I posted this because I don't understand it. Help? *
Internal “code switching” is not just moving between languages, or as drastic as split personality (a response to trauma) or schizophrenia (almost surely an organic brain miswiring). It isn’t even as marked (necessarily) as the “internal family therapy” model in which people change their brain templates according to which family member has imposed those assumptions in past situations. (Needy mom; narcissistic dad; superstitious granny; comforting aunt; artistic uncle -- if circumstances echo the circumstances when that template was imposed, it will emerge unconsciously.) In fact, conscious and skillful code switching is a sign of sanity and even good health. A person who can mediate among codes, especially in their own minds but also in social settings, has hold of cultural and personal evolution, letting new things EMERGE that can persist and contribute effectively.
Minds and their patterns are closely woven to the rest of the body and will switch a person from one code to another as necessary: a fisherman at sea when a storm comes up doesn’t just rationally stop fishing and start making preparations to survive, the actual connectome in the brain changes from one based on fishing to one of seamanship. If two women are talking and a child interrupts with a need, this will switch the connectome and lose not just the topic but also the brain connections that sustained it. If this does NOT happen, the child will go without help. If it happens enough, the child will have that pattern forever and stop asking for help, perhaps in despair, or maybe with determination to take care of oneself.
If this happens intensely enough, maybe in combat or as a victim of abuse, a person can enter a state of alienation, so rarely used or perhaps newly invented, that they feel hypnotized, like zombies. A mild observation is that on the rez at a funeral, the closest mourning relatives will chew gum in order to preserve their poise. Somehow it keeps the brain away from weeping and keening, which is the way the old timers grieved. In fact, if the modern Blackfeet wanted to grieve in the old way, they would cut off the first section of the littlest finger of their youngest daughter. But the code has changed: what it’s proper to do has changed. Many reasons.
If a social group with one code (let’s say the public health people who try to force change for the good of the group and the good of the individual, never questioning why because that was already settled long ago, and never stopping to consider what is or is not force) tries to affect (I will NOT say “impact”) a group with a different code. (Life is short, the purpose is to survive with as little pain as possible, resources are limited, change is dangerous, you must must must stay hidden or you will be arrested and incarcerated which takes the one thing you have: your freedom and your cohort.) The result is frustration “justifying” violence. The enlightened sit down to study out the code and survival strategy of those they are trying to affect. (Just giving up the word “impact” might help.)
Usually successful people who are doing social-change tasks reach “enlightenment” by absorbing a progressive code. Listen to those you serve, closely monitor for results, share with others doing the same work, keep in touch with research, find your ego-balance somewhere else. Don’t expect any sudden changes, but that doesn’t mean they might not happen. Honor your clients. (Isn’t there a better word yet for those who need help?)
The hardest “other” code for me to understand is the rule that says: “Don’t find out. It will be worse than you think and cause you to vomit and reject me.” Everytime I’ve tested it, it has not been true. Censorship in the interest of respectability is not a concept I accept. Would I tell you about the mourning amputations among the Blackfeet otherwise? Some will be angry with me for telling you.
The secret codes, like the ones that govern sex and money, are the ones most in need of daylighting at present, because they are so gridlocked, damaging and unjustified that they need to be torn apart, reconsidered, and possibly abandoned. They are a deteriorating infrastructure as surely as bridges and sewers. The living situations of us all have changed, if only because of electronics, but also because of culture-mixing and uneven pockets of disastrous profiteering scraping across the continent: coal-mining, off-shoring, immigration “reform”, college loans. We have no consensus nor even an array of possibilities on hand. I do NOT mean to go back to a past that never really existed and I do NOT mean Puritanical moral locks on all the doors.
Nor have I addressed the terrible anguish of having to learn a new code. I had brutal teachers: 7th graders, some Blackfeet and some not. They treated me like an equal, which meant I was soon humbled, since they don’t give each other any slack. I had to give up a lot of cherished convictions, most of them about my own place and value in life. Teaching English went down the drain: the subject no longer exists. Many still didn’t know how to read, so how could I get into their frontal cerebral lobes to tinker with the big literary ideas of society and character? What right did I have to do that anyway?
I’m still fighting to hang onto the idea that “high” intellectual concepts can be applied to “low” ghetto problems with the outcome being useful to the “low” people. Why would the “high” even need such ideas except to gloat and be patronizing? In fact, to communicate theories to people trying to stay alive, is dangerous. They feel you are talking down to them, trying to make them hurt for not getting lots of degrees and making lots of money and saving their families (however defined). Being like “you.” Right. Gunshots are ringing in my ears. (Oh, only fireworks. Guns are the suicide weapon. Around here it’s silent knives that murder.)
I value Deleuze and Guattari with their metaphors of rhizome and nomadism, but when I went to the people who touted that frame of thought and who had come up from the ghetto to announce their survival through conversion/education, I found they were terrified. They were beholden to the extortion of academic approval, but also beholden to the betrayal of their intimates. Anyway, they were just plain afraid -- it was one of their codes: Life is dangerous. Don’t stick your head up. I could not keep my own job, so what right had I to endanger theirs? But I was shocked. I know some very uneducated people who are far more courageous, sometimes children.
In fact, those seventh graders knew things about their community that were terrifying to adults. Normally only emergency responders know these worlds exist but they don’t ask many questions about the formal philosophies involved. Sometimes the order-keepers shoot people; sometimes they find them dead and carry them out for burial. Mostly they lock up people. I asked the priest what he said to such people. He had no answer. The response was lost.
* I'm told the joke is that "foca" means seal but sounds like an Anglo-Saxon four-letter word that's not considered polite. The sweet baby is in the wrong code.