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?