.”

Russia has deployed troll farms effectively in the past; its confused reactions to NAFO may stem from its “turgid ideological propaganda about Ukraine.” According to the cyber warfare unit of the U.S. Army, the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, “For an online community like NAFO, hostile mention from an official propaganda outlet of its target is evidence its ridicule is achieving the desired effect.”

On 28 August 2022, the official Twitter account of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine tweeted its appreciation of NAFO, with an image of missiles being fired and a “Fella” dressed in a combat uniform, hands on face, in a posture of appreciation.

High-ranking military and civil officials in Ukraine and NATO countries have changed their Twitter avatars to a Fella. Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov temporarily changed his Twitter avatar to a Fella commissioned in his honor, on 30 August 2022.

From the Twitter account of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense, August 28, 2022: We usually express gratitude to our international partners for the security assistance. But today we want to give a shout-out to a unique entity – North Atlantic Fellas Organization #NAFO. Thanks for your fierce fight against kremlin’s propaganda &trolls. We salute you, fellas!

Pope Kamilius I, Emperor of NAFO

At the end of Sr., the film brings in a scene from Downey’s other masterpiece film, Greaser’s Palace (1972), where Jesus Christ is parachuted into a bandito-centric Western. He presents a rather concise Trickster manifesto:

Exactly 6 miles North of Skag Mountain in The Valley of Pain there lives an evil devil monster. His name is Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger with a Side of Aircraft Noise and You’ll Be Gary Indiana, and he loves to hurt people. The last time I saw Bingo Gas Station Motel Cheeseburger with a Side of Aircraft Noise and You’ll Be Gary Indiana, he told me what he wants to do. He wants to come down here and kill each and every one of you, but I said to him, ‘Bingo, wait a minute,’ and the reason I said that is because I believe in you people, I believe you can help each other. I believe you can make this world a better place to live in. That’s it.

What’s up with you? Be in touch, by all means! https://shepherdsiegel.com/contact/
or email contact@shepherdsiegel.com.

[1] I spell out the ten attributes in more detail in the opening chapter of Tricking Power into Performing Acts of Love. Get it at https://shepherdsiegel.com/books/

[2] I use the upper case “T” to denote fictional, divine, and mythological Tricksters, and the lower case “t” to include humans with whom the Force is strong].

[3] I explain this in greater depth in Disruptive Play: The Trickster in Politics and Culture. Get it at https://shepherdsiegel.com/books/

[4} Read all about dramatically good things that can happen here: https://shepherdsiegel.com/its-ok-to-talk-about-utopia-its-ok/

From Lord of the Rings

 

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