The Mill Avenue Resistance reports are written by Kyt Dotson as an extension of anthropological research on the population of Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. Since the SFTS does their protests Friday and Saturday there are two reports a week. The supporting material not related to the Resistance reports can be found on the Under the Hills blog for Saturday, November 22nd 2008.
The SFTS invited out some reporters from the New Times tonight to observe what they do and get some time to talk to everyone.
Tonight we saw a varied crew: Jim and his wheelchair, Edwin, Al, Suzanne and her daughter, even Vocab Malone (—btw, both of us missed each other because we don’t know what we look like, even though we stood within close proximity to each other several times!)
From what I observed the two who came out got photographs of many people. Spoke with Al, Jim, and others to get notes and quotes. I pretty much stayed out of their way. I tend to find my position on Mill Ave to be one as more an observer when it comes to the SFTS and the evangelists; I spend most of my intimate time with the Mill rats. It seemed to go well.
By and large very little happened. According to Kazz they moved from Borders at 8:30pm to the Post Office because Al had set up there. Shortly after they left (about 5 mins) Edwin set up amplification in front of Borders and started talking but that didn’t last long. Al also gave up the ghost pretty shortly and simply played some sort of tape of from his amplification that I couldn’t make out and unfortunately didn’t get a chance to ask him what it was about.
One of the best encounters of the night happened between Trevor (an evangelist I will go into shortly) and a Latina woman who started talking about the conception of Jesus. I may have misheard her initially but she seemed to start out by talking about the immaculate conception of Jesus Christ. For those who don’t know what this is, it is a part of Catholic doctrine that Mary, mother of Jesus, was without sin thus that she should give birth to Jesus (i.e. a sinless vessel to bring their god into the world.) There is a Wikipedia article on this for those who don’t understand the terms in this paragraph.
I probably did mishear her because Trevor immediately jumped on her for this because the Bible does not support this, from what I hear it is entirely Catholic doctrine and does not show up in the scriptures. An assumption based on passages readings, as it were. So, every time the conversation moved away from it, he brought it back up again, until she reneged on it (or basically said she hadn’t said that which could have been the case.)
Eventually Trevor came to talk to me and his disciplined mirror-speech was something profound.
In spite of the thickness of his mirrorspeech which was crystalline and sheer in quality, I was able to tease out some personality from him. According to him he’s been doing this about four years, ever since he went into Alcoholics Anonymous because of his lifestyle of party going and drinking and drug use—but he found the teachings of the AA to be “false teachings” because they suggested that people become gods unto themselves, or seek out some ambiguous higher power in order to drag themselves out of the hole their addition left them in.
“They hate Jesus there,” he said, “you start talking about Christ and they’ll throw you out.” I actually have never heard that, but I suppose that in a very important way the AA groups might need to keep themselves as even keel as possible and allowing highly controversial Christianity into their midst could destroy the fragile balance they have with helping people. I fear that he may have taken this as a form of persecution rather than the social protocol that it probably was.
However as much as I tried I could not determine the first time that he picked up a Bible or how he actually came to start doing what he does. He deflected or misunderstood every question of that vein, turning it into more mirrorspeech at every turn. I eventually gave up and just listened. It would have been nice to know how he came to decide upon Christianity, and his singular type of evangelism in particular.
His speech was steeped in strong metaphor as well. Saying that his heart had been stone and replaced with a heart of flesh—and that if I accepted what he did the same would happen. In trying to draw me into a discussion about religion he ran into my normal observations about mythology and made the lay-mistake of thinking that the connotation of “myth” is tied up with mythology. I tried a little bit to dance around talking about his mythology, though, as I don’t think that I could have educated him in the proper use of the term without him unthinkingly taking insult.
Eventually I told him about my work on Mill Ave. How I spend a lot of time observing and getting to know people. “I love people, they are wonderful—amazing creatures who make up our social landscape.” He wanted to tell me that if I wanted to study people that the biggest thing was their wickedness. He went on about how people were selfish, and horrible, and awful and into themselves, and so on.
Trevor, if you read this I want you to know that in a very powerful sense that you are drowning yourself in soot colored glasses when you do this. I tried to tell you last night, but you don’t want to listen to me: you want to sell your religion to me. I’m not buying. I observe people and I don’t see evil and horror and choking weeds ravaging the world; because that’s not what’s going on. You are strapping on an outmoded morality that demands good of people by comparing them to an arbitrary “perfect.”
The perfect is the enemy of the good. We will never be able to set a proper morality, nor love and embrace our fellow creatures if we set upon them such rigidified, uncaring, and unsympathetic strangling mores. By painting other people with a brush tarred in the differences you think are flaws and ignoring their triumphs, their adoration, their love, and the wonder in them you have condemned yourself to an extremely dismal experience. This kind of escapism will end only in your self-destruction as you asphyxiate in your own self-imposed bubble.
The biggest problem with all of this is that clearly you are aware of the world around you; you can respect and interact with other people; if you really do recoil from everyone you meet and think them horrible and awful then you are condescending everyone you speak to.
When I study people I do get the good and the bad, by leaps and bounds different metrics for “good and bad” persist—and few of them reach the scary “everyone is wicked” meme that you have injected into your blood and it will poison you. Instead of being the mouthpiece of rigid vulgarity maybe one day you can decide to be the amazing person that surely you must actually be.
(I love the word “wicked” by the way; it’s such a beautiful word, linguistically thorny, and anthropologically powerful—this is probably why evangelists are so in love with it themselves.)
At the end of our conversation he cheerfully offered me his hand and we shook where he asked me my name. As per usual I gave him my Crystalian name, which is also my street name, and handle. “Amerist.” Which he instantly took as exotic and expressed incredulity that it was my “real name.” By which, I think, he means my family name, but he’s using an old-hat linguistic trick to disenfranchise any other name than family names. Then he requested my birth name, which I don’t even have anymore—then tried to guess it, and he did really badly because my birth name is actually even more exotic than my street name.
Eventually he went away flustered at not learning my name; and even tried to tie some weird metaphor to my explanation of what my name means (“her [stone] purifying tears”.) I tried to explain to him that my name essentially is a variation of a name that meant “she who bears [away] the sorrows of the world.” To which I said fit in with my healer tradition, taking away suffering, helping and mending people. And click on came his mirrorspeech again—as I fully expected—“There is only one healer! And that’s Jesus.”
(I wrote a lot more about Trevor in my Mill Avenue Nights blog.)
Why are evangelists so hung up on your “real name”?
Psychologically names are powerful things; they are how we interact socially with other creatures, they become the labels by which we represent ourselves, they are not just our identity within the group, but they are also the handles by which others attain and attract our attention. Saying a person’s name is attractive to their mind—say a name in a crowded room and that person will likely take notice, turn their head—so I’d like to introduce everyone to what is basically a dirty trick.
It’s called false intimacy.
Salesman and flimflam artists are well versed in the false intimacy trick. It is a staple of confidence men and anyone who is attempting to convince you of something—or sell you something like an evangelist is. What they will ask you for is your name, generally your first name if you give them your last name. I would love to see some staunch British aristocrat berate someone for being rude by not accepting “Mrs. Strahan” and requesting a first name. By using your first name they are psychologically trying to put themselves on the same level as your close and intimate friends.
Mythology about “true names” isn’t too far off the truth. Names may not have metaphysical or supernatural power—but they do have psychological power. We are social creatures and are more likely to accept what our friends tell us without much corroboration (they are our friends, after all) and our friends use particular protocols of speech that acquaintances and strangers do not know. One of these things is our familiar name.
In the conversation a person endeavoring to gain your confidence will say your first name over and over again in an attempt to cause your social brain to link what they’re saying to something you should be confident in. Of course, if they’re your friend they will use a familiar name, therefore they must be familiar if they’re using that name—and if they use it over and over again they keep and rapt your attention to what they’re saying.
Listen to a used car salesman work sometime.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with using whatever name you want in any encounter with any person; and it is good for you to be aware of how you control the various compartments of your life with your own identity. In our society we have at least two names to start with that we use on a general basis. A great deal of people find their family name “Mrs. Strahan” or such to be stuffy and enjoy being called by their first names. It is just important to realize that when a person attempts to use your name against you to listen to your instincts.
If you are an evangelist and you have received training in this sort of psychological hack, take a moment to realize that applying this is the razor’s edge of dishonest behavior.