Thursday, October 05, 2017

Help Wanted: External Enemy, Must be Existential Threat

We'll start with some arresting passages from Who Are We?, until one engages my blogging gear and we take off from there. Maybe we can even find their hidden unity and wrap them all together.

National interests derive from national identity. We have to know who we are before we can know what our interests are.

Historically, the emergence of nation states in Europe was the result of several centuries of recurring wars.... [But] in one estimate only seven of one hundred and ten wars between 1989 and 1999 were not civil wars. War is now more often the breaker of states than the maker of states.

The notions of nation, national identity, and national interest may be losing relevance and usefulness. If this is the case, the question becomes: What, if anything, will replace them and what does that mean for the United States?

Historical experience and sociological analysis show that the absence of an external "other" is likely to undermine unity and breed divisions within a society.

"You" and "I" become a "we" when "they" appears...

To define themselves, people need an other. Do they also need an enemy? Some people clearly do. "Oh, how wonderful it is to hate," said Joseph Goebbels.

Humans, Freud argued, have only two types of instincts, "those which seek to preserve and unite... and those which seek to destroy and kill." Both are essential and they operate in conjunction with each other. Hence, "there is no use in trying to get rid of men's aggressive inclinations."

"A part of being human," as a committee of psychiatrists put it, "has always been the search for an enemy to embody temporarily or permanently disavowed aspects of ourselves."

BING! This I think goes to the essence of the left: they simply cannot exist without projecting disavowed aspects of themselves into conservatives. We aren't the violent ones, obviously. We don't riot when we don't get our way. We don't burn down our cities. We don't use violence to suppress contrary opinions on college campuses.

The other day I read that fifty percent of the crime (or maybe it was the shootings) in this country occurs in two percent of the counties -- and you can be sure they aren't red counties. Without looking, I would bet they are Democrat strongholds that have been run by Democrats for decades.

Let's be honest. In other words, let's indulge in a thoughtcrime, which is to say, unvarnished truth. We don't need gun control. Rather, we need to prevent people who cannot even control themselves from controlling guns. Who might these people be? Who and where are these people who are incapable of governing themselves? They are not evenly distributed. Not remotely. If not for certain violence-prone subgroups, America would have the crime rate of Tonga.

In any event, you always know what a leftist is thinking, because it consists of what he accuses conservatives of thinking. In short, his imputations and accusations are just his own impulses and emotions experienced by proxy.

Think of, say, Keith Olbermann. It is difficult to imagine a person more unhinged with fascist-level rage. But we are the fascists. Right. Isn't it obvious that he is simply managing the content of his own disturbed mind via imaginary others? What is MSNBC but a kind of mental therapy for liberals in need of projected enemies? Lawrence O'Donnell? I've never been close to that angry in my life, over anything. What would be the point? It doesn't help solve the problem.

It all comes back to, as Bion put it, the problem of thoughts and what to do with them. Yes, they're a problem, and our whole life consists of managing them. I am reminded of the man who, on his death bed, lamented that his life had been full of troubles, the great majority of which never happened.

Think of the SJW. Whether male or female, her life is FULL of troubles: racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia, patriarchy, white privilege, etc. There can be no peace of mind in such a psyche, ever. Rather, her life takes place amidst a swarm of imaginary threats and enemies.

But don't even try to relieve her of this burden, because without it, she will be left to her own buzzing hive of envy, hatred, and persecution. A paranoid deprived of enemies is literally reduced to psychosis; in order to heal, the person must own these psychic fragments and rebuild a coherent sense of self without projecting them into others.

In developmental terms, it is called transitioning from the paranoid-schizoid to the depressive position. It is very difficult to achieve this with a single patient. Impossible when dealing with millions of them, especially when their delusions are reinforced and rewarded by the dominant cultural establishment. And when sanity is positively punished.

Which it always is: for you will be persecuted for my sake. If you are not being persecuted, then you're doing it wrong. Ah ha! How then is this different from the way the leftist feels persecuted by his imaginary demons? That's a very good question. I'll come back to it.

In any event, for all practical purposes, the best one can hope is to manage what amounts to a psychotic core in such a way that it doesn't cause too much destruction. Not for nothing is politics called the organization of hatreds.

Like anyone short of a saint, I have a Greedy and Acquisitive side that cannot be satisfied. I don't try to completely stifle it, nor do I project it into my ideological enemies. But I don't let it wreck my life, or detract from my Infinite Satisfaction for the Gift of the Moment.

Rather, I let it blow off a little steam by, for example, collecting CDs. Or, I let my aggression out by hating the San Francisco Giants. Or, this weekend it will be the Arizona Dirtbags. Who knows, maybe John McCain will be in the stands, so I can double my enmity. But it's all harmless. Like the way dogs play by enacting their aggressive instincts. Except I really do detest John McCain. But I don't want him dead. I just want him to go away.

Which is one of the main sociological purposes of sport: I HATE YOUR GUTS HA HA HA! Which is why it is so distressing -- and depressing -- for the genuine haters of the left to inject their unmanageable rage into our fantasy space. The point is to pretend we're at war, not to actually foment civil strife.

Back to the question of how to tell if you are no different from an SJW who uses the political space to manage her psyche. It's too vast a subject to cover in the remaining time. It's really another way of asking, What are the characteristics of objective psychological maturity? I'll try to tackle this tomorrow....

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

You Had One Job, Assoul

Man has one job. Or three, rather: know truth. Cultivate virtue, AKA do good. Create and love beauty (or at least refrain from making the culture even uglier).

Each of these is related, so it's really a one-in-three situation. The rightly ordered soul loves truth, wants to do good, and is repelled by ugliness. Or, truth is the virtue of the intellect, virtue the beauty of action, and beauty the truth of creativity.

Before we proceed any further, let me say that this is an off-the-cuff meditation on evil -- the sort of evil carried out in Las Vegas three days ago. My only promise is that it will be a completely inadequate exercise in futility.

Everyone wants to know "why" he did it. Usually we "know" why right away: he was an Islamist, or a Bernie Bro, or a cop-hater, or whatever. As if that is a sufficient explanation! We could say that Stephen Paddock did it because he wanted to kill a lot of people. Obviously.

But even if we eventually discover that he was motivated by an ideology or religion, that doesn't really answer the deeper question, which is, Why do people want to murder innocent people? How and why does this thought ever enter their minds? In no other species does this occur. If not a function of humanness, it is certainly a feature. Why is someone attracted to a murderous ideology to begin with?

Thinking about this yesterday, I was reminded of Freud's theory of the death instinct, which few people ever took seriously. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean the phenomena the theory tries to explain don't exist and aren't in need of explanation.

For example, I've had a number of leaks in my tires lately. Let's say I have a theory that my liberal neighbor is sneaking into my garage at night and pounding nails into them. Even if this theory doesn't pan out -- and I'm working on it -- that doesn't mean the leaks aren't real. Much less does it mean that I shouldn't sneak into his garage and flatten his tires for being such an irritating moonbat.

What exactly was Freud trying to explain with the theory? Let's find out! Prof. Wiki writes that "the death drive (German: Todestrieb) is the drive towards death and self-destruction":

The death drive opposes Eros, the tendency toward survival, propagation, sex, and other creative, life-producing drives. The death drive is sometimes referred to as "Thanatos" in post-Freudian thought, complementing "Eros"...

It's very much as if we exist in the crosscurrents of two arrows, one ascending upward into love and unity, the other downward toward the inanimate state. Instead of a one-way movement from the inanimate to the animate, it is more like a complementarity between the two: Freud "found it ultimately 'an urge in organic life to restore an earlier state of things' -- the inorganic state from which life originally emerged."

There are people who hate themselves -- who are self-defeating, intro-punitive, guilt-ridden, and prone to shame. Freud would say that this is the death instinct turned inward. Others turn it outward, AKA externalize it. And again, even if we reject the death instinct explanation, there is no doubt whatsoever that such people -- millions and billions of them -- engage in this defense mechanism.

This subject is very much tied in with the problem of aggression. Man is an aggressive animal, or at least potentially so. To back up a bit, all animals are either predator or prey. Wolves and sheep. Man is both, but this isn't the source of his flaw. One man -- our police, or military -- uses aggression to protect the sheep. Another uses it to slaughter them.

I'm sure you are aware of how many people -- especially liberals -- see aggression as the problem, as opposed to the uses to which it is put. Nuke imperial Japan to end World War 2? Good. Nuke Japan because you're a crazy and paranoid dictator? Not good. "Enhanced interrogation" because you're dealing with a known terrorist and are trying to save lives? Good. Torture people for the thrill of it? Death instinct. Or something.

So, yesterday I was wondering if there might be some way to update the death instinct.

By the way, I think there is something like this operating in certain types of addicts. A heroin addict such as Tom Petty or a barbiturate addict such as Kurt Cobain have very peculiar motivation, as if they want to return to the blissful oceanic oneness of the womb -- before there was all this duality, tension, asymmetry, and frustration. It is one surefire way to make the torture stop in the tortured soul. It's like a living death. Or, life without the hassle of being alive.

(I know the feeling well from my two post-colonoscopy experiences with fentanyl. Paradise is guarded, but there are ways to slip past the cherubim.)

Now I am reminded of Dracula, which I watched the other night. You know, the undead. Note that in order to maintain his undead status, he needs the living blood of victims. That is of course a myth, which is to say, entirely true. The left puts the bite on various victim groups, draining them of their living individuality in order to go on being as a viable political entity. Can you imagine a more vampirish woman than Hillary Clinton? I can, but we're running out of time.

Anyway, I pulled some of my old psychology books from the closet to see if I could find a way to update this thanatos business. Back in the day, one of my main influences was Ignacio Matte Blanco. He has this to say about the death instinct: the study of biology is embedded in standard, classical logic, but "there is some evidence of bi-logic also in biology." That is, in order to be, "life requires death, and in a way both are co-extensive."

To be or not to be is not the question. Rather, how to negotiate their complementarity. It's the difference between a living death and a life-in-death.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Random Thoughts on Randomness

I wasn't planning to post. In the wake of yesterday's horror story, I am reluctant to say anything, because most anything one says will sound trite, vicious, stupid, or agenda-driven. I suppose that's the point of a trauma: it shatters one's usual categories for interpreting and understanding reality, and we are left to reassemble the pieces of our narrative in more or less defective ways.

Leading up to the trauma (any trauma), Everything Makes Sense. Of course, it -- meaning life -- never really makes sense. Rather, we simply superimpose a grid of logic and predictability, which most of the time works. But trauma comes along and reminds us that our narrative grid is just a fairy tale.

On a more micro level, think of Tom Petty. I was reading this morning of how he was a tortured soul who struggled with an abusive childhood, insecurity, severe depression, a miserable marriage, heroin addiction, and alienation from his children.

Nevertheless, he apparently came through it all, and then BOOM! The worst sting of all, just when you least suspect it. Indeed, if Petty were conscious, he might well have said something like, "What's this?! This can't be! I battled my demons for decades and came out the other side of hell! You know, resurrected!"

That same cosmic BOOM is awaiting us all, no matter how many comforting stories we tell ourselves. And perhaps more often than not, it will be a Total Surprise, as it was for the victims in Las Vegas. Were they ready for it? What a stupid question! How many people have the luxury to meditate on their death every day, to keep it front and center, such that it is the Constant Companion? And even then.

People understandably don't like to ponder the randomness of it all. If our personal fairy tales are there to deny the power of chance, our collective ones attempt to do so in a more systematic way.

As to the latter, you might say that this approach tries to situate the random element in a higher order -- similar to how Thelonious Monk could take the sour note and integrate it into a deeper harmonic structure. That requires a large musical mind. The smaller mind will just hear the wrong note and not know what to do with it. It's just a mistake instead of an uppertunity.

I think it takes a wide and capacious soul to acknowledge the power of chance, which amounts to conceding our permanent and insurmountable ignorance.

Churchill for example, observes that "The longer one lives, the more one realizes that everything depends upon chance," and that "Chance, Fortune, Luck, Destiny, Fate, Providence" are but "different ways of expressing the same thing, to wit, that a man's own contribution to his life story is continually dominated by an external superior power":

If anyone will look back over the course of even ten years' experience, he will see that many incidents, utterly unimportant in themselves, have in fact governed the whole of his fortunes and career.

Especially in war, "Chance casts aside all veils and disguises and presents herself nakedly from moment to moment as the direct arbiter of all persons and events."

Churchill knows of what he writes. Examples from his life abound, but on one occasion during WWI, when stationed at the front, he was called to a pointless meeting that was ultimately canceled anyway. Five minutes after he grudgingly took off for it, a bomb landed in his trench.

What is one to think in the wake of such a near miss? Yes, "I was spared." But why? And by Whom? And why not the others? Etc. Churchill was aware of a "strong sensation that a hand had been stretched out to move me in the nick of time from a fatal spot." But he doesn't pretend to understand the nature of the Hand.

Can we control the Hand? No, of course not. The best we can hope to do is tip the scales. There is no 100%. I would compare it to the casino, where the odds are always tipped in favor of the house.

Indeed, the house -- Death -- always wins in the end. But perhaps we can do things to delay his triumph. I, for example, have type 1 diabetes. That's a big tilt in favor of the house. Therefore, I do everything I can to nudge it back in my direction, for example, taking medications to keep my blood pressure and cholesterol even lower than they already are, working out every day, avoiding stress, sleeping well, getting enough alcohol, etc.

But we can never actually see the state of the playing field. I'm trying to tip it in my favor, but there is no controlled experiment. You can do everything right, but things nevertheless can and will turn out wrong.

Perhaps in the end, the best we can do is place the randomness in a higher order, a la Monk. Is this an intellectual dodge? I don't think so; chance presumes predictability; randomness must be parasitic on order. Indeed, the only reason we can perceive chance is because of order. Otherwise the two would be indistinguishable.

Robert Spitzer writes that "Death and loss are intensely negative moments within an ultimately loving eternity."

In this context, our brief lives are "a time for choosing who we are and who we will become." Thus, "Death is significant for only one major reason -- to compel us to make the fundamental decisions that will define our eternal character."

We know when things go wrong. But we will never know how many times the angel of death has passed us by. No one can hear or see the countless bullets flying past as we navigate from one horizon to the other. There is one with our name on it, but that should only serve to keep our souls concentrated on that distant shore.