Originally posted on The Australian Independent Media Network:
Yesterday the Australian reported that
“Australian Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn and WA Electoral Commissioner Peter Kramer handed their resignations to Governor-General Quentin Bryce today.
The resignations come just a day after the High Court, sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, declared the WA Senate result “absolutely void”.
Mr Killesteyn had been under immense pressure from the government over the loss of 1370 ballots.
Special Minister of State Michael Ronaldson said the Australian Electoral Commission “must regain the confidence of the community”.
“The government will in due course announce a new Electoral Commissioner who will be charged with the restoration of that confidence,’ he said.
Senator Ronaldson had previously warned “the electoral commissioner and the commission must accept full responsibility for what occurred’’.”
I do think people need to start using words with greater care, so that they do not make their own emotional concerns seem to be at the centre of the universe, though. Supposing I communicate to others, as the author may be trying to do, my sense of degradation at work, but I can’t take into account greater extremes of oppression, or variations of it, because I have already used the available words with too great a rhetorical effect in service of myself — well then I have exhausted communication even before I have begun engaging with others.
That is perhaps the problem with most forms of political correctness today. They immediately exhaust the possibilities of communication though the extreme use of language as a rhetorical device. One either agrees with the speaker or walks away shaking one’s head.
But outside the world of narrow, perspectival manipulation, reality opens up. At least, it has the potential to do so. Really, I think the problem with much of contemporary academia, in the humanities, is that it is stuck in this mode of limited, perspectival management. And this tendency toward socially engineering what kinds of meanings are permitted to be expressed is deeply entrenched in much of general society as a whole. That is why I have not been able to express very simple and even banal things about my past, but had to write a book to get thse things out of my system. People would stop me and imply I’m not permitted to speak of them. And then they would go to work on me, trying to manipulate my perspective so that I would take in reality in a much more narrow and socially contrived filter.
And in fact, that was quite traumatising, not because of the views I was expected to embrace as such, but because I was not permitted even to say the very plain and trivial things I wanted to relate about my past experiences in Africa. If you can’t relate even matter of fact things, you cannot make a cultural transition from one state of mind to another.
So, in fact that was why I chose not to pursue an academic career, because I can’t walk around in that kind of a straitjacket. It’s not only uncomfortable, but is is unhealthy. One would have first be mad enough to accept it. Some people are, and they comply to a limited degree.
But most people in the humanities are taught to use language to keep out what they sense to be “evil”. Under the label of “evil”, put the unknown, the wild that is just beyond the borders of suburban consciousness, the capacity for free thinking, experiences that happen to have grown up in locations where the gardeners of the contemporary, modern soul have not cultivated anything. Also place most of reality itself. It’s too tough and too wild and too wicked for the contemporary mind to try to come to terms with.
It’s not so much that the contemporary, educated person cannot come to terms with the historical existence of slavery, but they actively resist acknowledging even the slightest thing that is not already part of their purview. They view it as evil and undigestable. They may even downvote any attempts to communicate to them about it, on YouTube.
Something I’ve been reflecting on lately is that it is all just a game, this feminine-feminism, much like most things in US life are a marketing ploy. People say the sorts of things that others are already primed to respond to, so that they can get marketing leverage. It is much like using the basic appetites — sex, hunger, desire for recognition — to sell sugary beverages. If people are primed to feel guilty about not including women, this can be played upon to get the writer of the article about Wikipedia notoriety and funding support. She certainly does not have to mean every word she says. Those words are for leverage, on a deep emotional level, not meaning.
In terms of something slightly different from that, the expansion of traditional feminine modes of perception, reaction and behavior, into the mainstream is, I think, recognisable in the demand that other entities ought not to stand apart from the one who judges them, but be one with the judger and melded into a particular shape by him or her. This extends to much of literary theory as it is currently practiced. For instance you will find people asserting that the author has “gone too far” or made a structural mistake in his or her mode of writing. I noticed this most strongly when studying the criticism that had accrued on Marechera’s writing. For the most part the critics seemed to become out of breath and confused very easily, at which point they would return to that which was already familiar to them, like the concept of fixed identities, or proper social structure or a good upbringing. They couldn’t really extend themselves very far beyond their anchors in convention.
But what if the author writes a paranoid book not as a mistake, or because he can’t contain himself to write a more sane and sensible book, but because he WANTS us to feel paranoid? That level of artistry is hard for the majority of critics to countenance, but there is no a priori reason why this could not be so.
That we cannot know for sure what a book like BLACK SUNLIGHT is about, but still we think we recognise certain familiar shapes and forms in it, gives it a paranoid aura in relation to us, the readers. If a reader starts the book with a feeling of political certainty that war and/or revolution are desirable and for the best, by the end of the book one is left alone with oneself and with a feeling of extreme paranoia about both war and revolution and their viability. It is a paranoid book, written by someone who involuntarily lived through a revolutionary war and suffered as a consequence of that.
If you can’t take in that message as a critic, perhaps a differerent job would be more suitable for you. It’s just too conventionally feminine to want to make the author part of one’s own already existing system of values and beliefs and to berate him in a motherly fashion for going outside the bounds of what would be considered normal in one’s own society. “I chide him because I love him and I want him to do better!”
To demand that others be a part of you so that you can manage them better, shape them, and turn them into what you want them to be, is archetypal feminine relating. It is the typical manner with which managers, identity politicians, teachers and critics approach the subject today. They do not allow anything to stand apart from them, to be a thing separate from the mother/teacher/critic. They don’t seem to even have the courage to say, “I hate this thing! I’m going to let it go.” Their instincts are to draw everything under the control, by not permitting separation.
This means you can’t learn a complex lesson from a writer who is trying to teach you about your political over-certainties. You can’t even see that lesson, because you are too busy trying to impart your own about how there are certain things than can and cannot be said, in terms of your own existing perspective.
The feminine mode is like this though. It always tries to “shape” the other right away, rather than reach an understanding of what that person or thing is in its own right. It doesn’t even see anything separate from itself, just some amorphous mess to be reshaped.
And abusers are the same. They come along and try to shape things, on the basis of the feelings about what ought to be in place. But this betrays their lack of a desire to even try to understand what has actually come to be in place of its own accord, and in its own right, independently of the manager/critic/abuser. They don’t even have a faculty for handling real otherness — yet, many of them will talk endlessly about “the other”. Nothing they love better than talking about themselves!
If, like me, you immerse yourself deeply in philosophical literature, this may cause you to draw certain conclusions out of extending the logical structure of the paradigm. But then you forget why and how you did it. That is what became my fate.
I wondered why I stated so emphatically that the height of achievement regarding shamanic initiation was “to see oneself from the outside”. But now it all makes sense. Once you have solved all your problems from the inside, from within the womb of subjectivity, you have no choice but to see yourself from the outside, as if you had become a problem solved and capable of being observed.
But that also implies a facing of death and of one’s limits. One was bound by the political and psychological dynamics (really the same thing from different angles) of the time. But now one understands those, one is no longer affected by them, at least not from the point of view of subjectivity. To put it differently, one is no longer IMMERSED in them. One sees these dynamics from the outside, and thus one sees oneself, as one had been, from the outside. That is transcendence of the limited mode of consciousness one had been in.
People who see subjectivity and objectivity as POLAR opposites, rather than dialectic (that is, intertwining) opposites, will not understand why one has to first immerse oneself into subjectivity in order to become fully objective. Nonetheless, those who would take a short-cut by immediately proclaiming their own objectivity about matters relating to their selves will remain, paradoxically as it may seem, immersed in subjectivity.
When somebody is deeply contained by their own subjectivity, they do not differentiate their perceptions from common sense. Whatever they perceive, they hold to be reflective of reality itself. Indeed, even the word “reflective” gives them too much credit. If they emote something, that becomes a perception — the perception is deemed to be the same as reality.
One must separate what pertains to oneself and what pertains to others. Otherwise one is not worthy of intellectual debate. In effect, one must “see oneself from the outside”, having made sense of all the subjective dynamics that had captivated one’s mind. Only then will one see how entrapped others remain to their subjective dynamics.
But to see everything in this way implies accepting a certain amount of death into one’s being — a closing off of the subjective access to the past. One sees oneself from the outside in the same way that the spirit does when it is leaving the body, figuratively speaking.
Don’t get caught up on a useless dichotomy regarding strengthening or dissolving your ego. Your ego itself will tell you whether it needs to be strengthened or dissolved. Or rather, perhaps it is better to say that the self that resides behind the ego and safeguards the vitality of life will tell you what the ego requires at any point in your life. If the ego has taken a battering, you need to strengthen it. No point dissolving it at that point. You will only do damage to the self. But as Nietzsche said, sometimes when the winds are up on the high seas, you need to pull down your sails — that is fold up and protect your ego so that it isn’t damaged. Different strategies for different times. But if you haven’t developed a very strong sense of self yet, it is imperative to do so by challenging oneself and by overcoming those challenges. That is really ego-strengthening.
The paradox is that you cannot really risk losing some sense of your ego unless it is first built up and really strong. That is, I think, what is meant by the “left hand path”. It’s not ego-strengthening, as such, but relies on having a pretty robust ego to begin with, because, actually, it is so ego-depleting.
The right hand path might be better geared toward shoring up a really weak ego, by encouraging people to lean on each other and form a group ego. It’s not that individualistic.
The left hand path relies on being able to replenish your own ego by yourself, so that you can lose it and replenish it. Most people don’t even think in these terms about their ego because they have been taught to think in very fixed terms about identity, as if it were something constant and impossible to change. But the amount of energy that runs through us, and how it runs is very important. As Nietzsche said, the difference between a generally mediocre person and a mountain climber who has neared the peak is narrowed by the latter’s fatigue.
In any case, very immature people do not understand that constant states of “ego on” and “ego off” are not conducive to emotional health. You don’t go around full powered all the time unless you want to repel everyone around you. I know that some people have interpreted Nietzsche as saying this would be a good idea, but I think they misunderstand him pretty much, as their own lives will show when they burn out suddenly.
Originally posted on The Australian Independent Media Network:
Some time ago I wrote a piece titled “Me Biased Never”. It didn’t receive wide readership although I thought it covered the subject competently. Recent experiences have led me to revisit the subject. Not just the issue of bias but another question: Why is the right as so feral?
Prior to the last election some Facebook friends took it upon themselves to add my name to two pages. They were “Australian Government Your Say”. It is, if it still exists, administered by a Ross Parisi who I have since been told is a failed liberal right wing politician. I cannot verify that, nor do I want to. The other Facebook page is called “The Middle Ground”. Both pages purport to give their members the opportunity to debate political issues. Right Vs Left. Sounds even-handed.