The Fort Smith Experience Part 15 (e)

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.”   ~ John Lubbock

............

"What we see depends mainly on what we look for."  Ain't that the truth!

When I moved back to Fort Smith (now over ten years ago) I was perceiving it through and assembly of filters that I had acquired experientially in the thirty-two years that I had been away.  My first evaluations of the city were quite skewed because of what I was desiring, wanting and expecting to see.  While I superimposed my desires and wants over the Fort Smith I was observing, I, of course, saw what I wanted to see.  For a time I became fixated in the ever so thin social veneer of the city and was mistakenly interpreting that as being the true identity of the city.

I did not bust through Fort Smith's social veneer abruptly. Instead, the more I had cause to interact with the city, the more I slowly pressed against its veneer and...like one continually pushing their hand against plastic wrap stretched tightly over a bowl of left overs and the plastic finally gives way and tears, so too did the thin veneer of Fort Smith eventually give way as I kept pressing against it.  Once through the mild and seemingly friendly veneer I began to see a city that was in stark contrast to my envisioned desires and expectations.

After my bubble of wishful thinking had popped, the next hurdle I had to overcome was my own hubris.  As I began to get a sense of the city's true condition (or what I perceived and interpreted to be its condition), that is; a condition seemingly antipathetic to anything that might possibly elevate the quality of life in Fort Smith and thereby cause the city to be more alluring to the outside world...I felt I could do something to change that and make a positive difference.  I decided that if I was going to reside in Fort Smith that, rather than become an armchair critic, I was going to get involved and do what I could to, in some way, better the condition (better my experience).  Well...with that decision I found and entered a classroom that was more like a sadistic boot camp than not.  What I learned after spending a few years in this classroom is that I didn't know diddly squat about what I thought I knew.  In other words, Fort Smith kicked my ass and good!  But, in the beating I took, the city did me a great service because that's exactly what I needed.  It woke me up to my own pretense, my own social veneer.  Hubris, I discovered, is just another form of wishful thinking.

As I have observed and interacted with the city in the time I've been living here, the presence of an "unseen hand"..."man behind the curtain"...."kingpin"..."Mr. Big"...."Big Fish in small pond" and so on (however you want to symbolize this source of unseen suppression), has been unmistakable.  At every turn, in every project it has been obvious that someone or some select few have been tenaciously holding the city back, holding it down and keeping it in a perpetual condition of almost.   For example: Fort Smith almost has a beautiful Historic District  except that it's dominated by slum lords and many of the once beautiful and impressive examples of architecture are in a state of sever disrepair;   Fort Smith almost has a US Marshals Museum except that it has funding problems that could delay its manifestation indefinitely;  Fort Smith almost has a thriving vibrant downtown except it doesn't;  Fort Smith almost has a developed riverfront except that development just exists as wishful thinking; Fort Smith almost has a water park except the project lacks probity;  Fort Smith almost has, or almost had...(please feel free to add to the list).  I say 'almost had' because it is evident that this "almost condition" that Fort Smith demonstrates is a condition of long duration.  I'm sure there have been many "almost" plans and projects that have come and gone over the years.

Even though my personal observations and experiences have continually pointed to the existence of an active "Mr. Big" (an entity hidden behind the curtain pulling all the strings of the city) being in full control of the city, the realization that the city has been in an "almost condition" for a long duration, suggests that there is more to the story.  Also, the fact that there are so many folks who adamantly claim that the city is under the control of a hidden or, not so hidden few (many people have names of people, families, companies or organizations that they "know" to be the so called "unseen hand"), yet the condition continues to persist (if it's so well known why hasn't someone, over the many years, done something to put an end to it?), indicates that whoever the "unseen hand" is...that identity, or the folklore of such an identity, is being empowered by the very people making the claims.

I'm not saying that there isn't some "Kingpin" running the city of Fort Smith, indeed, I suspect that circumstance is highly probable.  It's also highly probable that the notion is illusory.  I suspect even more that there have been circumstances (belief systems) extant in Fort Smith that have predisposed the city to being a "natural" cover for sinister activities to be conducted that have nothing at all to do with the city. In other words, the city is being used as the hiding place for these activities.  In which case, it would serve those activities, for the idea of a Kingpin running the city (whether true or illusory) to be perpetuated.  But again, going beyond the notion of a Kingpin, there seems to be an inherent condition that exists in the unconscious realms of Fort Smith's collective mind.  And this condition (a program running beneath the awareness level), is the actual "unseen hand" not a person, family, company or organization but an unseen belief system.  This unseen belief system has aberrated in such a way as to make Fort Smith a unique hiding place for certain nefarious activities.  A hiding place with its own built in defense system.

"What we see depends mainly on what we look for."

Up until quite recently I saw the city of Fort Smith as a city struggling like the dickens to get out from under a heavy hand of suppression.  And, as hard as it struggles, as earnest  as it is in its efforts...it continues to come up losing.  No matter what it tries the Can of Fort Smith is consistently unable to overcome the Can't of Fort Smith.  In other words, I saw Fort Smith as being a city that is under constant attack from within.  Then, one early morning as my consciousness was returning from the dimension we know as "dreams" and readjusting to the dimension of wakefulness that we know as "reality," (I wonder sometimes if there really is a difference)  I had this "what if moment."  What if Fort Smith is not being attacked but is, instead, defending itself?  Did you read my little story in part 14 (a) about "protecting" the chicken to death.  Could be that Fort Smith is actually "defending" itself to death but doing so unconsciously.

As the old adage says....if it were a snake it would've bitten me.  How could I miss something so obvious!?  The most obvious clue as to what Fort Smith is being and why it behaves the way it does is its name!  Fort Smith..."Fort"...what is a fort?  What is the purpose and function of a fort?  What was the original purpose and function of Fort Smith?  It may sound preposterous but I suspect that Fort Smith is still very much Being, Doing and Having as an active fort and it has absolutely no awareness of it. Also, besides the "fort" program running unconsciously, it has become aberrated.  In other words, it has become a psychological disorder within the collective mind of Fort Smith.  Yes, it might very well be an absurd theory but absurd or not, I think it's a theory worth exploring.  In part 15 (f) we'll do some exploring.

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Comments

Babbling

Mr. Pilgrim, You are certainly entitled to your thoughts and opinions and I think you are probably correct in your analysis of what is wrong with FSM. However you keep going on and on and on, You make it sound like their is a secret back room cabal pulling the strings on activities in FSM. Take off the tinfoil hat and tell us who it is, the Illumanti? Somebody's else? I suspect the true problem is just indifference by those who have gotten their fair share and more, my opinion is, it is the legions of do nothing gov't workers that provide no value and just provide costs. They can't do anything when the people they are intimidating, the disadvantaged and poor, which explains the deterioration of the north side, midland, Towson, historic district, etc. However if you are starting a business, expanding a business they are tough guys, which explains why FSM is getting a reputation as unfriendly and expensive and by expensive I mean regulated and legislated to no end except for supporting aforementioned gov't bureaucracy. Please provide a solution as you are loosing your audience.

Thanks Mark

Mark, thank you for your comment. I appreciate your perspective. The frustration and irritation with me that you reveal through your comment is understood. Just recently I was watching a lengthy foreign film (well over two hours) that, as far as the film quality, sound, sets, costumes, characters, etc., went, it was very well done. However, for the life of me, I could not figure out what the story was that the filmmaker was attempting to tell. And it seemed the longer the movie went on the more confusing it became. Yet, oddly enough, even though I had become more than a little frustrated and irritated with the movie, I kept watching the damn thing. Finally, in the last ten minutes of the movie, all the seemingly disrelated story fragments that I had been unsuccessfully trying (for two plus hours) to piece together in someway to make a story, came together and I understood. I understood the story. And it was an incredible story (my opinion of course)! That said, if I had not persisted in paying close attention to the various and numerous story fragments throughout the movie, if I had not been actively working to try and make sense out of what I was seeing, if I would have allowed my frustration and irritation to diminish my interest and focus...even though it all came together in the end...I would not have recognized it and would have been more than a little pissed off at myself for choosing to waste my time. Mark, you mention that I am loosing my audience...I'm sure you're right about that. I'm sure the filmmaker of the movie I just described lost the bulk of his audience long before his movie came to an end. And while I certainly have empathy with you Mark, I now have empathy with that filmmaker. It was your comment that brought that realization to the surface. I hadn't thought about that movie since I watched it. But now, thanks to you,I have an even deeper understanding of that movie and the filmmaker. I very much appreciate the gift. I have lived the bulk of this lifetime being a "people pleaser" and while that's not necessarily a horrible thing, it definitely got in the way of me getting to know me. I wrote my first blog back in 2008 and for a time I just naturally wrote to please people (please my audience) but there came a point where I realized that the only audience a person ever really has is their self. Interestingly enough, writing blogs is one of the ways I become more acquainted with Me. Again, thanks much for your comment Mark. It was profound!
Mark, thank you for your comment. I appreciate your perspective. The frustration and irritation with me that you reveal through your comment is understood. Just recently I was watching a lengthy foreign film (well over two hours) that, as far as the film quality, sound, sets, costumes, characters, etc., went, it was very well done. However, for the life of me, I could not figure out what the story was that the filmmaker was attempting to tell. And it seemed the longer the movie went on the more confusing it became. Yet, oddly enough, even though I had become more than a little frustrated and irritated with the movie, I kept watching the damn thing. Finally, in ...>> Read the entire comment.

Fort and Forts Hint

There is Fort Smith and then there is Fort Worth and Fort Lauderdale so maybe you should come up with a new theory because the other Forts are booming with growth!

"fort disorder"

Anon, please take another look at what I said: Fort Smith..."Fort"...what is a fort? What is the purpose and function of a fort? What was the original purpose and function of Fort Smith? It may sound preposterous but I suspect that Fort Smith is still very much Being, Doing and Having as an active fort and it has absolutely no awareness of it. Also, besides the "fort" program running unconsciously, it has become aberrated. In other words, it has become a psychological disorder within the collective mind of Fort Smith." What I'm suggesting anon is that Fort Smith never stopped being a "fort" with all that implies. Not consciously mind you but unconsciously. As you have pointed out...For Worth and For Lauderdale (and so many other cities that have the word 'fort' in their name)are booming or at least progressing on an upward trend. However, those 'fort' cities obviously do not have this "fort disorder" (a mental condition) that I am suggesting Fort Smith has. Before we completely throw the theory out or debunk it let's at least spend a little time exploring it. Thank you for your input. It is appreciated.
Anon, please take another look at what I said: Fort Smith..."Fort"...what is a fort? What is the purpose and function of a fort? What was the original purpose and function of Fort Smith? It may sound preposterous but I suspect that Fort Smith is still very much Being, Doing and Having as an active fort and it has absolutely no awareness of it. Also, besides the "fort" program running unconsciously, it has become aberrated. In other words, it has become a psychological disorder within the collective mind of Fort Smith." What I'm suggesting anon is that Fort Smith never stopped being a "fort" with all that implies. Not ...>> Read the entire comment.

Collective Neurosis

I have been watching and participating in political processes in Fort Smith for many years and it is easy to see there is a problem. But, as you have well noted, the diagnosis is elusive. The stumbling block is in the first of your thesis. The Be. One must have a good handle on this before moving to the next step. We continually compare ourselves to NW AR but that is an unfair and unrealistic comparison. That area is fueled by very unique circumstances that gave rise to the wealthiest family in the WORLD earned its fortune there and keeps the business there. Without Walmart the combined population of Rogers and Bentonville might be 35,000. When it happens that rapid growth happens in a very small community it has the advantage of not having large aging infastructure. It is a blank pallet. When there is a number of highly educated persons moving to an area because of a Microsoft or Walmart it brings fresh perspectives and talent. Finally,the new rich entrepreneurs form a leadership base like the NW Arkansas Council and they find eager followers. Now, let's look at the Be of Fort Smith. FS is a old community chartered more than 40 years before Rogers and about the same age as Bentonville and Fayetteville. The big boom in FS was in the 1880's thru about 1920. Building could not happen fast enough.Why? The Federal Court and proximity to Indian Territory. Coal was being mined and railroads and steam ships made a fortune. It was a wholesale and banking center. Then oil was discovered in OK after statehood and Tulsa happened. Then the depression hit.That dynamism has never been recaptured. Fort Chaffee was a big shot in the arm during the war but it did not last. The big industrial move from the north that brought us Whirlpool and others made for a tiny boom in the 60's and brought with it new people that made a big difference. But now they have closed or moved on or hang by a thread.We find ourselves in a post industrial time totally unprepared. Politically Pilgrim you are right on about the Fort mentality. We have never been a player in state politics. Second largest city and only one person from here has ever been elected governor. William Fishback in the 1890's. WE have never had a real legislative leader from here. Oh, BG Hendrix was speaker but that was in a time when the speaker had little power and it was an honorarium. The powers that be, which now have little power, put these folks in office on the promise they would do no harm. Circle the wagons around local business interests and the rest of the state be hanged. Local government,starting in the late 60's, has made attempts at modernizing but has hit a lot of resistance. This paralyzing conflict continues. There are those who wish to fix the infastructure and provide amenities to the people who live here or that we would like to attract. On the opposite are those who want to do nothing such as that and think that lower taxes and no regulation on growth would be the panacea. This is not unlike the debate that is going on nationally but here it has been a way of life with conspiracies alleged that projects are just crony capitalism to enrich the elites.Match this with the aging infastructure and older and decaying housing areas on the north side of town and we have a problem. It is a tale of two cities. One poor and living in rentals on the north and the more affluent in the new housing areas on the south and east. Many people growing up in FS have never been on the north side of Grand Ave.and vice versa. Couple this with low voter turnout on the north and the distrust of the more populist segments of any government or public/private partnering in projects and we have a problem. Plus the low education rates for the city. Another problem. Lack of dynamic leadership in local government or a willingness to follow is another factor. The lack of statewide political clout from the second largest city, for now at least, and that is a problem. We have to be a player in the state and tear down those FORT walls that have kept us from what I think is our rightful place. Sorry to go on so but I am frustrated.
I have been watching and participating in political processes in Fort Smith for many years and it is easy to see there is a problem. But, as you have well noted, the diagnosis is elusive. The stumbling block is in the first of your thesis. The Be. One must have a good handle on this before moving to the next step. We continually compare ourselves to NW AR but that is an unfair and unrealistic comparison. That area is fueled by very unique circumstances that gave rise to the wealthiest family in the WORLD earned its fortune there and keeps the business there. Without Walmart the combined population of Rogers and Bentonville might be 35,000. When it happens that ...>> Read the entire comment.

Great summary

It is a nuanced, multi-faceted conundrum we find ourselves in. Some of our problems are due to our unique "Fort" experience, but much of it is no different than the majority of older cities around the country. We have an advantage in that we are going down a well-worn path and can learn from others mistakes, as well as our own past errors, if we are willing to do so. Unfortunately, we seem destined to continue with blinders on down the same old path every other post-industrial, rust belt, stagnant central city sprawl town has followed. At any rate, for me, the key takeaway is that pointing to cronyism or building regulations or other memes grossly over-simplifies or obscures the big picture problems and ignores the insular "Fort mentality" we must face head-on in order to overcome.
It is a nuanced, multi-faceted conundrum we find ourselves in. Some of our problems are due to our unique "Fort" experience, but much of it is no different than the majority of older cities around the country. We have an advantage in that we are going down a well-worn path and can learn from others mistakes, as well as our own past errors, if we are willing to do so. Unfortunately, we seem destined to continue with blinders on down the same old path every other post-industrial, rust belt, stagnant central city sprawl town has followed. At any rate, for me, the key takeaway is that pointing to cronyism or building regulations or other memes grossly ...>> Read the entire comment.

Old Fart Mentality, Thinking in Circles

Cronyism is the big picture and the cause of insularity. Everything else protects that for the few "elites" who benefit most. It is indeed that simple. So they old-timers should retire and get out of the way. They've enough wealth already.

Observations and History

The first comment I ever submitted to TCW a couple of years ago received a negative pompous response from The Observer. Although I still am not in total agreement with the big "O's" Opinions I keep an "Open" mind. With that said, let me say that this latest contribution to the ongoing civil, civic discussion is gratefully welcomed by me, and probably everyone else. Observer, you provide us with a concise economic timeline of our town's past. Thank You. What I conclude from this is that a certain mind-set has prevailed from the start where Fort Smith leaders have relied upon influences from the outside to drive what is produced from inside our city limits. We have been a way-station in the middle of a netherland throughout our history. The eras which brought prosperity to our town, via pioneers, railroads, coalminers, armed forces, industrialists, etc. were all during a time of growth and expansion from old to new across the continent. Still being touted are attractions for leisure dollars deposited within our city limits from the outside. That is only one side of the coin toss. Leadership must realize once and for all that we have been lucky to have outsiders take a chance on our town. Today there are better odds elsewhere. So what do we do to sustain and preserve the seeds of growth blowing in and settling here on the winds of opportunity? How do we keep human resources here? Cultivate that human resource for now and the future. It has been said, "buld it, they will come". Yes, indeed. Let's not forget the human capital which only needs quality of life to thrive. We already have municipal services which serve to the that quality. Let's utilize what we have to make a visible impact. See it, then they will come. Start simple, clean up our town. Wake up our dormant vacancies. Set aside our pie-in-the-sky, roll up our sleeves and get down to the nitty-gritty, True Grit if you will. Still, if we can't do it for ourselves, then get our of the way and let outsiders with experience settle here. They know the potential and have the means to share it for Fort Smith's benefit......Rather neighborly, I'd reckon. Get out of your own way and they will come also.

"Build it and they will come"

Really appreciate your comment Night Watchman. Thank you. You stated..." It has been said, "build it, they will come". Yes, indeed. Let's not forget the human capital which only needs quality of life to thrive. We already have municipal services which serve to the that quality. Let's utilize what we have to make a visible impact. See it, then they will come. Start simple, clean up our town. Wake up our dormant vacancies." My thoughts...the belief system that asserts all one needs do to do elevate their status is to build it ('it' being the vision, the dream) and they ('they' being the throngs of people whose attention is hooked by the 'it') will come...is a flawed system. It's flawed because it is incomplete. "Build it and they will come." is referring to form. And while form (either exceptionally beautiful or exceptionally ugly) can hook the attention of people and draw people to it, it is not the form that holds them there. Once the people have been drawn to the form what causes them to choose to stay or choose to leave is the content. Content is senior to form. Perhaps this is a sophomoric example I'm going to give here but I'm going to give it anyway. Throughout my life I have been drawn to some remarkably beautiful women. I was totally captivated by their form. But I could never build any kind of enduring relationship with the form. I needed something more. I needed content that had values, integrity, intelligence, philosophy, substance. Form can only hold one's attention for so long. Content can hold one's attention and keep one interested for a lifetime. The extant form of Fort Smith is the reflection of it's content. We can spruce up the form and make it quite alluring but unless the content changes...the people will not stay.
Really appreciate your comment Night Watchman. Thank you. You stated..." It has been said, "build it, they will come". Yes, indeed. Let's not forget the human capital which only needs quality of life to thrive. We already have municipal services which serve to the that quality. Let's utilize what we have to make a visible impact. See it, then they will come. Start simple, clean up our town. Wake up our dormant vacancies." My thoughts...the belief system that asserts all one needs do to do elevate their status is to build it ('it' being the vision, the dream) and they ('they' being the throngs of people whose ...>> Read the entire comment.

Sorry Watchman

If I came across pompous in a reply to you. I don't recall your comment or what I may have replied. I am very intrigued by Pilgrim's musings and look forward to the next. This is the most promising dialog yet. I get upset with those who complain about government and dedicated public servants and regulations getting in the way and out of the other side of their mouths complaining because the government does too little. I rejoice in those who do something positive or have positive comments and suggestions. Criticism is vital but ad hominem attacks are not. Let's make a difference.

frustration serves

Observer, I don't have a desire to see anyone in a state of frustration but when frustration prompts such a thoughtful comment as yours it is doing us a service. I appreciate the broader picture you provided. Focusing on specifics does have its place but the inherent liability in focusing on specifics is that doing so can blind one to the bigger picture not being able to see the forest for the trees. There is much within your comment that is worthy of excerpt but here's something you stated that caught my attention..."This paralyzing conflict continues. There are those who wish to fix the infrastructure and provide amenities to the people who live here or that we would like to attract. On the opposite are those who want to do nothing such as that and think that lower taxes and no regulation on growth would be the panacea." My thought...I wonder if it is an impossibility to actually fix something if one doesn't really know what is causing the something that needs to be fixed?
Observer, I don't have a desire to see anyone in a state of frustration but when frustration prompts such a thoughtful comment as yours it is doing us a service. I appreciate the broader picture you provided. Focusing on specifics does have its place but the inherent liability in focusing on specifics is that doing so can blind one to the bigger picture not being able to see the forest for the trees. There is much within your comment that is worthy of excerpt but here's something you stated that caught my attention..."This paralyzing conflict continues. There are those who wish to fix the infrastructure and provide amenities to the people who live ...>> Read the entire comment.

You Can't Fix Arrogance

It was gracefully pointed out to City Management by The City Wire and many other concerned citizens that Flintco of Tulsa was investigated by the FBI and Indicted by the Attorney General for paying almost 2 Million dollars in bribes to get construction contract awards. Fort Smith City Leadership ignores the warnings and selects Flintco to build the new Fort Smith Water Park at a cost to the Taxpayers of near 2 million dollars more than a local contractor stated that he could build the Water Park better with more facilities. The local contractor said that they would include 2 indoor pools for year around use and for 2 million less than the Flintco price. So saving the Fort Smith Taxpayers 2 million dollars and getting them better facilities was not acted upon by City Management because they were too arrogant to admit that they may have made a 2 or 3 million dollar mistake. How do you fix that problem?

You Can't Fix Stupid

Thanks to The City Wire for exposing the Water Park Debacle but the answer to your question "AnonYmous" is, "You Can't Fix Stupid". However, another question begs for an answer and that is why would the County Judge and the City Administrator knowingly waste $2,000,000.00 dollars of taxpayer money?

Another startling Fact

The City Wire also exposed the waste of over $300,000 dollars of taxpayer money on a new study that is no different than previous studies that have been laid to rest in the City Hall basement.

The Have

I misspoke, the first of your criteria is The Have. The Be is the last. What I was referring to is the present condition.

Oh death where is thy sting for Fort Smith?

As I suspected all along this uber boring charade that has branched out noticeably is now headed around the final turn to the $340,000 FT Smith handicap and it's 'Manic Perfection' at the wire, with 'Fun and Interesting' a half length back. Yeah it'll work real good! Got me on this one guys..I read upwards of 5 paragraphs out of all this total nonsense while you set the sting up. You betcha make a bunch of motorcyclists dress like Jingles..you Lawrence Welk lovers sure do know how to get a town hopping!

What we see...

"What we see depends mainly on what we look for." ~ John Lubbock... Entertainer, you aren't the only one doing such a fine job at demonstrating the validity of Lubbock's observation...we all are. We are in good company. Remember, it's never about what you think it's about.

We hope you will enjoy the show..

Hopefully people will notice how just much effort you people are willing to put into the game you systemic game players are trying to set this town up to bet on. From your own delusional 'Midsummer Nights Dream', to Convivials (as if he isn't right here also by some name) tearful little old lady at the ferris wheel, to Observials plagiarism of Reagan's famous speech to Gorbachev..'Tear down this wall Mr..', and finally a catharsis of a feigned reconciliation... you guys are really putting in the effort this time but so far all you have done is tell us WHO was actually behind just wasting our $340,000. It was to try and get what you already wanted anyway confirmed. Keep helping...where would Ft Smith be without you?

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