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  #1  
Unread 09-18-2019, 11:30 PM
Daniel Kemper's Avatar
Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Default Victimhood Indoctrination

Contemporary teachers learn that wrath
is unevolved; and disappointment earns
from injury, authority. The path
is set before the student, but he learns
far more from her example, which is built
on diminutions that he can not name.
The medieval catholic sense of guilt
has nothing on the modern sense of shame.
But what derives from that fixed mind
and high disdain from sense of injured merit?
Offendedness and victimhood combined.
Therefore the children suffer to inherit
some karmic trust and yet it's always stalled,
themselves not free, but to themselves enthralled.
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  #2  
Unread 09-19-2019, 12:52 AM
Susan McLean Susan McLean is online now
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Daniel, the prosody of this looks fine, but the content feels like a lecture set to meter. I'd like to see the pitfalls enacted rather than described. Letting readers draw their own conclusions usually is more convincing than telling them what the experience amounts to.

Susan
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  #3  
Unread 09-19-2019, 12:33 PM
Mark Stone Mark Stone is offline
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Daniel, Hi.

1. I agree with Susan’s general sentiment, which I believe is that the poem runs counter to the general admonition that poems should “show, not tell.” However, speaking for myself, I don’t mind “lecture poems” at all, since I sometimes write them myself.

2. The words “victimhood” and “indoctrination” are concepts, and are kind of heavy words for a title. “Victimhood Indoctrination” accurately describes what the poem is about. However, I would prefer a title that contains a word that you can perceive (e.g., see, hear, touch, etc.), or else a title that hints at the subject less directly. Examples of the kind of title I’m thinking of are: Weeds in the Garden, The Barren Landscape, or The Fallen Apple. I’m not saying that these fit your poem. But my suggestion is that the poem’s title should contain an image that corresponds with the subject of the poem.

3. L1. When I read “teachers learn,” I thought the poem was going to be about what they learned and how they learned it. But the poem is not about that. So I would change “teachers learn” to “teachers know.”

4. LL1-2. I don’t know what “wrath is unevolved” means.

5. L2. I don’t think that “earns” is the right verb to follow “disappointment.” I would use “results” or “flows.” If you go with “flows,” then your end rhyme in L4 could be “knows” perhaps.

6. L6. I would change “can not” to “cannot."

7. L12. I would put a comma after “Therefore,” only because it’s customary to do so.

8. L14. I did an Internet search on “use enthralled in a sentence.” It showed “by” and “with” as prepositions that are used with “enthralled.” It did not show “to.” Personally, I always say “enthralled by” and I’ve never heard “enthralled to.” So I would replace “to” with “by” or “with.”

9. LL12-14 read as follows:

Therefore the children suffer to inherit
some karmic trust and yet it's always stalled,
themselves not free, but to themselves enthralled.

I think the ending would be stronger if the last line were a separate sentence. Perhaps something like:

Therefore, the children suffer to inherit
some karmic trust and yet it's always stalled.
They are not free, but by themselves enthralled.

Best wishes,

Mark
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  #4  
Unread 09-19-2019, 09:06 PM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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Susan,

Yeah, you're right. It might be more palatable if I could answer the question on L10 with describing some action which showed not told. But not sure L11, 12, and 13 would carry the rest. Still, sometimes a lecture-poem is a lecture poem and you gotta get it out. Thanks for the read and response

Daniel

Mark
Hi! #1. ibid

2. I really like "The Fallen Apple" for reasons that I'll get to shortly. I was definitely stuck on what to call the thing.

3. know and learn is tough, because I don't *think* teachers start out knowing that they have to find a way to be a victim to legitimize their authority over a child. But I see straightaway the problem you point out. Teachers...know/examples...show might just work... hmmmm...

4. "wrath is unevolved": I'm trying to get at the pajorative way that anger is viewed, but not any anger- just/righteous anger, indignation. I see teachers made mad by kids, and I'm not saying getting out-of-control is the goal, but i'm saying the teachers pull this crap, "I'm so disappointed." They're not disappointed; they're pissed off and have a right to be (for the imagined circimstances) and ought to be free to use anger as a tool of teaching, like anything else. But they say, "I'm so disappointed" b/c anger is primitive and we post-modernists are so much better than that etc etc

5. the inversion is painful, I think. If unraveled, 'earns' might make more sense. The teacher earns her authority by evidencing some injury to herself as disappointment.

6-7. Will fix

8 & 9 At last... here is why I love "The Fallen Apple" so much. Google the entirity of "that fixed mind and high disdain from sense of injured merit" and also for L14, sub in, "thyself" for "themselves" and see what you get...

Thanks for the detailed crit. That means back to work for me!
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  #5  
Unread 09-19-2019, 09:43 PM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Daniel,
I agree with Susan. This is utterly dry; why is it written in verse? What does it gain from rhyme and meter? Indeed, some of the rhymes seem to force strained diction, such as the phrase "disappointment earns from injury". BTW, grammatically, you don't really want "and" after a semicolon.


Unfortunately, the poem is not convincing as prose either--it is a series of statements juxtaposed against each other with no logical thread or argument.

Best wishes,
Martin
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  #6  
Unread 09-21-2019, 02:06 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Hey, Daniel!

I think about the dynamics underlying this poem often.

I wholeheartedly agree that there is, indeed, "victimization indoctrination" going on, which conditions many women--and most teachers happen to be women--to 1.) express disappointment rather than anger and 2.) emphasize their own victimhood in any unpleasant situation.

Both of these strategies are passive-aggressive--i.e., both claim the moral superiority of non-violence, while trying to use emotional manipulation to leverage the power of others.

We agree that this sort of abdication of direct power and responsibility, in favor of passive aggression, is not a good thing in a teacher.

We probably disagree about where that indoctrination (that passive aggression is the most socially acceptable way for women to wield power) takes place.

In both dogs and humans, demonstrating one's harmlessness is probably an instinctive response, not a learned one. Just as dogs de-escalate potentially hostile situations by exposing their vulnerable underbellies and throats, smaller people often diffuse potential violence from larger people by communicating, in various ways, "I am not a threat, so don't hurt me." But when an instinctive behavior gets reinforced over and over again, it can become a go-to behavior even when the circumstances don't necessarily call for that survival instinct.

In humans, the indoctrination to reinforce those underdog instincts starts with parental spankings, often administered by an obviously angry caregiver. Spankings are domestic violence. They are intended "to teach the child a lesson," and teach the child a lesson they do, namely: "Might is right. Violence is authority. The anger of big people tends to hurt small people, so small people should take great care not to make big people angry."

That lesson gets reinforced when kids witness their angry relatives (often, but not always, male) resorting to other forms of domestic violence to blow off steam and demonstrate physical power, while other relatives (often, but not always, female) try to de-escalate the situation before things (and people) start getting broken.

When anger = violence, and your own physical size and strength make you unlikely to be the winner of a violent confrontation, anger is to be avoided at all costs. Even in oneself, because anger can be contagious.

This is why many women--who, to point out the obvious, tend to remain significantly shorter and weaker than men their whole lives--habitually say things like "I'm not angry, I'm disappointed."

To put it in starkly sexist terms, anger is a luxury item reserved for men. Women who want to be seen as "nice" rather than too masculinely authoritative are expected to fear and avoid anger, and to content themselves with the consolation prize of disappointment.

[Of course there are women who are very comfortable and effective in leadership roles, too. I hope we've all had some of them as teachers and bosses. But I notice that these women tend to lean into using power to do good, rather than trying to downplay power to appear nice.]

Specific advice for the poem:

Rather than read a series of pronouncements, most readers would prefer to have their imagination engaged by a scenario and then find their own meaning in it. There's a reason why Jesus taught in parables. Could you turn this into a parable?

A sonnet traditionally presents a single argument that starts in one direction and then goes off in another (the volta). This poem has fourteen lines and a recognizable rhyme scheme, but the content feels more scattershot. Which is fine, but it's not very sonnet-like. Changing the number of lines would erase the unhelpful expectation of a turn.

How the contrast between guilt culture and shame culture (actually, that's an inherently sonnet-shaped idea, right there, since it contrasts two things) relates to teachers' behavior deserves development beyond the two lines you give it here. I would advise developing that concept more--either by increasing the line count here, or by saving it for another poem. I also think you need to capitalize Catholic in this context.

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 09-21-2019 at 03:06 PM. Reason: whether-->where, added parentheses
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  #7  
Unread 09-21-2019, 02:59 PM
James Brancheau James Brancheau is offline
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I think what Julie did there is far more interesting than the poem, as it sits. And gracious, in my view. I was just going to say that this tastes like a stale right-wing talking-point. Before Trumpland. Maybe led to the current ridiculousness. If there weren't so many victims, perhaps this very serious problem of "victimhood" would go away.

That out of the way, I'd close with the first sentence~ I agree re semicolon. Also, and maybe I've misread (I hope) the thrust of the poem, but that sentence is interesting and leaves things, imo, more open to interpretation. Indeed, some things are unevolved. A nice moment.
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  #8  
Unread 10-02-2019, 08:02 AM
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Daniel Kemper Daniel Kemper is offline
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1. Lines 1-4: Teachers learn that getting angry is considered something unmodern, antiquainted people do; we are SO much better than that in this sophisticated era. The student learns more from the example set by the teacher than by the words of the teacher.
2. Lines 5-8 the teachers example is that she earns power only through, and to the degree, that the teacher plays the vicitm. (Reflect: A grown-up teacher play-pretending to be a victim to a child student.) This boils down into an attempt to shame the child. (And the scorn of medieval catholic guilt vs "enlightened" ways, shows we've traded shame for guilt. We haven't advanced at all. Shame and guilt are equated that way. There's the shame/guilt/victimhood portrayal (cause) | volta | consequences (victimhood internalized). Stated plainly. What derrives?...)
3. What consequences follow such enacted victimization? What derrives? The indoctrination that everyone is a victim, that you have no rights except inasmuch as you can claim victimization from somewhere. You know, we used to say in the army that there is only one thief in the entire army and everyone else is just getting their stuff back from him. That's kindof the same logic behind the contemporary pervasive victimhood. And what results from such indoctrination? A sense of entitlement. Children are taught to think the universe owes them something, and that they've been wronged if that trust fund from the universe is delayed.
4. I pretty much come out and show where such parallel thinking shows up. Of course, in at least 1/3 of all colleges, literature professors think Satan is the hero of Paradise Lost. That good was Milton's writing, that his virtual Satan, as it were, pulled off 1/3 of academics in his favor, just as the real Satan convinced one third of heaven. Chumps.

I'm not sure what to make of those who blythely toss it off, but miss my truly over-the-top references. I expected to be roasted over them. I don't think they're obscure, but could be wrong. Could very well be that the poem was bad enough, those who caught the references didn't feel it worth their time. Anyhow, it's always a temptation to expect perfect consistency from people, and we all are not.

You know, I'd lay even more responsibility at the feet of this neurotic behavior--we see epidemics of self-cutting and other self-injury in contemporary society. These behaviors have to be downstream effects of this sort of victimization-indoctrination.

Finally, I'd have to say, in pure social commentary, it's all playing on the wrong end of the field. Whether "victim" or "survivor", it's all identity based on hurt. Identity ought to be based on character; just deal with the hurt, get help or tough it out. There's not so many victims around as people who play the victim.
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  #9  
Unread 10-02-2019, 10:59 AM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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So...to be clear...you're disappointed, not angry, that our critiques did not meet your standards?
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  #10  
Unread 10-02-2019, 03:46 PM
Mark McDonnell Mark McDonnell is offline
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Hi Daniel,

I can follow the poem's argument. Young people are too easily offended and prone to seeing themselves as victims, and modern teaching methods are to blame by modelling victimhood rather than administering stern authority.

There are a couple of good lines here, in terms of pure rhetoric:

The medieval catholic sense of guilt
has nothing on the modern sense of shame.

has a nice aphoristic pizazz to it, even if the actual content is fairly flimsy. And the last line has a similar swing. There's a lot of dull hectoring surrounding them, though (yes, even the Milton lift when taken from its 17th century context) and the poem doesn't succeed for me, for a few reasons. First, the voice of the speaker is far too sure of itself. It's the voice of certainty we hear constantly from politicians and pundits who have all the answers to society's ills. Certainly didacticism has a place in poetry, but the fact that the poem's subject is the current never-ending debate about the so-called 'snowflake' generation doesn't help. We've heard all this before, and recently, and we're not hearing anything new from this poem. I want to hear a poet thinking things through, not simply writing down conclusions he appears to have already reached, based on second hand opinions. I don't often quote, but Yeats seems right here: "Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry". Of course there are exceptions, there always are, but this poem isn't grand enough to be one of them. I've done plenty of quarreling with others on this site, quite often in the general ballpark of unreasonable offence-taking. But even in those discussions I'm continually quarrelling with myself too. It would never occur to me to write something so sure of itself on such a complex issue. That, to me, isn't poetry.
And this has nothing to do with politics or even the argument itself. I'd feel the same about a poem 'telling' me that the current generation of young people are wonderful and the most resilient ever, if it did so in such sweeping terms as this one. I'd be bored because, with the exception of obviously comic verse maybe, generalising about groups of people based on their age, occupation, skin colour, sexuality, whatever, is boring, insulting to the intelligence and divisive whether it's coming from the left or the right. I would say the right has the monopoly on inhumane and dangerous currently, though, while the left may have the edge on silliness. But I'm generalising ha.

It's those sweeping generalities that are my second complaint. The voice is so sure of itself it doesn't seem to care that a reader is immediately going to say "Really…?" before the first two lines are even done.

'Contemporary teachers learn that wrath
is unevolved'

Ok, one solution would be to invent characters and let the reader work out the 'subtle' subtext:

"Miss Annabel O'Connor learned that wrath…" and instead of 'the student' and 'the children' have 'young Daniel'. Or similar.

I'm a contemporary teacher. I've taught 11 to 18 year olds for 20 years and I've never been taught that wrath is unevolved. This immediately seems like a cartoon stereotype of 'liberal teaching methods'. I was taught to 'criticise the behaviour, not the child' and always to give the impression that you expect more of a student (even if you really don't) which seems like fairly good sense to me. So you say "that was really aggressive behaviour, Daniel, and I'm disappointed because I expect better from you" rather than "You're a really aggressive boy, Daniel, and frankly what you just did is typical of what I've come to expect". This seems a reasonable approach to me and I just can't draw the sinister societal conclusions from it that you seem to here. I don't equate it with making oneself into a 'victim'. Anger is, unfortunately, a factor of many teachers' daily work, usually genuine and involuntary, often internalised. Ask most teachers though and they'll tell you why they try to avoid it as an actual strategy. Firstly, anger is mentally and physically exhausting, even 'performative' anger, and the job is tiring enough without pretending to be, or actually being, angry (and the two states soon begin to blur). Secondly, it's a fact that a lot of the most disruptive students come from home backgrounds where anger and aggression are fairly constant, where they are made to feel like they are worthless and basically a nuisance to the adults in their life. So more anger from a teacher just doesn't register. Of course there are exceptions to this. There are spoiled, entitled kids who make life difficult for teachers and other students too. But that's my point. There are no clear answers to any of this, and the poem's easy generalisations and sweeping conclusions don't convince me that there are. Also, I do question a poem that seems to be so keen on advocating anger (and not against morally reprehensible political systems or repressive religious regimes, say, but against children). And as for avoidance of anger being a contemporary fashion, isn't wrath one of the 7 deadly sins? I do know one thing. Real teachers avoidance of anger is nothing to do with postmodernism...

So this comment of yours about the evils of postmodernism leads to my third issue. As James said, this does read like contemporary right wing talking points in sonnet form. It's true that my own politics might be happier with left wing talking points in sonnet form but, and here's the point, not that much happier. People don't generally like being talked at in poetry. They get enough of that from the babble of politics and media, and that's sort of the impression this poem leaves me with.
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