The Fort Smith Experience Part 15 (f)

"We cannot stay amid the ruins. Neither will we rely on the new; and so we walk ever with reverted eyes, like those monsters who look backwards."    - Ralph Waldo Emerson from his essay Compensation

If you've never read Emerson's essay Compensation I highly recommend doing so. It's a profound message.

For me, the excerpt from that essay that I chose to open this post with, is a remarkably accurate description of Fort Smith's "almost" mindset that is so enduring and tenacious.  Fort Smith cannot survive amid the ruins of its history nor is it capable of embracing the new i.e., the new ideas, new points of view, the thought of a new identity, new methods, new directions, etc. Instead, it seems that Fort Smith, at some point, became a static caught within the equilibrium of forces emanating from what was and what could be (past events and future potential).  Consequently, the city has ever since walked with reverted eyes, like those monsters who look backwards.

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

Several years ago someone asked me why I thought Fort Smith behaved the way it did.  Without any hesitation and quite matter-of-factly I replied,  "It's a habit."  My response surprised me!  I made sure, though, that my outward appearance did not reveal the sudden and unexpected puzzlement that occurred within.  I was puzzled because even though my reply felt accurate, I didn't really understand exactly what I meant by "It's a habit."  How was it a habit? That's what I was silently wondering to myself. The wonder came and went and the moment dropped out of sight in memory.  However, as I was writing my last post, part 15 (e), the mental recording of that particular moment bubbled up to the surface and this time I had a context that I could fit it into.  In relationship to my recently arrived at theory I knew what it meant.

A habit is a repetitive behavior  (emotional, mental, or physical) that the individual is not conscious of.  Whether the habit is considered "good" or "bad" is irrelevant.  What is key, though, is that a habit is occurring outside the person's field of awareness so they don't know anything about it.  Once the person does becomes aware of their habit it ceases to be a habit and thereafter becomes a conscious choice.

I have come to strongly suspect that the city of Fort Smith has the habit of being a fort. In other words, I don't think Fort Smith ever really stopped being the military fort it was conceived to be nor has it stopped fulfilling its purpose and functions that were placed in its charge at the time of its conception.  Fort Smith, of course, has no awareness of its habit (that's why it's a habit). Basically, this habit is an aberration of the original programming of the military fort that over time transitioned into becoming a city that, for whatever reason, was never disabled in the transition process.

Perhaps it seemed that when the physical representations of the fort ceased to exist that the fort, too, except only as a symbol in name, ceased to exist.  As the tangible symbols of the fort gradually disappeared into history during its metamorphosis, the mindset of the fort remained in the collective mind but without anyone really noticing.  As the military fort progressed through the transformation process of becoming a city, the fort mindset somehow slipped unseen into the subconscious realm of the collective mind that had begun to form the instant the belief that a fort was needed on the Arkansas River took thought form in the mind of General Thomas Adams Smith.

In Fort Smith's subconsciousness the identity, purpose and function of the fort has lived on and has remained ever active. Existing outside the city's field of awareness, this "fort programming" (fort belief system), has continually acted as a powerful unseen and controlling influence that directly affects the Be (identity/personality - decisions, choices, objectives), the Do (the commissions and omissions) and the Have (the end results) of the city.

We all know what a fort is and that the basic and primary purpose and function of a fort is defense.  A fort is a position of defense. Forts literally have strong walls to protect what's inside those tangible walls from whatever it is that the fort was established to defend against.  Forts also have walls that exist in the abstract symbolized by boundaries drawn out on a map. What lies within those boundaries is also protected and defended by the fort.

Obviously, what a particular fort is established to defend against varies depending on the extant circumstances of a perceived actual or potential threat/conflict.  Defense and attack are really two sides of the same coin and both actions have as their basic motivation...the fear of loss.  Fear of loss, of course, is totally dependent on the deeply rooted belief of more than and less than, which is the root belief that is the foundation of all social hierarchies.  Social hierarchies exist to reinforce and validate the belief that people are inherently unequal and, thereby, serve as justification for all manner of atrocities to be committed against any entity that is perceived and judged to be less than or more than.  Yes, that means, for example, that Joseph Stalin and Robin Hood are just two sides of the same coin operating from a belief system of something being more or less.

An active fort would have a better than good idea of what it is protecting/defending, what it is defending against and why it needs to do so.  But...what if a fort lost all relative cognizance of what it was protecting, what it was defending against and why and it was robotically reacting to anything that might change the status quo of its perceived condition as if it were an enemy that it needed to defend against?  This, for now, hypothetical scenario is what I suspect has been going on with Fort Smith since.....when (?).  The "fort belief system" that is active in the subconscious level of Fort Smith's collective mind, is carrying out the purpose and functions of a military fort robotically and reacitively.  Something along the lines of...if it moves shoot it!

It's good that we still have quite a few more letters left in the alphabet, we made need them to fully explore this theory.  Here's something to consider until the next installment is posted....supposing for the time that this theory is viable, in what ways do we see this aberrated subconscious "fort belief system" manifesting in the day-to-day activities of the city, the decisions and choices of the city administrators and how law enforcement, as well as the judicial system, is used in the city?

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Comments

In What Ways

is the "fort" belief system manifesting itself in the day to day activities of the city administration, law enforcement and judicial system? The court system beginning with the District Courts are products of the state constitution. The mentality of these are set by the occupants of the office. These are all elected officials. At the district level the courts exist as revenue courts. Fines collected go to the general fund of the city and county. Court costs collected go to pay for various activities of the court system from libraries, salaries, legal aid etc. These activities could not be funded without the court costs. It is the attitude of the judges that are the determinant whether the people and lawyers appearing before it feel they are being treated judiciously. The prevailing attitude, I have no personal experience, is that they are very self important and dictatorial. The circuit courts are a step above and the higher the judge the less the attitude of superiority. What does this tell us about the "fort" mentality? Nothing basically. I know of other jurisdictions where the attitude is much worse. I know of other jurisdictions where the reputations are worse and of other circuit courts where the attitudes of the judges are terrible. We are not distinctive. As to the police, I feel that they are very "fort" minded. They are a closed shop and very reluctant to work with people trying to put on events. An example is the pub crawl. It is a big night of DWI arrests after asking folks to come drink. A little compassion and help just to get them off the street would be an asset, but remember the District Court is a revenue court. But the chief is not a native and could it be that it is his directives and attitudes that control? But the attitude is restrictive and controlling. "Fort" mindset? The administration. "Fort" mindset. They are all employees. According to some there is no accountability as the boss is not elected and answerable to the people. Don't necessarily buy that. We have been through several administrators and the criticism never varies. The board of directors is elected and whomever is in office can fire the administrator if his attitude or performance is not to their liking. "Fort" mentality? No, my conclusion is the "fort" mentality is a manifestation of the populace in their voting preferences. It is the community not the courts, administration or police. It is a lack of forceful leadership and a zeal to maintain rather than to grow and expand our horizons. As long as we have this attitude of mistrust and resistance we are going nowhere.
is the "fort" belief system manifesting itself in the day to day activities of the city administration, law enforcement and judicial system? The court system beginning with the District Courts are products of the state constitution. The mentality of these are set by the occupants of the office. These are all elected officials. At the district level the courts exist as revenue courts. Fines collected go to the general fund of the city and county. Court costs collected go to pay for various activities of the court system from libraries, salaries, legal aid etc. These activities could not be funded without the court costs. It is the attitude of the judges ...>> Read the entire comment.

police, courts..."fort" mindset ?

Observer, thanks much for taking the time to explore this. I really appreciate your input. My apologies for such a tardy response The vagaries of life, including the unexpected death of a close friend, have been holding my attention captive for the last several days. While I was reading what you had to say about the police and judicial system with regards to the "fort mentality," it occurred to me that those systems, at least in the beginning, are not necessarily good places to try an zoom in on and isolate the presence of an aberrant "fort mentality" existing outside the scope of the usual sensors. After all, the police force and judicial system are essentially the embodiment of an overt fort mentality (a mentality of defend and protect) that is needed in any city. The police department and judicial system do have real threats in present time that they are defending against so to spot any unseen and inappropriate fort mentality existing in this system would be extremely difficult to do. And, as a side note, despite the psychologically intimidating form the police dept. displays e.g., black SUVs, black uniforms, black and more black (the symbol of the secret, hidden and unknown)....any encounter that I've ever happen to have with a Fort Smith police officer has always been very sane, helpful and pleasant. Observer, as for your conclusion that the "fort" mentality is a manifestation of the populace in their voting preferences...I very much agree. 'Voting preferences' are the most obvious but I suspect it goes much deeper and broader than that. I hope to discuss this in depth as we proceed in this exploration that seems to keep growing branches.
Observer, thanks much for taking the time to explore this. I really appreciate your input. My apologies for such a tardy response The vagaries of life, including the unexpected death of a close friend, have been holding my attention captive for the last several days. While I was reading what you had to say about the police and judicial system with regards to the "fort mentality," it occurred to me that those systems, at least in the beginning, are not necessarily good places to try an zoom in on and isolate the presence of an aberrant "fort mentality" existing outside the scope of the usual sensors. After all, the police force and judicial ...>> Read the entire comment.

You get what you don't vote for

..."manifestation of the populace in their voting preferences"....you say? The decisive preference is that most people don't vote at all.

Mistrust

The current City Administration in Fort Smith has given most people many good reasons to mistrust them and without going into all the nasty details, it may be time for new people with new ideas.

new people with new ideas

Anon, there is never not a time for new people with new ideas. For any community, whatever the size, it is necessary to its good health and well being that it continually integrates new people with new ideas that align to and forward its basic purpose. That said, hopefully, every soul in the community knows exactly what their community's basic purpose is. If they don't, how could anyone ever be expected to discern between those ideas that align to and forward the community's purpose and those that don't. Of course, anon, and this goes without saying but I'll say it anyway...if you have a community that operates in a state of fear, it will never be open to integrating new people with new ideas. Instead, it will indiscriminately, in one way or another, overtly or covertly, bat away any and all new people with new ideas. A community such as this will suffer continuous poor to bad health and have no real sense of well being.
Anon, there is never not a time for new people with new ideas. For any community, whatever the size, it is necessary to its good health and well being that it continually integrates new people with new ideas that align to and forward its basic purpose. That said, hopefully, every soul in the community knows exactly what their community's basic purpose is. If they don't, how could anyone ever be expected to discern between those ideas that align to and forward the community's purpose and those that don't. Of course, anon, and this goes without saying but I'll say it anyway...if you have a community that operates in a state of fear, it ...>> Read the entire comment.

They have buckled under pressure often

There are maybe 69,000 people scratching their heads and wondering why things occur here and maybe a hundred people working diligently to try to make them happen no matter if it's by hook or by crook. You don't necessarily associate the latter with a set of scruples instead you're far better off going with games. Something isn't right but 69,000 people here will predictably just sit through it..compared to a few that will pressure those in charge to death if they don't. Welcome to Ft Smith.

Say It Often Pilgrim

Great comment Pilgrim regarding the fear of Fort Smith Leadership but we must remember the words of President FDR who said "we have nothing to fear but fear itself" and another great quote that comes to mind by a author unknown is "fear is the thief of all dreams." With that said, its my opinion that weak leadership always operates with a pack mentality that enables them to maintain the fear factor needed to control a community. When there is fear in a community of leadership and its many arms of control, dreams, ambition, and success begin to fade in the community psyche.

fear

anon, thank you for your comment. It's appreciated. You've prompted a question...why it is that we seem to inherently believe that we need leaders? I wonder if lying underneath this 'need' there isn't some fear that is the base motivation.

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