Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "A Great Many Evil Things"

This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls. It fills the "WILD CARD: 1 The Shaman" square in my 4-30-19 card for the Tarot Bingo fest. It has been sponsored by a pool with [personal profile] fuzzyred. This poem belongs to the SPOON thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains intense and controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers and possibly also triggers. It features a badly done spring break spiritual retreat, extreme distress, bad advice, a sweat lodge and spirit quest done without proper precautions, resulting in a spirit guide attached to a young businessman who hate each other, verbal abuse, feelings of going crazy, valid accusations regarding past genocide and other violence with present-day repercussions, test anxiety, a life in ruins, and other angst. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

"A Great Many Evil Things"

[Monday, April 6, 2015]

"I need your help," Channing said,
wringing his hands. "I think I'm
being haunted or -- or something."

Groundhog raised his eyebrows.
"SPOON deals in superpowers,
not the supernatural in general,"
he said. "What is your name and
the exact nature of your problem?"

"I'm Channing Whitaker. I went
to this retreat over spring break,
you know, for spiritual experiences
in support of a successful career?"
the young man said. "Only I wound up
with a spirit guide, and he hates me."

"All right, that may be in our wheelhouse,"
Groundhog said. "Go down that hall
and take a seat in the waiting room for
the consultation wing. A reader will
see you as soon as possible."

"Thank you," Channing said,
and followed his directions.

The hall led to a small brown room
decorated with plants. A row of
leather chairs ran along the wall,
and a narrow table held magazines.

Most of those were fluff like
Pough Pastry and Soupçon,
but eventually he turned up
a current issue of Patent That!

He was reading an article on
new office equipment when
someone rapped on the wall.

"Hello, Mr. Whitaker, I'm Prismae,"
said the brunette with rainbow eyes.
"Come with me to the Fern Room
and then we can see what's going on."

She wore an Onion City SPOON uniform
of a navy blue shirt and pants with
the SPOON logo embroidered
in silver on the chest pocket.

The Fern Room was small and
cozy, with houseplants on the furniture.
Prints of fern leaves and Illinois fields
hung on the plain off-white wall, and
two easy chairs sat waiting.

As they sat down, Prismae said,
"Why don't you tell me what happened?"

"My advisor suggested that I use spring break
for enrichment, not partying," said Channing.
"So I took the Spring into Success program at
the Special Self Retreat Center. It's pretty nice --
there's camping if you like that sort of thing,
but I rented a private room at the lodge."

"How did the program go?" Prismae said.
"What kind of activities did it involve?"

"It was okay, I guess, but the session had
a lot more woo-woo stuff than business,"
said Channing. "We took nature hikes in
the woods and the prairie -- they've got
a fire circle and everything. You could
do a sweat lodge and a vision quest to get
a spirit guide, which is what I did." He shook
his head. "Worst mistake I ever made!"

"What makes you say that?" Prismae said.

"Because I got one, and he's an asshole!"
Channing said, throwing up his hands.
"I was supposed to get a wise advisor, and
I got a dead Indian kid my age who knows
nothing about business and he hates me."

"What does your spirit guide do that bothers
you so much?" Prismae asked, leaning forward.

"Mostly he screams at me in Lakota,"
Channing admitted. "It's awful."

"Oh, you speak Lakota?"
Prismae said, brightening.

"Uh, no," Channing said. "I had
to look it up. I think it's Lakota. It
could be some other Sioux language.
They're hard to tell apart. I have done
a lot of research at the library, but it
hasn't turned up much I could use.
That's why I turned to SPOON."

"So you think your spirit guide
constitutes a superpower,"
Prismae said. "Let's find out."

She looked at Channing,
then startled and jerked back.

"What? What did you see?"
Channing said. "Is he real?
Because I'm starting to feel
like I'm going crazy, here."

"You are definitely not crazy,"
Prismae said. "Your spirit guide
is real. I can see him too."

"Oh, thank god," Channing said.
"At least that's a relief to know."

"Maybe you two can learn
to get along," Prismae said.
"What has he said to you?"

"Well, I have matched up
some Lakota swear words,"
Channing said. "Sometimes
he yells at me in English, though,
or that's how I hear it anyhow."

"Spirits can understand
any language," Prismae said.

"So he's just jerking with me
in Lakota?" Channing grumbled.

"Or maybe he feels that it's
a better language for what
he has to say," she replied.
"Did he tell you his name?"

"Stone Fist," said Channing.
"I think it's because he carries
this hammer with a rock on the end."

"Okay, can you tell me some of
what Stone Fist says in English?"
said Prismae. "That could help us."

"Yeah, he's got a speech," Channing said.
"This war did not spring up on our land,
this war was brought upon us by the children
of the Great Father who came to take
our land without a price, and who, in
our land, do a great many evil things…
This war has come from robbery –
from the stealing of our land."

As soon as he started, Stone Fist
joined in, yelling it at him again.

Prismae leaned back. "Oh dear."

"Exactly," said Channing. "I mean,
I can't really argue with that one, can I?
My ancestors came here and took over.
It happened. Nothing to be done about it.
I just wish I had never gotten mixed up in
this shit. I'm about to graduate, and I can't
concentrate. What if I flunk my finals?"

"If you're having trouble in college due
to new superpowers, then your school
is obligated to make accommodations,"
Prismae said. "SPOON will back you."

"It's all my advisor's fault," Channing said.
"If he hadn't pushed me into it, then I never
would have gone to that crazy New Age chick."

"You mean the retreat leader?" Prismae said.

"Yeah, her name is Rainbow Robe, and
how kooky is that?" Channing said. "It
was nice to get out in the woods, but
that vision quest has ruined my life."

"If you feel that your advisor gave
you faulty advice, or that Rainbow Robe
harmed you with her practices, then you
can certainly sue them," Prismae said.
"You probably have a good case."

Channing took out his phone and
made a note to call the family lawyer.
"That's a good idea, thanks," he said.

"Now, I can help you find a soup mentor
so that you can start practicing and learn
how to control your powers," Prismae said.

"No way," Channing said. "I have college.
I don't have time to study anything new!
I just wish that it would all go away."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Whitaker, but SPOON
does not advocate clipping superpowers,"
Prismae said. "It consistently does
much more harm than good."

"Then what am I supposed
to do?" Channing wailed.

"Well, you wanted a spirit guide,"
Prismae said. "I suggest that
you try listening to him."

* * *


Channing Whitaker -- He has fair skin, blue eyes, and brown hair buzzed short with stubble of mustache and beard. Channing attends Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois where he has a major in Business Management & Leadership and a minor in Sociology. Logical and ambitious, he does well at his studies. He also takes advantage of the college's fitness facilities. Channing enjoys networking with other students and older mentors, but mostly he sticks to his own kind. As a straight white able-bodied Christian man of upper middle class, he has a great deal of privilege and not much experience of the real world.
Origin: Channing visited a retreat center on spring break, which promised spiritual experiences in support of a successful career. He wound up with a Lakota spirit guide who hates him.
Uniform: He likes preppie men's wear.
Qualities: Good (+2) Ambitious, Good (+2) College Student, Good (+2) Logical-Mathematical Intelligence, Good (+2) Networking, Good (+2) Physically Fit
Poor (-2) Overprivileged
Powers: Poor (-2) Lakota Spirit Guide
Motivation: Money.

Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois is among the top business schools in the state.

The management and leadership major prepares you to effectively get things done through team efforts.
Preparing You For Success
Management and leadership courses give you analytical, interpersonal and decision-making skills you need to excel as a team leader in the workplace. This knowledge helps you manage challenges of managing people, processes and products or services at the core of all organizations. You complete the degree with a professional capstone project in which you work with a local business or nonprofit.
By the time you graduate, your experiences may include:
• Professional development and networking through the Society for Human Resource Management, Women in Business and Phi Chi Theta business fraternity
• Mentoring relationships with faculty who are active in business development
• Internships with organizations such as ConAgra, Caterpillar, American Red Cross, Maui Jim and OSF Health Care
Making Your Mark
M & L majors are valued in all business and nonprofit settings. In recent years, almost all M & L students found jobs within six months of graduation. They’re working at places such as Accenture, AT&T, Boeing and Motorola.
Sample Program Plan

Major Requirements
Required Courses - 16 hrs.
• M L 300: Environments of Organizations - 2 hrs.
• *M L 353: Operations Management in Organizations - 3 hrs.
• M L 356: Human Capital in Organizations - 3 hrs.
• M L 357: Leading Organizations - 2 hrs.
• M L 358: Managerial Decision Making - 3 hrs.
• PSY 101: Principles of Psychology - 3 hrs.

Elective courses - 9 hrs.
• MIS 272: Mgmt. Applications of Personal Computers - 3 hrs.
• M L 315: Principles of Risk Management - 3 hrs.
• ENT 382: Entrepreneurship - 3 hrs.
Students must also complete Foster College's business core.

• BUS 100 Contemporary Business - 3 hrs.
• ATG 157 Accounting Principles – Financial - 3 hrs.
• ATG 158 Accounting Principles – Managerial - 3 hrs.
• MIS 173 Information Systems Business Applications - 3 hrs.
• ECO 221 Principles of Microeconomics - 3 hrs.
• ECO 222 Principles of Macroeconomics - 3 hrs.
• M L 250 Interpersonal Effectiveness in Organizations - 2 hrs.
• QM 262 Quantitative Analysis I - 3 hrs.
• MTG 315 Principles of Marketing - 3 hrs.
• FIN 322 Business Finance - 3 hrs.
• BLW 342 Legal Environment of Business - 3 hrs.
• M L 350 Managing for Results in Organizations - 2 hrs.
• BUS 400 Business Capstone Client Consulting Project - 2 hrs.
• M L 452 Strategic Management and Business Policy - 2 hrs.

• Quantitative Skill Building – 3 hrs.
...o ECO 335 Managerial Economics - 3 hrs.
• *Foster College of Business Core Electives – 6 hrs.
...o IS 103: Fundamentals of International Studies: Global Analysis - 3 hrs.
...o IS 302: Global Trade Management - 3 hrs.
* Foster College of Business Core Electives include any business course beyond the student's first major.

The sociology minor enhances your understanding of the discipline’s history, its research methods, and topics of interest within the field. After taking two foundational sociology courses, you can tailor the minor to your career goals with electives in the global studies, inequality and social justice, or health and social services focus areas. You can also find internships in these areas. The minor, which is open to all students, pairs well with majors in business, the health sciences, criminal justice studies, social work, psychology, or marketing.
Minor Requirements
Required Courses - 6 hrs.
• SOC 100: The Sociological Perspective - 3 hrs.
• SOC 320: Social Theory - 3 hrs.

Elective Courses (choose three) - 9 hrs.
• ANT 305: Peoples and Cultures of the World - 3 hrs.
• SOC 316: Sociology of Work and Occupations - 3 hrs.
• SOC 321: Individual and Society - 3 hrs.
• SOC 322: Self and Social Interaction - 3 hrs.
• SOC 326: Sociology of Globalization - 3 hrs.
Note: At least 9 of the 15 hours must be at the 300 level or above.

Stone Fist -- He has copper skin, black eyes, and long straight black hair. He is Lakota. He was still a young man when he died some time in the 1870s. Stone Fist speaks Cheyenne, Hand Talk, Lakota, and Omaha-Ponca; he learned some English while alive, and as a spirit, can understand all languages. Tough and determined, he is a skilled hunter and warrior. Stone Fist holds a grudge until it dies of old age, then skins it and tans the hide for a blanket.
Origin: Stone Fist was killed by white soldiers during the invasion of Turtle Island. He later became the spirit guide of a white man, Channing Whitaker, whom he harangues constantly.
Uniform: Stone Fist wears Lakota warrior's clothes: a shirt and pants of beaded buckskin, beaded moccasins, and two eagle feathers in his hair. He carries a bow in a case made of cougar skin, and below it, a quiver of arrows; a revolver; and the stone war hammer that gave him his name.
Qualities: Good (+2) Hunter, Good (+2) Lakota Warrior, Good (+2) Tough, Good (+2) Willpower, Good (+2) Wowacintanka
Poor (-2) Unforgiving
Powers: Good (+2) Spirit Powers
Motivation: Revenge.

Perseverance (Wowacintanka) – In spite of difficulties we persist in our efforts which is a deeply empowering source of strength rising from within. To taste success we sometimes are forced to pick ourselves up and the gift is feeling how much life is worth living as we accomplish what we have set out to do. Many of our ancestors were faced with challenges that could only be helped through spiritual strength. This perseverance was what carried them through even to the afterlife.
-- Lakota Virtues

Here's what murder, theft, invasion, and genocide look like when the winners get to tell the story:
The Great Sioux War of 1876, also known as the Black Hills War, was a series of battles and negotiations which occurred in 1876 and 1877 between the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and the United States. The cause of the war was the desire of the U.S. government to obtain ownership of the Black Hills. Gold had been discovered in the Black Hills, settlers began to encroach onto Native American lands, and the Sioux and Cheyenne refused to cede ownership to the U.S. Traditionally, the United States military and historians place the Lakota at the center of the story, especially given their numbers, but some Indians believe the Cheyenne were the primary target of the U.S. campaign.

See a map of tribes before the invasion of Turtle Island.

Rainbow Robe (Shara Hinkle) -- She has fair skin, blue eyes, and long blonde hair. She lives near Peoria, Illinois. Rainbow Robe works at the Special Self Retreat Center where she leads sessions with such techniques as meditations, spirit quests, and sweat lodges. Charismatic and observant, she is a good businesswoman but a poor spiritual leader. She often uses material that she does not fully understand, because she doesn't really believe in it even though she purports to. Her dexterity makes her good at crafts, though, and Rainbow Robe constructs many of her own props.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Charisma, Good (+2) Businesswoman, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Psychology
Poor (-2) Plastic Shaman

* * *

"This war did not spring up on our land, this war was brought upon us by the children of the Great Father who came to take our land without a price, and who, in our land, do a great many evil things… This war has come from robbery – from the stealing of our land."
Spotted Tail

Spotted Tail (birth name Siŋté Glešká, pronounced gleh-shka, "Jumping Buffalo"); born c. 1823[1] – died August 5, 1881) was a Brulé Lakota tribal chief. Although a great warrior in his youth, and having taken part in the Grattan massacre, he declined to participate in Red Cloud's War.[2] He had become convinced of the futility of opposing the white incursions into his homeland; he became a statesman, speaking for peace and defending the rights of his tribe.

See the Onion City SPOON Base consultation wing waiting room. Notice that these chairs all have tail holes. This is the Fern Room for individual counseling. Here is the Dracaena Room for couples counseling.

The Special Self Retreat Center has a lodge with 43 beds in 19 bedrooms. Eleven of the rooms have two twin beds. Eight of the rooms have an ensuite bathroom and air conditioning. There are two single bedrooms that share an accessible bathroom. The bedrooms have different themes in decoration, such as Native American or New Age. A lounge offers upstairs gathering space. The large air-conditioned meeting room on the lower level of the building includes a microwave and refrigerator. See a floor plan of the lodge.

The ADA suite has a smaller bedroom with just a king-size bed and end tables; a larger bedroom with a queen-size bed, end tables, dressing bench, and a sitting area with a queen-size hide-a-bed couch; and a shared bathroom with a toilet cubicle, shower, and roll-under sink.

The Special Self Retreat Center also offers campsites for tent camping.

See the exterior and interior of an improperly constructed sweat lodge at the Special Self Retreat Center. Notice the use of plastic tarps to cover the lodge. This sometimes kills people. Traditional lodges are customarily covered with bark, branches, wool blankets, or other natural materials (depending on culture) to permit some air flow and heat exchange. Synthetic materials are not ideal for spiritual purposes, and impermeable materials create health hazards by sealing in too much moisture, heat, and carbon dioxide.

The Special Self Retreat Center features trail walks, fire circles, and other activities. A lean-to or circle may be used for vision quests.

Pough Pastry is a magazine that focuses on short, light, mostly positive bits of social news. While they rarely cover superheroes or supervillains, they are much more interested in supernaries and occasionally feature blue-plate specials. It is owned and edited by Penelope Pough (which is pronounced "puff").

Soupçon is a Paris magazine (published in French and English editions) that began as a fanzine for Savoir Faire. Now it follows the exploits of other soups as well. The French version is still really popular in America. It's kind of like People for soups. It is steadily climbing the ranks of social magazines, and I think it's starting to do for superpowers what fanfic did for homosexuality: making it cute instead of unmentionable. Most people who read it are on the favorable side of tolerance. As journalism goes, it's still pretty trashy, but they don't print soup-hostile anything and that sets them aside from almost every other media source.

Patent That! is a Terramagne-American magazine put out by the Patent Office. It comes out weekly and includes brief thumbnails of newly granted patents, along with articles about the patent process and projects people can make at home. Employees choose the best new patents from inventors willing to have theirs announced. Inventions are marked as available for sale, in development, or not in development. The mascot is Pat the Patent Panda. The magazine is mainly intended as bathroom reading, and it's enormously popular in the tech sector. Subscribers can go to the website and find links to products already on sale or sign up for notifications about ones that aren't. Because this can drive a lot of sales, more inventors are releasing permission to feature their inventions.

Academic advisors supposedly assist students in obtaining an education. Often they give bad advice or actively block student goals. There is advice on how to cope with advisor abuse. I doubt that any of it works very often. Local-America rarely holds advisors or schools accountable. In Terramagne-America, the situation is better; if Channing can prove that the advisor's input led directly to a life-wrecking spring break experience, he'll probably win the case.

Spring break is a notorious time for partying. However, some students prefer more practical career activities., a trend more common in T-America than here.

A spiritual retreat can be enlightening. Unfortunately, some leaders pose hazards. Less well known is the risk of enlightenment itself, which can wreak havoc on unprepared minds. A short excursion does not offer enough time to prepare seekers for what they may find, either in themselves or in the wider universe. Especially beware of untrained leaders charging money for their services. Here are some questions for finding a good guide.

A sweat lodge is an example of sauna or sweat bathing traditions around the world. Each tribe has its own ceremonies; compare inipi (Lakota), oenikika (Cree), and bagnio (Lenape). Anyone can do sweat bathing, which does indeed exist in many different variations, but it is wrong to present something as coming from a specific tradition when it does not. Furthermore, there are serious concerns about the pros and cons of such activities. In a tribal context, a person must train for years under an experienced sweat lodge leader before starting to lead sweats on their own. When an untrained person scrambles the instructions, the results are sometimes fatal. Further note that most people who actually know what they are doing will not claim to be "an expert" on the topic, and few sweat lodge leaders offer their services outside their own tribe. As mentioned in "Oenikika," T-Native American tribes have recently added conventional first aid skills to the list of things expected of a properly trained sweat lodge leader. It is a living, growing tradition and not something static.

A vision quest also varies from one tribe to another. During this ceremony, the seeker searches for assistance from an animal spirit, ancestor, or other spirit guide. It takes considerable preparation to do safely and effectively. As with the sweat lodge example above, many people offering to lead such expeditions outside a tribal context are not well trained for it.

Some Native American tropes include Spirit Advisor, Magical Native American, and Indian Burial Ground. Mash these together and you get the infamous Indian Spirit Guide of the New Age movement. Yet nobody seems to have thought out what would actually happen if that occurred. Do we see Nazis seeking out Jewish spirit guides? Of course not. Because it would obviously end in disaster. So here we have a traumatized spirit and an ignorant young businessman ripping each other up because some adults provided really bad guidance.

Verbal abuse can take many forms. Here are some ways to cope with it. They work a lot better when you can physically escape your abuser than when you are trapped with him.

Genocide is the systematic destruction of a people and/or their culture, in whole or in part. Among these, the invasion of Turtle Island features many completed acts of genocide upon tribes now lost. For the survivors, the genocide continues through everything from commodity foods to kidnapping of children. It's not history. It's happening right now.

So I leave as a thought exercise for the reader: Is it morally defensible for Stone Fist to attack Channing on the grounds of past and present genocide considering the status of their respective peoples? Or is it indefensible because Channing has not personally committed acts of genocide and did not enter into the relationship with informed consent? Both sides have some good arguments, making this a fraught situation.

Test anxiety poses a serious problem for some students. There are ways to deal with it. These are unlikely to suffice with someone screaming abuse into the student's head. Fortunately for Channing, T-America has protection for students with new superpowers.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, education, ethnic studies, fantasy, fishbowl, history, life lessons, poem, poetry, reading, safety, spirituality, weblit, writing
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