Monday, July 04, 2011


I just watched the BBC David Suchet version of Freud’s life and found it packed with ideas.  For instance, one of the criticisms of Freud's landmark work, "The Interpretation of Dreams," was that it was not scientific, but rather a "NOVEL."  This exposed the origins of our mania about what-is-truth in the over-respect given to science in the last century (the twentieth).  Now we have given medicine the weight that was once allotted to magic.  The man in the white coat is considered infallible, allowed to go anywhere, to meddle in people's lives, so long as he/she is doing "science."  
Freud had to fight hard to assert that "Interpretation of Dreams" WAS science.  It has been hard to dismantle that and reveal that even science is NOT infallible, but a constructed world as much as others.  Just the same, it is a VERY sturdy construction.
Yes. But HOW is knowing this relevant to WHAT. Let us pretend people become aware of this which they will not. But let us pretend. HOW does knowing this change what. The man in the white coat still has all the power. 1.) He's a man. 2.) The white coat is a version of the suit. Up one rung on the ladder. HOW is knowing that suits are disguises change the power structure. It doesn't. When the man in the white coat says take your clothes off everyone (well, not everyone) does. Or the power structure says: you can't play the game.
"We are only trying to help you," will be the structure's first response. The second response will be: "There are consequences."
It is a patriarchal culture in extremis. AWARENESS is, too, a game of words.
It assumes that if everyone is AWARE, then...
Then what.
Change will come -- how.
I'm not buying it.
Awareness is not enough. It is a spinning of wheels. In fact, it is reinventing the wheel.
By settling for AWARENESS (I so remember the arguments over safe sex education) we delude ourselves that awareness is part of the construct of human behavior.
The evidence does not support this.
The issue is not awareness. Awareness changes those already aware.
Behavior is the issue.
Awareness is like trickle down. In theory, it would seem that it should work as an agent of change. This theory is as misguided as Freud ever was.
Pavlov was on to more truth than Freud.
What changes human behavior. Other human behavior. And the issue does not end there. The evolution of the brain is very clear. One layer on top of another because it gives us advantages over other species.
What changes an entire cultural power structure.
Accidents and mutations.
Not awareness.  
I’m also reading Harold Bloom’s “The Global Brain,” which pulls in many more ideas than Freud, mostly biological and historical.  He gives a detailed and amusing answer to the question of evolution.  The sequence goes "pain > awareness > communication (story/image) > common cause > alternative structures > new contexts present new opportunities.  Then there is an upwelling that overturns the status quo.
What everyone has neglected has been shifts in the environment which are mostly what compel evolution.  The climate changes and everyone must adjust -- possibly by evolving physically and mostly by evolving behaviorally (memes).  Nature and nurture interact always.
The subtext of this conversation is AIDS, a virus from a sequestered jungle in Africa that is undetectable for a long time, but ineradicable without huge changes in both nature and nurture, physical state and behavior.  So far we’ve made too little medical progress -- people can go on with life but only at great expense -- and behavior is deeply resistant even though countries and families are gutted.
Who has AIDS.
He’s not gay and white and upper-middle-class.
He’s black and he’s incarcerated. He was already vulnerable. So were Africans with no health care because colonialism still lingers.
I think I got what I came seeking.
Am still seeking and getting what I seek. It is no longer awareness. No one in a million years of evolution can explain to anyone what I am aware of. It doesn’t mean anything.
What I do does. It’s behavior that counts.
If I tell the boys I work with that I love them, they will call me on it. It’s what they do.
It doesn’t matter what I say. They will hold my feet to the fire. It’s about what I do and what I do NOT do.
How is this advantageous for me. Easy.
It’s not that I sexually desire them or even that they keep me young. No one and nothing can do that. Nature or nurture.
Meaning homosexuality or at least atypical behavior that puts them at risk in a culture that does not want anyone to be atypical, because typicality is the basis of commodification.  Of course, gay, white, middle-class is a good “type” for sales but black, incarcerated, infected is not -- except to the degree that their involuntariness is a route to commodifying them: prisons and monitoring are major businesses.  Standards are low and no one minds the suffering of inmates except their relatives.  Until the day the incarcerated are released and carry AIDS, hepatitis C, tuberculosis and paranoid aggression into the community.  This could be addressed by awareness.

Gestalt therapy focuses more on process (what is happening) than content (what is being discussed). The emphasis is on what is being done, thought and felt at the moment rather than on what was, might be, could be, or should be.
I was so glad to see that they actually used the word: awareness.
It doesn't work as awareness is hocus pocus.
If we were ALL just AWARE...
There are short term gains when I use this stuff but it all has to do with the individual getting some attention.
It's like addiction -- people lapse. It is a constant stream of what is advantageous to the individual. Here and now. I am most amused to see a lot of writing on the human brain that speaks of evolution as something that was a dynamic ten thousand years ago. Phooey. A hundred thousand years ago, we had the brains we have now.
What we were aware of was what was advantageous for us to be aware of.
When it comes to ideas, it was Darwin who actually had one. The rest of it is entertainment.

We have created an AIDS sub-culture.  To cure the virus we must change that culture.  Men in white coats can’t do that.  People who write novels can.


Art Durkee said...

Still, one cannot take ACTION without being AWARE. Both of what actions need to be taken, and also aware of the consequences.

Lack of awareness, willful ignorance, turning a blind eye to the problems of the day: these are all endemic, and get us nowhere except a sliding-down status quo. Willful ignorance in particular is unforgivable because it's willful, it's a choice. "Don't distract me with the facts!" You can't have ideology driving politics without willful ignorance to support its know-nothing stance.

I agree that awareness alone is insufficient. A lot of people learn something, then do nothing about it. A lot of people just sit on their hands in despair and hopelessness.

But awareness is a damn good place to start, and is necessary. to any solution: you cannot address a problem until and after you become aware that there IS a problem. And awareness is at the root of every spiritual tradition that is a practical rather than philosophical tradition, and those practices do yield results.

Anonymous said...

According to the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis, language not only reveals how we think, it in turn shapes our thinking. In our tribal language, any verb can become a noun by adding a kind of prefix. The language is made up mostly of verbs, some of which are re-tooled as nouns. Western thought indicates the idea of "I think, therefore I am." But our tribal language instead seems to say, "I act, therefore I am."