Ithaca

Jul. 16th, 2017 11:00 pm
osprey_archer: (shoes)
[personal profile] osprey_archer
I am arrived in Ithaca! The one in New York, not the Greek island, although the Greek island would also be a splendid place to visit someday.

We had a splendid dinner at a restaurant called Rulloff's, which is named after a famous nineteenth century Ithaca murderer (or famous at the time, at least; I had not heard of him until I read his famous last words written up on a chalkboard on the wall in the restaurant), and possessed of excellent food. We had crepes for dessert - or at least, we ordered crepes; I am not sure the chef understood that crepes are in fact supposed to be thinner than ordinary pancakes. However, as the pancakes were topped with raspberry compote and Nutella creamed into mascarpone, of course we forgave them their trespasses and ate them up entire.

***

And I had another thought about Oneida, which I forgot to put in my post yesterday.

Our guide mentioned that over the years in Oneida, the community voted to stop using tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine. Now on the one hand, these are all pretty normal nineteenth-century candidates for reform (the Mormons also banned, and IIRC still ban, all three).

But at the same time, hearing about this reminded me of the Rat Park experiments, which were studies in morphine addiction that took place back in the seventies. Rats in ordinary lab rat cages swiftly get addicted to morphine when they're offered the opportunity to take morphine-laced water. However, Bruce Alexander discovered that rats who lived in a less restricted environment - in a structure he called Rat Park, where they had toys and (more importantly) other rats to play with - barely used the morphine water at all.

And what occurred to me is that, for all its problems - which were after all severe enough to eventually break the community apart - Oneida was basically Human Park. Here you've got all these people hanging out together all the time, even doing a lot of their work in bees (think quilting bee, not spelling bee) so it will be more social and fun, constantly putting on entertainments for each other and playing croquet together and, of course, having lots of sex. Who needs cigarettes or beer or even tea when they've got infinite croquet?

...I mean, you'd still have to pull my tea out of my cold dead hands. But then I'm not living in Oneida, now am I.

***

Although it's also worth noting that living for five years in Oneida failed to dent future presidential assassin Charles Guiteau's delusions of grandeur even slightly, so clearly all the togetherness in the world is not a panacea.

Date: 2017-07-17 05:39 am (UTC)
sovay: (I Claudius)
From: [personal profile] sovay
for all its problems - which were after all severe enough to eventually break the community apart

What specifically ended it? [personal profile] spatch remembered John Humphrey Noyes eventually being run out of town.

Date: 2017-07-17 02:47 pm (UTC)
missroserose: (Default)
From: [personal profile] missroserose
Is that last part really true? I'd noticed the name coincidence but had assumed that they'd both drawn from the same inspiration, not that the one had eventually become the other. Life takes such strange turnings sometimes. o.O

Date: 2017-07-17 03:03 pm (UTC)
missroserose: (Default)
From: [personal profile] missroserose
Seances for business advice...? Oh man. Clearly I need to read up on these folks. *giggling madly*

Date: 2017-07-17 07:28 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Morell: quizzical)
From: [personal profile] sovay
And then Oneida became a joint stock company and eventually transformed into a silverware manufacturing giant.

I did not see that part coming.

Date: 2017-07-17 11:13 am (UTC)
littlerhymes: the fox and the prince (Default)
From: [personal profile] littlerhymes
I just read your two Oneida posts back to back and this is fascinating.

Infinite croquet has its apppeal but Mutual Criticism? NO.

Date: 2017-07-17 12:21 pm (UTC)
asakiyume: (more than two)
From: [personal profile] asakiyume
Even focusing on getting the chance to do some criticizing doesn't help me much. Part of what gets in the way of my telling people things that have upset me is that I start imagining their replies (I know the Oneida folks don't get to talk back, but I imagine the hurt/anger/unjustified self righteousness/misunderstanding I'd see in their eyes), and then my replies to their replies, and then it's playing out in my head like an exhausting mental chess game, and I end up thinking, "Better than talking about this is for me to try to avoid situations that provoke whatever-it-is that bothered me." That's not an optimal response, I know, and it's something I'm trying to change, but that tendency in me keeps me from finding even the getting-to-criticize side of things cathartic. It would only feel cathartic if I could be sure the other person understood, agreed, and was remorseful.

Date: 2017-07-17 12:55 pm (UTC)
asakiyume: (miroku)
From: [personal profile] asakiyume
Yeah, that's a good point. And I think even today, it's possible to do it. The model I think works for me is the model of constructive writing critique. When someone reads through my work and says, I didn't understand what was going on here, or, why did the character do this here? I can see the flaws in the story without it feeling like the message is THIS STORY SUUUUUUCKS.

Date: 2017-07-17 12:14 pm (UTC)
asakiyume: (miroku)
From: [personal profile] asakiyume
I see what you're saying about the Oneida community being Human Park, and yet, if that was the case, why did they feel the *need* to ban alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco? I'm thinking of the fact that the things you ban are the things that are troubling group harmony....

Also, since you were just in Ithaca, I think you need the fake Mountain Goats song "Going to Ithaca," which Sovay shared with me some time ago.

Date: 2017-07-17 02:50 pm (UTC)
minutia_r: (Default)
From: [personal profile] minutia_r
The thing that has occurred to me about the Rat Park experiment is that while addictive substances can be and are used as a substitute for social interaction, more often, and especially with addictive substances whose use is traditional within the culture in question, using addictive substances is a social activity. And indeed, with alcohol in any case, drinking alone rather than drinking socially is considered one of the signs that the drinker has become an alcoholic.

Now, I've only read a brief summary of the Rat Park experiment, but I don't remember any social drug use by the rats.

Date: 2017-07-17 03:00 pm (UTC)
missroserose: (Default)
From: [personal profile] missroserose
The Rat Park experiments are fascinating to me, in part due to the parallels in my own life. When I lived in a desert town with a part-time job and very few things to do, my alcohol consumption was much higher - not nonfunctionally so, but (at its highest) a couple of drinks a day on average, occasionally more when I was out with friends. I even ran a cocktail blog for a while, since I figured if I was going to devote so much time to a hobby I should at least do something productive with it. Now, between living in a city and working in the gig economy, I'm so busy that I hardly have time to drink. Sometimes I'll have a beer at the end of a long day; occasionally I'll have two drinks at a party, but that's becoming increasingly rare. Given how much of my work and recreation is physically oriented, waking up hungover is a serious liability, heh.

I've had similar observations on the need for a charismatic leader to unite groups of people. Not just small groups, either; I don't think it was coincidence that the great historical empires united under a single charismatic leader (Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Vladimir Lenin) all took a turn for the worse after the death of said leader. People, especially large groups of people, tend to be uniquely vulnerable to appeals made by charismatic and powerful people; but that only lasts so long as the person is still around to make those appeals. It's one of the reasons I try not to grumble about the inefficiency of our government; deliberative government is inefficient by nature, but that very inefficiency protects us from the abuses of power an individual might indulge in, as well as carrying us forward generationally.

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