Friday, December 30, 2016

One Hundred and Seven

Freud believed the desire for sexual activity motivates all our behavior. Whatever we think we want, sexual activity is what we really want.

Not just any form of sexual activity, but genital orgasm, the only form of sexual activity Freud considered normal (He was as much of a prude as those people who regard as normal only sexual activity between a man and a woman who are married). A desire to engage in an activity because we find it pleasurable in itself, whether or not it culminates in genital orgasm, he considered perverse. That’s why he called the infant polymorphous perverse.

Those Victorians who regarded children as sexually ignorant/innocent were closer to the truth than Freud was, because children explore their bodies in the same spirit of curiosity they explore everything. The world is new to them, and they take pleasure in all of it. That pleasure is not specifically sexual, much less specifically genital. It’s only when we become adults that we lose interest in the world and decide that Freud was right; genital sex is the only pleasure in life. Children know better.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Ond Hundred and Six

I’m still reading the neoFreudian’s book, still on the chapter about the anal-sadistic stage in which Freud said the infant’s love for its mother turns to hate. It brings to my mind the failure of our attempt to recreate the family on the macrocosmic level, the level we used to call society before Baroness Thatcher told us there’s no such thing. Most people’s love for society has now turned to hate, as has their love for their families, because neither gives them what they need.  

Freud’s origin theory of the family and society seemed to me mistaken when I was a child, and knew more about childhood than Freud remembered; but his mistake was useful to me, as other people’s mistakes often are, because it made me think about why it was wrong.

Freud always referred to the infant as ‘he’, which is wrong because not every infant is male; and even when it is, it doesn’t think of itself as male. It hasn’t yet developed what psychiatrists call gender identity, a sense of being male or female.

Freud said the infant sees itself and its mother as one, so he should have realized it’s wrong to characterize it as male. If mother and child are one, there’s no difference between them, sexual or otherwise. Only when the infant becomes aware that they’re not one does it seek to discover the reason why they differ. And it's not sex. It’s property ownership. The infant asks whether it belongs to its mother, or its mother belongs to it.

Freud thought he had the answer. He regarded the infant as male because he regarded 19th century Western European capitalism as the most highly evolved society, and the male property owner as its most highly evolved member. Men own property, and women are property.

What Freud called The Omnipotent Infant is male by definition because he owns his mother as the capitalist paterfamilias owns his wife. A mother caters to her infant son as a servant caters to her master.

But men don’t own only women. They own other men as well; men without property who are therefore other men’s property, their employees. 

Freud wasn't interested in the psychology of the poor, but presumably he would have said men without property endure being owned and used by other men because they’re masochists who see themselves as castrated men, just as women do (Or so Freud claimed).

The Omnipotent Infant’s reign ends when he discovers his mother is actually his father’s property.

At first the infant wants to kill his father so that he can retain possession of his mother. When he realizes his father is too powerful to kill, the infant gives his mother up. But he does so reluctantly, and only under the threat of punishment (specifically castration, which Freud should have known was inappropriate because he said the infant was polymorphous perverse; specifically genital sexuality defined adulthood).

When he comes to understand that giving up his mother was the right thing to do (because in taking her mother from his father, her rightful owner, he'd violated the law of property ownership, the fundamental law of society), the son submits willingly to his father and learns to love him (being careful not to love him too much, as much as he loved his mother; no father wants a homosexual son). He then becomes a property-owning paterfamilias himself, like the father he now loves. 

Freud called this maturity, which confirmed for me that society is founded by violence and perpetuated by hypocrisy. Coerced love can’t be sincere.

I knew it didn’t have to be like this.

I was young enough to remember how I felt lying in my crib, and it was not omnipotent or murderous. But I was soon enough made aware that not every infant is filled with love for its mother, this wonderful being who anticipates its needs before it becomes aware of them itself. 

Not every infant is lucky enough to have a loving mother, as I did. A happy childhood, like a happy adulthood, is the exception, not even but especially among the prosperous bourgeoisie who were Freud’s patients.

Not only is a happy infancy the exception, but the supposedly perfect union of mother and infant is seldom ended by the infant’s discovery that it has a powerful rival in its father, as Freud claimed. Most people live in poverty; therefore when the infant discovers its father, it doesn’t see him as a powerful and threatening rival. It sees him as a weak man, little more than a child himself, infantilized and emasculated by his submission to more powerful men.

I discovered soon enough that I was surrounded by murderous adults: omnipotent Infants grown older but no wiser, still enraged that the world didn’t love them as they deserved to be loved.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

One Hundred and Five

There are things everyone knows without having to be told. These are the things we call common knowledge or common sense.

We see that everything which has a beginning has an end. Knowing our own existence had a beginning, we conclude that it, too, will one day end.

There are things not everyone knows, but learns when s/he becomes a member of a community. 

Most communities consist of individuals who all share a common ancestor or way of life. Human communities are unique in that they can also consist of individuals who all share the same beliefs, or say they do. 

Most human communities, or at least their founders, have claimed that humans do not die as other animals do. They, or their essence, is immortal; or will be, if they join the community and obey its leader.

This defies common sense, and most people do not believe it, despite what they say. What unites most people into a community is not their common belief in things that defy common sense, but their common agreement to suspend their disbelief in these things because they believe belonging to a community, even one based on illusions, is better than being alone. This may be the greatest illusion.

Most people work hard to forget what common sense tells them, and remember what illusions they must believe or pretend to believe in order to be members of their community.  I’m in awe of the work that takes, and the cunning it takes for people to deceive not only each other but themselves. 

I don’t strive to live without illusions because I imagine I’m stronger and/or smarter than other people. I do it because I’m too weak and lazy to do the hard work I'd have to do in order to live with others and their illusions.

Monday, December 19, 2016

One Hundred and Four

I strive to strip myself of all illusions, so that I may leave this world as naked as I entered it.

Most people cling to their illusions, mistaking them for a defense – not the best defense, but for people without money or power the only defense – against a cruel world. But the world is neither cruel nor kind. That is itself an illusion. The world only seems cruel or kind to those who imagine it exists in the same way they do, and loves or hates them in the same way they do it.

If we create illusions to protect ourselves from the world, and grow used to relying on them, it will be painful to lose them – as, sooner or later, we must. Better to live without them.

But striving to live without illusions is difficult when for most people illusions are what make life worth living.   

Sunday, December 18, 2016

One Hundred and Three

I awoke this morning, as I often do, with a phrase echoing in my mind: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. 

It seems a paradox at first; but even people simpleminded enough to think things must be either one or the other know it’s the simple truth. When times are good for some, it’s because they’re bad for others. In order for Charles Darnay to live, Sydney Carton must die; and it's a far, far better thing for the Marquis St. Evrémonde, the aristocrat whom Darnay becomes, that Carton die for him willingly. This seems a paradox because the truth is rarely simple.

Scott Fitzgerald is supposed to have said “The rich are different from you and me”, to which Hemingway is supposed to have retorted Yes, they have more money". They didn’t actually say these things (The truth, as usual, is more complicated); but if they had, it would have been a paradox not only because both were telling the truth, but because most people would regard both Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway as rich, yet they both seemingly regarded themselves as being different from the rich. It’s not a paradox because however rich the rich become, compared to most people, the rich never think of themselves as rich because they don’t compare themselves to most people. They compare themselves to people who are even richer than they are.

Whenever ordinary people complain that the rich become rich by stealing from others, the rich say their complaint is motivated by envy. This is a paradox because it’s the rich who are motivated by envy. They steal from others because they compare themselves to people who are even richer than they are, so they never have enough.

When ordinary people complain about the rich, they're motivated by common sense, not by envy. They know that when the rich steal from others, the whole society suffers, not just their immediate victims. But the rich don't regard themselves as members of the society they plunder. That's how they justify plundering it.    

But ordinary people seldom do complain when the rich steal from them, because they compare themselves to the rich just as the rich compare themselves to those who are even richer than they are. Ordinary people become willing accomplices to the crimes of the rich not even but especially when they are themselves the victims of those crimes, because they don't want to admit they're victims. We respect the strong and despise their victims.

Le secret des grandes fortunes sans cause apparente est un crime oublié, said Balzac, parce qu'il a été proprement fait. It’s no secret that great fortunes are founded on crime. But in order to commit a crime properly, so that he escapes punishment, a criminal must seduce his victim into becoming his willing accomplice. When everyone is a criminal, or wants to be, no one wants to see justice done.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

One Hundred and Two

I find it difficult to have conversations with other people because we don’t agree about even the most basic premises. Most of them seem to think a statement must be true or false. They don’t understand, or don’t want to understand, that we’re limited beings. We can’t know anything with certainty.

Of course this is only how other people seem to me. I could be wrong about them. Perhaps they know better. It’s difficult to know what other people think; and easy to conclude, based on the evidence of their actions, that they don’t think.   

If our goal is to tell the truth (which it seldom is; more often than not our goal is to conceal the truth, or what we think is the truth, from others, or from ourselves, or both. It’s an impossible goal because we don’t know the truth well enough to know what to conceal; therefore even when we try to lie, we tell the truth. And vice versa), we must distinguish between what we know, or think we know, with certainty, and what we hypothesize based on the available evidence. But we are limited beings, so the evidence available to us is limited. The most we can say with certainty is that the evidence available to us seems to us to support our hypotheses. We can’t even say with certainty that we’ve interpreted the evidence correctly, because we don’t know ourselves with certainty.

We assume we’ve interpreted the evidence correctly when we test our hypotheses by acting on them, and the results are what the hypotheses predict. But this doesn’t prove our hypotheses are true at all times in all places; only that they're true at this time in this place. We can never know what’s absolutely true. We can only know what’s true for us.

Most philosophers dismiss this kind of conditional truth as nothing more than illusion. They say only truth that's true at all times in all places, for all people, is real; which means we are ourselves illusions, because despite what some claim, we are limited to a time and a place.

The world we’ve made for ourselves - a world of ideas which seem more real to us than physical reality, and which we claim is true at all times in all places, for all people – is in reality more transient; not just illusion, but delusion.

Because we can never know absolute truth, we make hypotheses, and hope they're close enough to the truth to serve our needs. If they don’t, that can mean our hypotheses are false, or it can mean our idea of our needs is false. But it’s easier to see that our idea of the world is false than to see that our idea of ourselves is false.  

I think I usually know others better than they know themselves; and what I know – about them, and about myself – leads me to believe we’re more alike than we are different, and - contra Socrates - they know right from wrong as well as I do. They don't need a Socrates to teach them right from wrong in order to do what's right. They don’t do what's right because they don’t know what others think is right. They care more about appearing to be good than actually doing good.

But we can’t rely on others to tell us what they think is right - most people don't know what they think, and rely on others to tell them - so it's simpler to do what we think is right without worrying how it appears to others.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

One Hundred and One

Money is shit, said Freud; and shit money. Does this mean money's worthless? Or that shit has worth?

Money has no value in itself, but it gets us things we value. To say money has no value is to say this world, and all the things in it that money can buy, has no value.

Shit has no value in itself, but it gets us things we value. Shit was the first, and is still the best, fertilizer. What Freud called the symbol of death and decay is also, as fertilizer, the ultimate source of food and life. Shit as fertilizer is the nothing from which all things grow.

My life is shit. Instead of making something good with the talent I was born with, I wasted it. Most of us waste our lives, turning our gardens into wasteland (another of my recurring dreams).

If our species should ever wake from this nightmare we call history, perhaps others will learn from our mistakes and grow gardens on the dunghill we used to call civilization.

Monday, December 12, 2016

One hundred

Freud, near the end of his life, postulated the death instinct, or Todestrieb, which Stekel renamed Thanatos, equal and opposite to Eros, the life instinct. He said all organisms seek to die, but in their own way. NeoFreudians, who learn Freud’s theories in the same way most people learn the theories in which they profess to believe – by memorizing them, without understanding them – don’t understand Thanatos, so they ignore it, as most people ignore things they don’t understand. But people used to understand it.

We are limited, capable of knowing only a few things at any one time; so when we learn something new, we forget something old. The new thing we discover is more often than not a rediscovery of something our grandparents knew, but our parents forgot (because they learned it without understanding it). Thanatos is one of the things our grandparents knew. Socrates, at the beginning of what we used to call Western civilization, said life is a rehearsal for death.

NeoFreudians (and not just the professionals; we’re all amateur neoFreudians now, not even but especially those of us who profess to be experts) pretend to believe that children don’t know about death, just as Victorians pretended to believe that children don’t know about sex. Both are secrets supposedly known only to adults, and being initiated into these secrets is what it means to become an adult (because it obviously doesn’t mean acquiring adult responsibility, power and maturity. Most so-called adults are as submissive to, and dependent on, their rulers as they’d been on their parents when they were children).

I’ve been thinking about this because I awoke this morning with a tumult in my head. Apparently I’d had not just a dream, but what Jung called a ‘great dream’. But I couldn’t remember it.

Freud said dreams are the royal road to the unconscious, and I used to travel that road easily. But it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to remember my dreams.

I usually read two books at a time, preferably on related topics. One of the two books I’m currently reading is about the Kama Sutra.

It says the Kama Sutra isn’t about sex, but about pleasure. It’s a guide to living a life of pleasure, for those able to devote their lives to it.

The other book is a neoFreudian’s attempt to make sense of Eros and Thanatos.  

We’re unhappy, says the neoFreudian, not only when we get the things we want, but especially when we get the things we want, because it’s then we discover we don’t really want what we think we want. What we really want is to return to the past (as did Marcel in À la recherche du temps perdu) and recapture that oneness with the world that an infant feels when feeding at its mother’s breast.

Before I fell asleep last night, I read the neoFreudian’s chapter on the anal-sadistic phase, in which the infant becomes dissatisfied with the world’s inability to satisfy its hunger, and its love for its mother turns to hate.

I couldn’t remember my dream when I awoke, but the tumult in my head gradually resolved itself, as the cacophony of an orchestra in rehearsal gradually resolves itself into music, into the words of the Hindu axiom: Everything is food. Life feeds on life. However much we want to avoid hurting others (if for no other reason than that our awareness of their pain distracts us from our pleasure), the best we can offer them is jakta, the quick and least painful death.

I then remembered a recurring dream I used to have. Invited to a banquet (Life is a banquet, say those who live for pleasure), I discover the main course, which at first appears to be meatloaf or kibbeh nayeh, is in reality a pile of shit. It wasn’t last night’s dream, but they seem related.

Some people come into this world, so like a garden, eat its fruits until they're sated, and expect the rest of us to eat what they leave behind; and what they leave behind is shit.  

I tried to change the world for the better. They change it as we all do, turning what we eat into shit. Changing life into death.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Ninety-nine

I live like a hermit, rereading the books in my library rather than reading newer books or having conversations with other people. Not because I’m shy and/or have nothing interesting to say, but because they – the other people and/or the newer books - have nothing to say that I haven’t heard and/or read before.

Learning what I think interests me more than learning what they think, because they don't think.  

People seem to find me interesting, and start conversations with me. I can’t remember ever having had a conversation, or a relationship, that I started. Other people have always started them, and I’ve responded because I hoped they’d prove interesting. But as I got to know them, I’ve always found they have nothing interesting to tell me, nothing to teach me.

Not only do I know more than they do; I know them better than they know themselves. And the effort I must make to keep from telling them what they don’t want to know eventually becomes more than the relationship is worth to me. I want real companionship, not based on deception.

I know, from reading their books, that there are interesting people in the world, people who know more than I do; but they don’t live in my part of the world.

I used to tell myself that, were I to meet the authors of these books, I’d find them disappointing because people always put the best of themselves into their books; but I know, from experience, that this is true only of the authors of mediocre books. A book is only one part of its author, but not always the best part.

I don’t like people. I love them. More than they love themselves, judging from their fear of knowing themselves. I expect better of them than they expect of themselves, and forgive them for things they can’t forgive themselves. But I can’t forgive them for lying, to me or to themselves, because they only harm themselves.      

Monday, December 5, 2016

Ninety-eight



We are all governed by fear. But it's not fear of death, as most neoFreudians claim.  

Most neoFreudians can’t or won’t understand Freud’s theory of Todestrieb. They dismiss it as the product of an ailing failing mind instead of the culmination of a lifetime’s thought.

Some of them even claim children don’t know about death, just as Victorians claimed children were innocent/ignorant about sex. They replace one adult secret with another because they think adulthood means learning things children don’t know, when more often it means forgetting things children do know.  

Freud said all organisms seek to die, but in their own way. Todestrieb is not self-destructive. What people seek is a good death, the culmination of a good life. What they fear is the meaningless death that ends a meaningless life.

Life should be a struggle to recreate the world, to leave it better than we found it. The death that ends this heroic struggle is a well-earned rest. But for most people there is no rest, because they can’t or won’t do what they know they should.

They console themselves for that failure with fantasies. Their victories and their defeats are equally illusory.

We’re all fascists now, soldiers just following orders. Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die.

All my life I’ve waited for my real life to begin. Now it’s almost over. I began it in hope, but now I’ve accepted that I never had a chance. Few people ever do.