Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 198

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I met a woman who’d been evicted twice, soon to be three times. She lost her house to late payments on a mortgage. She lost her rental when the landlord sold the property. She’s been staying at a hotel the last few weeks but can’t pay anymore. Not quite an eviction, but close enough.

There was an expose’ on MK-ULTRA written recently. I read an interview with the author on NPR. Sidney Gottlieb, chemist for the CIA, was given carte blanche in the 50’s to fulfill one objective: mind control. There was a lot of fear in the 50’s of communism’s ever-growing fingernails, a lot a paranoia about what a bunch of authoritarian Russians with enough motivation could do. The CIA thought it possible that Soviets had already worked out the kinks to controlling a human mind. So they set about hiring up ex-Nazis and Imperial Japanese torturers and went to work. They tried everything from electroshocks to giving prisoners daily doses of LSD. Here was the hypothesis: to control someone’s mind, you had to destroy it first.

In the end I couldn’t help her. The things she was asking of me were out of my offering. She had sad eyes and well-combed hair. She made a point to smile, and if I wasn’t talking she’d start talking with herself. Once, she said “I’ll just keep going because I don’t want to hear what he has to say.” The ‘he’ was me, of course.

It doesn’t take ten years of surreptitious torture to destroy someone’s mind. All you’ve got to do is marginalize them to the edges of society, to the thin gray scud, out of sight of anyone, so they’re left not having any reference with which to fix themselves, no place to go to, nothing that looks like home. It’s easy. We do it all the time.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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“Gottlieb wanted to create a way to seize control of people’s minds, and he realized it was a two-part process,” Kinzer says. “First, you had to blast away the existing mind. Second, you had to find a way to insert a new mind into that resulting void. We didn’t get too far on number two, but he did a lot of work on number one.”

Terry Gross interviewing Stephen Kinzer for NPR, The CIA’s Secret Quest For Mind Control: Torture, LSD And A ‘Poisoner In Chief’

Coffee Log, Day 184

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro, Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

There goes August: running fast enough to trip itself.

I read an article about the ‘A-Team’ on NPR. Not the TV series, but rather the short-lived 1970’s experiment dreamed up to answer widespread migrant worker protests. It happened in California, mostly, and involved granting crop-picking jobs to white high schoolers for the summer. The act passed Congress on the heels of ‘They’re taking our jobs!’ It singled out the best and brightest, the most active white boys for the honor. Within three days of the first year, 200 kids had quit. Those who stuck out the six-day weeks at minimum wage talked about it like an earthbound Hell.

The privilege to walk away.

Not much has changed. Farm labor is still largely migrant labor; or, if you’re in Eastern NC tobacco farms, it’s seven or eight year-olds who pick all day and sometimes miss school. Regardless, it’s hard, unloved work given to people who are most desperate. Five centimeters past slavery, in other words. No wonder our country can’t stomach loading it on well-to-do white boys.

I sit in the shade. Cold tea, new book. September mentions herself in a nice breeze, we exchange calendars and contacts. Autumn ease, there’s not a cloud in sight. Somewhere west of here, another 28-yr-old man bakes until his skin comes off, blood on knuckles, only knowing the sadistic love of burrs and melon seed.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich; FINISHED!! Will have a review soon

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“The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.” – Cesar Chavez
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