Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Yo, Abdul, Keep Your Thoughts out of My Brain!

Oy vey, if only the mind were confined to the head, so much trouble could be avoided in the world. Ah, but then it wouldn’t be possible for us to become human or subhuman, would it? Nor would we even be “subjects” properly so-called, for human subjectivity is irreducibly intersubjective.

This is why, among other reasons, Descartes' pseudo-brilliant wisecrack “I think therefore I am” is such pompous frogwash. No you don’t and no you’re not, René, at least for the reason so-stated. Your mind thinks and you exist because other minds do, because from birth you were immersed in a matrix of thought and language that antedated your being here. This anterior structure of thought is what ushers us from mere animality into the realm of the truly human--if we are lucky.

That is, we can be born into a deviant and oppressive cognitive, familial, and cultural structure that actually prevents our humanness from emerging, or presents us with a bizarre and twisted model to emulate, as in the Muslim Middle East. There, you are often not allowed to become a human being on penalty of dea.... Huh? What the....

Well now, if that don’t put the wink in co-inky-dink. My email just alerted me that a comment was left on One Cosmos. It’s from reader Van, who--speaking of nonlocal cosmic intersubjectivity--was thinking the exact same thought I was thinking at the very same moment. Van writes that “What the world of Islam has never had, because of the allah-encompassing nature of its religion--which dictates right action in all areas of life--is freedom. The freedom to choose, for well or ill, and to suffer the rewards or consequences of their actions. The people of Islam don't have the luxury even of deciding whether or not to shave, or what to put on in the morning, because some aspect of the Koran, or of Sharia, has already made that decision for them. There will be very little adult behavior where adult decisions are never given the freedom to be made.

Exactly, Van. We are two minds that bleat as one.

This touches on the reason why “artificial intelligence” will always remain artificial, because 1) computers will never be capable of being intersubjective members of one another, and 2) while it is possible for computers to be horizontally open systems, a computer can never be a vertically open system, which is precisely where we gain access to humanness--Love, Truth, Beauty, and all that other divine stuff.

The difference between humans and apes is not merely genetic. Nor is it based merely upon brain size or complexity--as if the brain simply got big enough one day and human consciousness just suddenly popped out. Frankly, that is a childishly scientistic sentiment worthy only of atheistic pneumapaths like Richard "White Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins. For humanness did not, and could not have, emerged in thatta way. For example, say human beings somehow become extinct, and the evolutionary field is left open to lizards and other LGFers. The non-LGF reptiles, regardless of what changes occur with their brains, will never become “human.” I don’t just mean morphologically human. Rather, they will never gain access to the human realm of consciousness.

Why? Because the conditions of their development will not allow it. As I wrote in One Cosmos, human consciousness specifically emerged--and only could have emerged--in the transitional space (in Winnicott’s sense) between our incomplete brain neurology and devoted caretakers and/or scaregivers.

To review the situation for newcomers, human babies are born many months “premature,” because otherwise mothers would not have been able to survive the ordeal of giving birth. And only a helpless, instinct-poor and neurologically incomplete primate is capable of leaping over the chasm that separates animal from man or baby gnats from adult Lileks--or man from God, for that matter. (There is also the matter of hands, without which we could not become human, but we don’t have time to get into that. Suffice it to say that we must possess a means of abstraction in our own body structure before we can discover the symbolic realm as such.)

As icky as it sounds, as human subjects we are unavoidably members of one another, in a spooky manner that mirrors the nonlocal structure of the cosmos itself. (This gets into another separate issue, for if the cosmos itself were not internally related, consciousness could not be. But that is a topic for another post.)

Here is another so-called coincidence, for our beloved Dr. Sanity has also chosen this day to write about intersubjectivity. Perhaps after reading my post, you may want to mosey on over to her blog, because she and I have a complementary way of thinking about thinking. (As you read it, note how she essentially monitors the intersubjective space between her and Steve in order to deduce what is going on inside of Steve. Note as well that a computer will never be able to replace Dr. Sanity, although the defense attorney did--a very telling point. I know the feeling of a lawyer wanting to hire a fellow machine, not a human.)

“Projective identification” is one of the most important concepts in psychoanalysis. Whereas projection is a defense mechanism through which we unconsciously project something from ourselves into someone else, projective identification goes deeper. It involves first projecting into someone else, and then forcing the other person to actually take on the quality that has been projected into them. While projection is generally considered a neurotic defense mechanism, projective identification is much more primitive and troublesome (although it also has an absolutely vital adaptive function, in that it is how preverbal infants communicate with their parents; indeed, that is the reason for its existence).

It is actually not difficult to tell when one is on the receiving end of projective identification. That is, you suddenly feel is if you are unwillingly being enlisted into someone else's psychodrama, and being forced to play a part. The person acts toward you as if you have the qualities they have projected into you, and may well goad you into responding in ways that confirm to the projector that you actually have those qualities--that they aren't projections at all. If any of my readers are married, you probably don't need any further explanation. (Mrs. G--I didn't say that. That was Petey.)

Psychologists see this process all the time in more primitive "borderline" patients, who may suddenly experience the therapist as, say, an abusive or withholding parent. It also happens to be the primary mechanism of the Islamists. (I might add that this process is transparently present in my perversely devoted trolls, which is why I am leaving the comments up from yesterday. As always, they reveal nothing about me, but speak volumes about the impoverished and/or conflicted interior life of the troll. Note the anger, the projection, the bitterness, the envy, the devaluation, the attempt to “spoil” me for God knows what obsessive reason. I never ask for whom the troll bawls, because sadly, he always bawls for himself.)

Although he doesn't use the term, Lee Harris's excellent book Civilization and Its Enemies describes the phenomenon perfectly. First, he points out why the process is invisible to us. That is, people who have gone through the "civilizing process" forget that this took millennia, and have no understanding of those who have not completed the human journey. They "forget how much work it is to not kill one's neighbors, simply because this work was all done by our ancestors so that it could be willed to us as an heirloom.”

Just because we as a nation no longer have enemies that we need to primitively project our bad qualities into, we are fooled into thinking that we actually have no enemies, or that if we do, there is some rational, logical, "root cause" that can explain it--that if we are only nice enough, or compassionate enough, they will come around. But as Dr. Sanity or ShrinkWrapped will confirm, this is completely ineffective with projective identification, because the projector emotionally needs you to have the qualities they are projecting. Just as the Islamists need Israel or America to be the source of all evil in the world, my frischky trolls need me to be “His Assholiness.” Please don’t feel compelled to defend me from them. Like Dr. Sanity, I don’t actually mind. For my own idio-socratic reasons, I am also amused by them.

In reality, an enemy is someone who regards you as an enemy, whether or not you deserve the title. We clearly had an enemy for twenty or thirty or seven hundred years before 9-11, not because Islamists were our enemy, but because we were their enemy. We couldn't see it because it was a completely irrational process, based on projective identification. But with sufficient provocation, we have finally been enlisted into the Islamists’ psychodrama, taking on the role so vital to their psychological equilibrium. In other words, we are not their enemy because we are evil--because we have done anything in the real world, such as placing our soldiers on Saudi territory, or supporting Israel. Rather, as Harris points out, we are evil because we are their enemy.

If we do not realize the extent to which we are the enemy of the Islamists, it is almost a sort of condescending insult to them, just as it would be to a patient in therapy if the therapist dismissed their hostile transference as deluded or immature. As a therapist, you have to actually tolerate the projections and allow yourself to be, in the arresting image of Melanie Klein, their “toilet breast.”

First, there is an obvious psychological need for the projective fantasy, or it wouldn't be there to begin with. As Harris explains, a fantasy ideology such as Islamism is not a rational response to the world arrived at in a logical, sober manner. Rather, like "Leftism," it is a transformative belief, meaning that its primary purpose is to psychologically transform the person who believes the fantasy. And believing the fantasy is an end in itself--it has no purpose other than to make the fantasy seem like reality. Therefore, the real reason for 9-11 wasn't actually to bring down western civilization. Rather, it was to further the fantasy by getting us to play along with it. There's no way to reason with these psychologically unsophisticated abduling banjo-pickers and nonlocal yokels.

Iranically, what this means is that, even though we have no real enemy and the Islamists have only a make believe one, because of projective identification we end up with a real enemy. However, underneath it all is a fantasy that we must nevertheless eradicate, and the only way to do that is to bring a little thing called reality to the Islamic world. In the coming days, let us pray that the Jews, who have long been instrumental to the cause of human post-biological evolution (”three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax,” in the words of Walter Sobchak), will successfully introduce a little reality to the psychotically evil fantasists that surround them. Oddly enough, it's what they're begging for. Why not give it to them, good and hard? It's the empathic thing to do.


These synchronicities are starting to give me a psibrain herdache. ShrinkWrapped also wrote about paranoia, projection, and psychotic anti-Semitism today.


Anonymous said...

This is a brilliant post. I learned through psychoanalysis how to move past projective identification. It began like this: "Even though I am seeking help from you, I am better than you, and will make you feel devalued."

When that didn't work, it became, "Even though you are helping me, I am still empty and angry, and will make you feel useless, a failure, pathetic, idiotic, selfish, and cruel."

When that too failed to fill me, it started to become, "I envy you and the things you have; I see this now. Because of my bad childhood, I will never get better. You will have to masochistically accept that I am pathetic and care for me no matter how intolerable I am."

When this also failed to fill me, I began to see the truth: "The only way I will ever get better is by taking responsibility for my inner world and my actions upon you. I am now starting to see how hurting you was the only recompense I had for how much I hurt inside. I no longer want to hurt myself; therefore, I no longer want to hurt you. Please bear with me as I try to learn about myself, reality, and the truth."

This process continues in my psychoanalysis today. I have a more realistic sense of the other person and his tremendous efforts to help me, which I greeted with hate, envy, and disdain -- in order to empty myself of hate, and make him feel so helpless that he would devote himself to me. Thankfully, he has stood up for himself throughout my analysis and demanded I take responsibility not only for my life, but for my treatment of him.

When you come from a fucked-up background like me, this is hard work. But compassion, benevolence, generosity -- in its liberal forms -- offers no way out of this kind of hell. Just like a benevolent foreign policy fails to meet the Islamic countries in their own language -- in the language of hate and envy -- liberalism misinterprets the hate and suffering it sees in the world. It is not a cry to be babied and gratified; it is a primitive cry to be responded to in a realistic way that transforms that hate into something adaptive.

Strength and even violence can be compassionate when they draw limits and boundaries that give shape to suffering.

Gagdad Bob said...

Beautiful! And truthy to boot.

Lisa said...

That was very elegantly stated, Lasch. Good for you. Feeling good and living good is contagious!

Anonymous said...

A great post, thanks. The sort of thinking and insight that keeps me coming back to One Cosmos every day. Too bad you aren't getting 100,000 hits per day.

Anonymous said...

I suppose this is slightly off topic, but does anyone remember when Johnny Carson would do his bit by reading billboards, or classified ads, where he'd find some relation between the message and the company or location or blatant hypocrisy, that would just be a total crack up?
I don't remember a particular one, but they'd be something along the lines of
"Here's a person determined to change the world, this message says 'You have only your chains to lose, down with Capitalist Pigs!', and below that 'This pamphlet can be yours for only $9.99' and he'd give that Carson Incredulous glance, and you'd be in stitches.
Well I found myself wishing Carson was still at it with all the new material available at dailyKos that you linked to regarding your being obnoxious. The first two off the list were:

"What a pompous twit."
followed by their signature line:
"Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change. - Tennyson "

and the next:

"some people should never be educated they just spew nonsense with fancy words and that fools the REALLY dumb people"
followed by their signature line:

Fortunately I've got a really good imagination, and I could just see Carson reading those comments and bouncing his expression off of Ed McMahon and the camera, and I was busting up so bad I couldn't read any further.
As God clearly states between all of his lines, "Thou shalt have a strong appreciation for REALLY good comedy"

Anonymous said...

Same story, other side of the earth.

Therein the being followeth dictates of likes and dislikes,
And findeth ne’er the time to know Equality:
Avoid, O my son, likes and dislikes.

If ye realize the Emptiness of All Things, Compassion
Will arise within your hearts;
If ye lose all differentiation between yourselves and others, fit
To server others ye will be;
And when in serving others ye shall win success, then shall ye
Meet with me;
And in finding me, ye shall attain to Buddhahood.

Milarepa 1051 – 1135 AD

black hole said...

Based upon what you have said, I am now for all out war on Islam. If we can only put the smack on them in such a way as they learn from it... It would be nice to "cure" the disease of Islam without killing the patient.

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