Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Pockets of Sanity in an Insane World

Did I add that I’m not a scholar? I know I’ve mentioned that I don’t consider myself a writer, not a real one, anyway. However, if you want to say “visionary,” I suppose I’m okay with that, so long as you mean it in a neutral sense. That is, for me, being “visionary” simply means seeing everything at once, or at least attempting to. It is trying to encompass as much of reality as you can in a single view. As such, there can be good visionaries and bad visionaries, and we must especially be on guard against the bad kind, for they are at the basis of most really evil movements in history. After all, Hitler was a visionary with an all-encompassing view that explained the whole of reality. So are the Islamists. All cults are headed up by a charismatic visionary of some sort.

On the other hand, our founding fathers were visionaries. St. Paul was obviously one of the most important, if not the most important, visionaries in history.

Newt Gingrich is a visionary, which is the reason why he probably wouldn’t be suited for president. Ronald Reagan was clearly a visionary, but in a different way than Gingrich. In Reagan’s case there was a strong component of very grounded spirituality that I don’t see in Gingrich. Again, this can cut both ways, but I would almost regard Reagan as a “nationalistic mystic,” similar to Hitler, only in a good rather than demonic way (interestng that leftists continue to regard Reagan as demonic). Sri Aurobindo described Hitler as an “infrarational mystic” who embodied the dark spirit of his nation. He clearly possessed unusual vertical powers over others, but in a wholly maniacal and diabolical way. Reagan, like Lincoln before him, came to embody America--almost as if he were the “idea” or logos of America made flesh. I do not believe that the strong emotional reaction that people have to Reagan has to do with Reagan the person. Rather, it has to do with his embodiment of the ideal of America.

How did we get off on this tangent? Oh yes--my troubling visions. For whatever reason, I just cannot see a thing and leave it as it is. Rather, the way my mind works, I instantly see all sorts of hidden connections between things that you might not think are connected. There are inductive thinkers who first see the parts and then attempt to build “upward” toward a model of reality. I am the opposite. It’s as if I first see the whole pattern, and then figure out how all the parts fit into the pattern.

For example, when I first began studying psychoanalysis some 22 or 23 years ago, I immediately saw connections between it and other things--quantum physics, chaos and complexity theories, neurology, history, politics, you name it. I never saw it merely as “a way to treat patients.” Instead, my mind reeled at all of the possibilities and implications.

Much of modern psychoanalysis revolves around attachment theory. In the early days, psychoanalysis was rather doctrinaire and detached from empirical observation of actual mother-infant interactions. Freud tended to regard memories of childhood as consisting primarily of fantasies and wishes, whereas now there is much more appreciation of the real experiences of children, and how those experiences shape character and development.

Instantly I began to wonder about the cultural and historical implications of this. Even when I was a big liberal, I was never really very politically correct. It very much went against the grain of my personality. In fact, I frankly thought most people--and especially most cultures--were more or less crazy. Even before studying psychology, I can distinctly remember thinking that the world was basically insane--that insanity was its default state--but that it was sprinkled with little “pockets of sanity.” The purpose of life was to locate or create one of these little pockets of sanity as a bulwark against the world’s perpetual madness. Your family should be a little pocket of sanity. America has clearly been the deepest pocket of sanity in world history. Perhaps you consider this blog to be one (which is why I pledge to be more vigorous in deleting and banishing insane trolls).

This, by the way, was why history was so boring to me in school, since it largely consisted of irrational people doing insane things. Naturally, I wanted to know why. But no answers were ever forthcoming. I was not impressed by the pyramids. Rather, I wanted to know why ancient Egyptians spent hundreds of years building oversized crypts for their pharaohs, where they would bury their family and slaves alive with them so they would have company in the afterlife. I didn’t care about the “beauty” of indigenous American cultures. Rather, I wanted to know why they thought it was a good idea to conduct human sacrifice and to cut the beating heart out of thousands and thousands of sacrificial victims in order to prevent the sun from going out. Why did Nazi Germany believe insane things? What really motivates Islamists to believe things that are not only untrue, but cannot possibly be true?

Clearly these are important, even fundamental questions. Think about it. Our current war, for example, is not over territory or resources or even ideas, because Islamism, properly understood, is not an idea at all, any more than nazism was an idea. Rather, it is plainly a mental (and spiritual) illness that uses whatever materials are at hand to elaborate itself and metastasize. If it were an idea, you could sit down and have a sensible discussion with them, which is why liberals are so naive. Islamism is a deep pathology that has even deeper roots in cultural and historical pathology. But where does cultural pathology come from? Where could it come from?

Here is where my visionary ideas could well be wrong, for the first place I want to look is in their manner of child-rearing, since that is where the vast majority of psychopathology emanates from. Of course, there are more or less purely genetic conditions such as bipolar illness, schizophrenia, and certain depressions, but those diseases afflict individuals, not whole cultures.

But what does one make of a whole culture, say, the ancient Greeks, whose men did not fall in love with women, but with young boys? Women and wives were basically regarded as subhuman nuisances, whereas the love between man and boy was idealized by poets and philosophers. Perhaps I am the one who is naive, but I just can’t understand how historians can look at such craziness and pass over it as if it were of no consequence, no different than their preference for columned architecture.

What could possibly cause ancient Greeks to be so psychosexually messed up? Perhaps we’re asking the wrong question. For if history is actually a field of insanity sprinkled with little pockets of sanity, we shouldn’t be surprised by this systematic abuse of woman and children. Rather, we should only be surprised when we encounter the opposite--humane and empathic treatment of the weaker members of society.

When we look beyond the beautiful art and timeless philosophy and examine the actual cultural beliefs of Ancient Greece, a disturbing picture emerges. Historians of ideas like to talk about the link between ancient Athenian and modern democracy, but these people were not like us. Well, not like me, anyway. You can speak for yourself.

We are naturally appalled at the barbaric way our captured soldiers are treated by the Islamist savages, but this was pretty much the norm in history. For example, the Mycenaean pirates of ancient Crete subjugated the peoples around them, who paid tribute with pre-pubertal boys and girls to be used as human sacrifices to their bull-god (just as Islamists make such sacrifices to their bullshit god).

According to Breiner, author of a book entitled Slaughter of the Innocents: Child Abuse Through the Ages and Today, the women of ancient Greece were essentially slaves. A wife’s function was to “look after the household and produce children--preferably boys.” While courtesans--who were used for pleasure rather than procreation--could be educated, wives were illiterate.

Similar to Islamic societies today, the ancient Greeks “viewed men as sane and stable while women were considered mad, hysterical, and possibly dangerous and destructive to men.” Furthermore, “a woman’s freedom was severely restricted” and she was without power. “A man could sell his daughter or sister into concubinage if he wished.” Children of concubines were simply “aborted, killed or sold into slavery.”

At the time of Pericles in the late 5th century BC, a girl could marry only through parental arrangement: “no man married for love.” And once the marriage took place and the Athenian bride went to live with her husband, “she was cut off from her family and became a menial worker in her husband’s home.” Even the children she bore were not her own, but belonged to the husband to dispense with as he saw fit. Out of a population of 400,000, only 14,240 people had full civil rights. The rest were women, children and slaves. Unwanted children were simply exposed on a mountainside to die. “In all the Greek cities except Thebes the father had the right to kill his child at birth without question. In all cities except Athens the father could sell his children to slave dealers.” Female infanticide was the norm. Very few families raised more than one daughter. Even then, girls were given inferior food and no education.

Breiner feels that the revulsion towards women was at the basis of Greek male homosexuality. Can you think of a better explanation? The fashionable modern idea is that homosexuality is “genetic” and not subject to environmental influences. If so, how does one account for the prevalence of Ancient Greek homosexuality? “It was considered quite proper for the young men of Athens to engage sexually with older men, and most did.” “Merchants would import handsome boys to be sold to the highest bidder”; these boys would “be first used as concubines and later as slaves.”

Breiner speculates that “homosexual pederasty was so universal in Greek society” because it was “a means of ‘rescuing’ the male child from the perceived dangers of women...” “Boy brothels flourished in every city and a child prostitute could be rented, even at the height of Athenian culture... A freeborn child might see his father having sexual relations with a child his own age who was a slave.”

I don’t even have time to get into the human and animal sacrifice. “Human life was considered so short and cheap that there was little concern about killing. When a town was captured the men were automatically killed or sold into slavery and the women were taken as concubines or slaves.” Traits such as “gentleness, kindness, industry, honesty, and integrity were scorned as effeminate and inferior.”

I could go on, but I think you get the point. Remember Petey’s law: history is basically insane, with pockets of sanity. One of the first tiny pockets of sanity to appear in history was the ancient Jewish people, which we will discuss tomorrow. All of us continue to benefit everyday from that little sliver of light that miraculously opened up in a world of infrahuman darkness.


Lisa said...

I'm impressed, from the worst post ever to one of the best in just two days! ;0)

I always get a kick out of how naive libs romanticize history and "exotic" cultures. If they only knew how brutal and barbaric most cultures are/were, they would completely deny it and insist that America still sucks (we are talking naive libs here, they'll never learn!)

I also think it's hilarious that whenever someone does a past life regression or that kind of thing, they always are some kind of queen, king, or nobleman, priest. It cracks me up, of course they wouldn't want to hear that they were just some meaningless slave that died under a huge block of stone at 19 and was swept to the side. How bout some dirty peasant that had no teeth and smelled and was illiterate? That is probably the majority of "past lives". Isn't this life complicated and exciting enough for most people?

I wish more people could see the big picture more clearly.

Sal said...

Lisa, what a treasure you are - you never fail to make me smile!

I can concur, everyone I've known who was pining for the _th century fjords, had niches other than peasant, servant or wage slave carved out for themselves in their imaginations.

What really pisses me off though, are the ones who want the world to stay 'picturesque', even if it means substandard everything for the peoples involved.

Bob - this was, to me, one of the most compelling and interesting parts of your book.

I was wondering what percentage of forward moving persons would there have to be in any society for it to make any progress? Clearly, even very dysfunctional societies can survive, and even force themselves on others, but not thrive. (Sister and I are still upset about the 33% unattached and 33% ambiguously attached babies, btw. We really hope that data is wrong.)

Or, more importantly right now, what's the tipping point for a society like America to survive defection from its ideals from within?

Lisa said...

Thanks for saying so, Sal! Humor is often underappreciated! Your comment about bringing everyone else down to the same level of suckiness really pisses me off, too. What's even worse is when you try to rationalize with those people, they always put themselves outside of everyone. So, in their reality, everyone should be at the same level except them because they are so smart or special or whatever! Their arrogance and fake superiority is really annoying, not to mention illogical! I just keep telling them that if they turn off their a/c, stop driving vehicles, using petroleum based products, ie. plastics of any kind and then let me know how that works for them and if the globe cools off, MAYBE, I will follow their lead. So far, no takers!

Tamara said...

The HBO series 'Rome', which aired last season, gave a glimpse into people's attitudes and practices in the ancient, pagan world.

As a Jewish woman, I'm struck at how very strange Jews must have seemed to everyone else during that time. For starters, they worshipped an 'invisible' G-d (which therefore didn't exist as far as most pagans were concerned); they treated women as beings who had basic rights; they abhorred child sacrifice and infanticide; they had a strict moral sexual code; and to top it all off, they wouldn't even eat certain foods!

I look forward to your post tomorrow.

JulieC said...

It's interesting that you mention child abuse and pederasty in ancient societies. A couple of years ago, someone - I believe a Palestinian man whose family moved to the States - wrote a book about the prevelance of child abuse and molestation in Palestinian culture. I think it was titled "The Sheik's New Clothes". I never read it it, but did see some excerpts that, if true, offered a glimpse of Palestinian culture as being very similar to the way you've just described ancient Greek culture.
Has anybody else here read or heard of this book?

geckofeeder said...

Of course you a a writer, and a generous one at that. I am a voracious reader. I know. You be da man.
Sal said,
"I was wondering what percentage of forward moving persons would there have to be in any society for it to make any progress?"
Someone said that" it takes one thousand masters praying to melt one heart of stone."
Thanks for the laugh. When I was younger someone gave me a mantra to say over and over which was"People are the way they are not the way I wish them to be". That really pissed me off bigtime.

Sal said...

I am loving the Troll-No-Mor policy.
Good job, Bob!

JulieC said...

Here is a Frontpage article from 2004 about the book I mentioned:


The book's full title is "The Sheik's New Clothes: The Psychoanalytic Roots of Islamic Suicide Terrorism".
The Author is Dr. Nancy Kobrin.

I bring this up because it seemed relevant to the discussion as a modern example of how a culture's mother/infant relationships, among other family relationships, may have a direct effect on the sanity of the culture as a whole.

The article above is what I had read before. It was striking enough that I still remember some of the details two years later. It also, at the time, brought to mind an even older news story (1994) about a muslim (Afghan) man in Portland, Maine, who was seen kissing his infant son's penis. He was arrested and tried, and for his defense "...according to the man's lawyer, and about a dozen Afghanis who attended the trial, that is accepted, and common, in Afghan culture as a show of affection." (Fun People Archive, http://www.langston.com/Fun_People/1994/1994BEI.html).

I apologize if this seems overly long or off-topic, but I thought it relevant to the discusion and wanted to cite my sources. I mentioned it earlier not as an example of "seeing what I want to see", as Dan suggested, nor out of some paranoid and unfounded projection about Muslim cultures, but rather as specific modern cases that more knowledgable people than I have reported on.

Gagdad Bob said...

As a matter of fact, I wrote an article about child-rearing practices in the Muslim world. I started working on it on 9-12-01:


Lisa said...

Your mantra is so true, Gecko. I used to get very upset when I was a little girl that something was not fair in whatever circumstance that may be. My mother would always answer that life was not fair. It pissed me off because there is always a (but x!). As I have gotten older I have come to accept the fact that not everything in life is fair and I just have to deal. It's too bad so many groups of people have poor coping skills and always play the victim. Life can also be wonderful, you just have to accept responsibility for your actions, good or bad, and try to do better. People that are not capable of accepting responsibility and coping in a non-violent way have to be done with. That is my solution to global warming, too!

OT, will the NYT or Durbin try to blame the 7/11 bombing in India on the neo-nazis? Protecting future jobs for White Americans?

Lisa said...


Dennis Prager had a very interesting discussion of this on his show a few months ago. He talked about how the Jewish law for adultery was different for men and women not out of gender inequality, but for the fact that men and women are different and have different needs. Women also have the ability to conceive children, as I am sure you aware. Adultery is bad, no matter who commits it, but adultery from women can be more serious because of the ability to conceive. Her husband will not be sure if any of the children are his, where as a wife who does not cheat can always be sure of who the father of her children are. Circumstances are different and Jewish law does seem to take that into consideration. May seem archaic in today's world but it makes sense to me. Dennis explained it in much more detail and more eloquently than I have, so please forgive me if I am not getting my point across clearly.

I am a non-practicing being-Jew. I try to see things from all sides and also the deeper layers inside. Sometimes, the eyes have a hard time seeing everything in perspective.

JulieC said...

Thanks for the article, Bob. You stated in the article that "...there is every reason to believe that the world of Islam can proceed through the same evolutionary process that saw the Christian West gradually master external and internal (emotional and cognitive) reality over the past 500 years, as childrearing practices became increasingly humane." While clearly, Islam can proceed through that process, do you think at this point that it very likely will?

It seems to me that a catalyst is required to spark this type of change. Perhaps if the fledgling democracy in Iraq is successful, the muslim world will begin to undergo the requisite evolutionary process, but it seems so very fragile at this point. As the Palestinians continue to prove, democracy does not always equal liberty or progress.

Tamara said...

Jonathan, I can assure you that I don't get my historical info from HBO :-)

In fact, half the fun is seeing what kinds of liberties the writers have taken with the actual history.

You are correct that the Romans did not practice human sacrifice - I should have clarified that. Sadly infanticide was practiced.

As far as arranged marriages among Jews were concerned, a woman had to give her consent. She could not be forced into a marriage. The ketubah also gave her certain basic rights in the event her husband abandoned her.

You are correct about men being able to refuse their wives a divorce. That is a subject for another day, however.

Bro. Bartleby said...

"Even when I was a big liberal, I was never really very politically correct. It very much went against the grain of my personality."

I would think "...against the grain of my temperament."

Bro. Bob: What are your thoughts on 'personality and temperament' and how the terms are used and misused today. I find folks speaking of their infants 'personality' when I would think they mean 'temperament.'
Bro. Bartleby

Jenny said...

Tamara said

As a Jewish woman, I'm struck at how very strange Jews must have seemed to everyone else during that time. For starters, they worshipped an 'invisible' G-d (which therefore didn't exist as far as most pagans were concerned); they treated women as beings who had basic rights; they abhorred child sacrifice and infanticide; they had a strict moral sexual code; and to top it all off, they wouldn't even eat certain foods!

This is probably at least one of the main reasons the Jews became so hated, because they were different and it seems to me that people are afraid of what they don't understand - like liberals and atheists who are afraid of Christians and Jews today, and subscribe to us all kinds of conspiracy theories. They perceive that we cause some threat to their well-being and likely have no rational idea of why they feel this way.

Anonymous said...

I have long suspected a connection between male-supremacist cultures and toleration/glorification of male homosexuality.

Since in a male-supremacist milieu women are nothing more than breeding animals, the only way to have sex with another "person" is with another male. I believe the expression "Women for breeding stock, men for love, boys for pleasure" came out of a male-supremacist society.

Islam is torn between a holy book that officially forbids homosexuality and a male-supremacist culture that would encourage/glorify it. In practice, there's probably a lot of toleration of it "as long as you don't get caught" -- especially among those who are rich and powerful.