My thinking is that we must move away from competing against other identity groups on the basis of our self-represented moral purity. This approach lends itself too easily to the ways of thinking of those who are comfortable within their positions in the power structures. After all, having power suffices, most of the time, to make anybody appear to be serene and pure, whereas those without power rant and rave and generally lack the ability to convince others –particularly those in power — that their ranting and raving has any particular meaning. Thus they appear impure indeed, and are so to most practical purposes. As Bataille points out, they become the discarded refuse of society, which retains its moral feelings of serenity and purity by excluding certain people from involvement within the whole. (In “The Psychology of Fascism” Bataille shows that the inclusion within society of those who had been excluded by the bourgeois regime was used to vitalise the fascist movement.)
The emotional blackmail that bourgeois regimes hold over their citizens — “Behave, and we just might let you in, one of these days” — has no actual surety or concrete contract to back it up. It is as illusory as pie in the sky when we die. However, the promise of power can almost seem like power itself, a lot of the time, and this is what keeps people cooperating.
Fascism as a solution gives one more the impression of being chained at the ankles to your “gang”. Still, walking in lockstep can seem like power, too, and it can be the form that power takes in many ways.
Let me produce a Nietzschean aphorism.
The right-wingers premise in berating you is that you shouldn’t say what you think because the people who may have to hear are very sensitive and delicately poised within a system of morality that has your best interests at heart. Should the indelicacy of some of your judgements reach their finely attuned ears, they might feel so pained and so anxious that they could lose their very zest for living. Therefore the majority of the populace have a right to be protected, by the right-winger, from ideas that could be harmful to them.
However all of these suppositions about the nature of the world are contradicted by the right-winger, and his own behaviour. In directing his aggression towards you in various ways, the right-winger is actually saying:
“The world is a very harsh and empty place, with no room for human concerns or delicate interaction whatsoever. I am determined to keep it that way by shutting you down. I insist that there should be no room for sensitive human interaction.”
I went sparring today, and it was a huge intake of freshair. How long I have been waiting to throw off these fusty academic robes.
I have had two selves — which various events are now uniting into one self.
There is the self I grew up with, and the self of the new culture that I continued on with. These are hardly the same, and have not been united up until now.
The old self is Polyphemus. It was the self that become frozen solid, petrified, as in Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt, upon entering the modernising Greek culture. There was nothing in the new culture for it to identity with — and so it turned into fossil, and could not grow or develop too much. There was no good soil for its roots, so it remained as it was, and then turned to stone.
Then there is the new self — the green shoot that I sat in quiet rooms all day, growing. This was the new mind, and somehow the new body that would save me from the child victim of a traffic accident (which was how I pictured the psychical condition of my old self.) “Rest and be calm, there, beside the road, with your mangled bicycle,” I said to the old self. “I’ll be back. The minute I’ve grown a new self, or parts to prepare your mangled organs.”
I’ve lived for too long with two facets. I can turn the one self over and find the other self. Only, I’m not able to understand in every sense what she is saying. A great deal of it makes sense: “I’m your feelings, the way you actually experience things. I am also, in large part, your body.”
Yet there is a great deal that I cannot put into words, peculiar sensations that twist and turn within my gut, hard to undertand in terms of present realities, the adult context of my now existence, and the nature of the present established orders of things. It seems this child has no place in my adult life. A line has been drawn now in the sand, which separates childhood from adulthood completely. The child is quintessentially that which is verboten. And I see children and they are also verboten, much as my own childhood has been verboten. ( I speak to them, when it is necessary for me to do so, but cannot seem to understand them in a way that finds not threat in the association. I walk away.
Even the mention of it says “childhood” to me. I cannot think about the word, I cannot relate to it, except within the emotional frame of childhood memories — those which I have come to accept as forbidden. I cannot mention Zimbabwe without cringing, thinking it an invitation for the superior cultural whip to descend — as, so often, it does.
“Zimbabwe”. It is a childish word like “sadza”, like “hoohoo” (for insect), like “tummy” for stomach.
To me it is a word that resists adulthood and formulaic condescension about proper ways to do things “or else”.
It brings back the former self — the self who is shy and inarticulate, who knows best how to get along with others by respecting their awesome powers to be human, and hiding in a corner of their shadows.
My old school friends bring this mood back to me, more than anything else. They are still their own children and relate best in this way, whereas I, I’ve broken the promise, abandoned the former self to find help — and never returned in the same way again.
I see more and more these days, and more and more pieces of the shattered jigsaw of my earlier life start to creep into their positions.
I list my sins as they appear before me, creeping around, as day dawns and the light begins to sharpen:
1. I don’t read closely enough. And perhaps all of my sins can be reduced and narrowed into this equation. I never have it seems, and close reading has been what was required of me — to fit in. But I don’t read closely from social situations, and I forget half of what is said to me, and thus I’ve blown my chances to get along in a nice mood of tranquility.
All of my sins can be reduced into that one formula — the one recommended most fervently to women — read yourself and those deemed your superiors closely. Track them carefully as if your life depended on it. And take them literally at their word, so that, should they depart from their word, you will have their very words to prove it, thus redeeming yourselves.
So they captured me and put me on their boat — me with my sunflower head and they with their advanced industrial culture. “You must learn new ways,” said the Odysseuses. “We insist!”
I was alone and away from my home. What other option did I have, but to oblige them?
Odysseus Number 1 was more insistent than the others: “You are to refer to me as Nobody, as I have previously mentioned,” he said. “You are to learn new cultural ways. Advanced format.”
It was not sociable to yearn for my cave, and yet I did at this point. How could I learn new cultural ways at this advanced stage in my life? Yet all of them insisted. “Row for us and we will explain. Unique individualism. Fine format,” they uttered in unison.
I wanted to know more. These people were truly mysterious. Perhaps they could help me after all, just as I was willing to lend my services to them?
The suggestion that I was willing to go along with their mysterious plan seemed to make them smile — in unison.
“First we teach you advanced cultural way,” they said. Then: “THWACK!” One of them had hit me upside the head. “This will help you to learn quickly,” he added for my reassurance.
Since I really wanted to learn from them, pain was no object for me. I would learn as quickly or as slowly as they required.
“Advanced cultural way. Number one lesson. Your culture is very evil. You too!” screeched the one whom I had dubbed Odysseus 7.
I agreed with him implicitly. What else was I to do?
Contemporary ways and up-to-date morality were the first few things I knew I had to learn.
“THWACK!!!” came the warning stick, lest my attentions were being driven from the task at hand.
“Number one lesson. You are colonial practitioner. We disagree this practice in contemporary era!!” yelled the Odysseuses in my cauliflower ear.
“THWACK, THWACK!” came the stick, teaching me another resounding lesson.
“We have high minds,” whispered one of the Nobodies in my ear, consoling me that all the torture would pay off finally.
“We can’t stand evil in our midst,” admitted another, sounding vaguely Dickension. I wondered, though, whether or not he might be crying crocodile tears for me.
“We believe in higher moral practices,” consoled a third. “It’s only right. We are willing to take you in and admit that you are the same as us, but there are just a few rules you have to abide by, first.”
‘THWACK” came the stick again — reminding me that we were not back on the island any more. Here were people with true values to profess. I was encountering the internal shock of my first real encounter with serious people of real moral fervour.
These people meant well, but there was surely something strange about their manner. I wanted to know more about them and their ways.
“We have gentler, better ways of organising ourselves,” said one of the creatures, matter of factly. Your ways are comparatively crude and barbaric. Ours are advanced, intelligent, and highly intellectual, too.”
I thought that what this Odysseus said to me must be true, if only because he sounded so sincere about it.
“Tell me more!” I insisted.
(A smile came over their collective face.)
“We’ll teach you how to leap when we say leap,” they said. “However, this will take some time!”
…because we all dream.
Freud said that a dream is a small psychosis.
However, without that small psychosis, we would truly go mad, as empirical science has shown.
Thus we all have recourse to the spirit world and to madness for the sake of self renewal.
One of the problems with the most cutting edge contemporary consciousnesses that this late, great stage of moth-eaten capitalism has produced: there is no point in engaging with its denizens.
The conventional subject who is struggling with a pre-Oedipal disorder is in no position to relinquish the possibility — indeed, the imaginary supposition — that he is everything. The narcissistic posture is as follows: “There is no subject position that I cannot theoretically occupy. Don’t hedge me in.”
One has to concede then, that this is true, to the degree that the subject believes it to be true. “Neither reason, nor my behaviour, nor anything contingent can hedge in the undefinable essence that is my pure being!” asserts the subject. “You shall refer to me by no name, for I am theoretically everything!”
Nothing I can do or say can either address him or his postures, since language is a mere epiphenomon of this pure being of his. I can respond to him only in the same vein that he addresses me, in other words.
“I am everything, and don’t define me or essentialise me!” he asserts.
“I hear you clearly,” I respond. “My understanding is that I’m to address you henceforth as ‘Nobody’. ”
Reading more psychoanalytic texts, yesterday, I didn’t really understand before the relationship that some people have to their superegos. I have found, in my own life, that it is possible to tame the superego, just as it is possible to tame a circus tiger and get it to do your bidding. It was Nietzsche who first gave me this idea, in Genealogy of Morals, wherein he suggests that conscience can be trained to enforce the opposite values to those of conventional Christianity.
So, from experience I have learned to know the proclivities of my own superego — and thus to tame it. I understand that when I am tired from applying genuine and intense amounts of energy towards completing a particularly well defined goal, it is in the aftermath of this effort that superego tends to pounce: “Maybe you could have done this or that better? You know, you are not perfect! What’s up with that? You’ve achieved something, but is it really as much as you would have wanted to achieve?”
As Nietzsche and Freud (if I recollect rightly) both manage to point out, the more you give in to superego ( or the “ascetic ideal”, in Nietzsche’s terms) the more hairsplitting becomes its demands. The moment of fatigue also has a cultural origin, in terms of its meaning, for me, since I was never permitted, by my father, to express fatigue. It was considered by him to be a sign of complete mental and physical deterioration, something unconscionable, to express oneself in relation to this normal physiological sensation.
To keep superego at bay, I generally try to avoid becoming fatigued — or if I do become so, I grit my teeth and close my eyes and ride the wave of feeling slightly off-kilter, until normal energy levels are restored. What I don’t do is to make the mistake of believing everything my superego tells me when I am in a delapidated condition. In this way, and in others, I assert my power over my own life and tame the superego.
Yet, recently, I have found that there are those who see their superego not as an abritrary and officious sparring partner, but as an ally. It seems that they use the certainty of the ideas generated from the superego in order to calm down their profound levels of anxiety. For them, superego performs a role of filling in the emptiness they feel inside, by giving them some prescriptions to follow that make them feel less alone. Many people, it would seem, feel that they cannot do without the feeling of being dominated by their superegos. To even try to do things differently would make them feel extremely terrified and even more alone. So they submit to all sorts of rules that may be extemely arbitrary, in order to avoid this feeling.
Perhaps this attitude of fear is indeed the anchor of much dogmatic religiosity. The ability to abide by rules is a palliative, in the case of some people, to make tolerable an overwhelming sinking feeling. No wonder those whose character structures are like this start to panic when another value system (than that of right wing fundamentalism) seems to be in the making. They are afraid of losing their ‘souls’.
And I gazed out at the world from my cave at my newcomers — but they were comers whom I’d seen before. They all had matted hair like that of a lion, and they’d come to see my in my cave in order to write notes about me — the exotic creature that I am!
And I engaged them with the discourse of my civilisation:
“Who are you, and where do you come from? And once you leave what sorts of notes will you write about me? Will you, for instance, reference my one eye, and note about my eating habits and my proximity to the band of brothers?” I enquired.
“What kinds of ideas would you like to take from me?”
But this visitor was like the one before, and even more sullen.
“My name is Odysseus,” he said. “But you can’t mention that. It is essentialising. The point I’m trying to stab home is that I insist that you refer to me and mine as “Nobody” — and there could be penalties for disobeying my instructions!”
He was like the one before, and the one before him, all visiting my cave with the same sullen assertion on their lips, intent on having their colonial adventure. What good was it sharing with them my sheep and wine when their propensity to stab me in the eye was overwhelming?
This one would soon be leaving, too, for having supped, he would be finding new hyperactivity, and I, on the other hand, would be getting quite sleepy.
I covered my eye, as my grandmother and greatgrandmother had learned to do before me. The stabbing would soon be coming, but they couldn’t help it — that is what those “Nobodies” tended to do!
“Come quickly, come quickly, my brothers! Nobody is stabbing me again!” I called out in my fitful sleep. But no-one came.
It was a good thing, I consoled myself, despite my sorrow, that at least I had avoided naming names, and had thus committing the academic sin of positing Western society as a “monolith”. Nonetheless, in regard to its guilty self-awareness of its colonial past and what I represented to it as a young “colonial”, those of the West had expressed that they knew Western society to be “one”.
There is a common tendency these days to reduce all sorts of utterances to the level of being “about identity”. It’s really unhelpful in the sense of limiting communication (and being anti-therapeutic).
Picture what’s happening in the following:
“I’m feeling sad these days, because I have too much to do.”
“Sad?! Woohooo! That’s your identity!”
“I’m feeling desolate because my brother died. I really don’t know who to turn to!”
“Desolate!! Woohoooo! That’s your identity!”
“I feel yearning, like I miss certain aspects of the country I was born in. Sometimes the loss of home and country really gets to me.”
“Yearning?! Woohoooo! You’re a racist!”
Such is the addiction to identity that we have, that we can barely hear what the other person is saying.
And then we have the followers of this or that ideology. Let us take the “Nietzscheans”, for instance.
The writer himself said: “Here are some notions that are specifically MY truths — they may or may not apply to you. I am, as it happens, a bit of a misogynist, with a certain amount of contempt for women.”
His listeners go: “Misogynist?! Woohooo! That is both your and my identity!!!”
I am increasing my knowledge of the psyche through the Jungian paradigm. Now, it becomes apparent that, apart from in a revisionary sense, there is no Jungian idea of the pre-Oedipal, at least not originating from Jung himself. Oedipal and of course pre-Oedipal (by extension) are closer to being Freudian constructs, and it seems to have been the work of those that came after Jung and Freud to develop their hypotheses about what happens at this stage, between the age of 1 and 3. The school of psychoanalysis called “object relations” (associable with Melanie Klein’s theories) is directly relatable to the psychology of this pre-Oedipal stage.
Now, Jung works in archetypes (the psychological structuring of myths) into the stage that has to do with pre-Oedipal dynamics. It certainly seems, according to the circumstantial evidence based on findings by different theorists, that it is the dynamics of the pre-Oedipal — namely, magical thinking, splitting, dissociation and projective identification — that allows for the emergence of the “archetypes” within the developing psyche. So it is that Jung furnishes this level of consciousness with having the apperception of transcendent meaning and archetypal contents. This is important for it means that ego is not all there is — rather, we are accompanied on our journey through life by the facilities of the pre-Oedipal modality, which infuse our psyche’s with transcendental meanings.
The contemporary Jungian theorist’s view is that transformation of the developed character structure is possible because archetypes can enter our awareness through the fundamentally less structured format of the early childhood consciousness (this is my interpretation at least of the inherent value of early childhood states of awareness). On the other hand, as adults the entering of such archetypes into our field of awareness will most probably rearrange a person’s whole psychological structure, by forcing them to deal with something new upsetting the more established internal dynamics of consciousness. This view is implicitly SHAMANISTIC, since destruction of the old identity is part of the reconstruction of the new. Shamanistic initiation is based on precisely the recognition of this principle. There is no new — no development — without the concomitant destruction and rearrangement of the old character structure. Thus does the “self” (both primeval and transcendental in its source)facilitate the development of the post-Oedipal — specifically, crystalised — character structure. Change is possible — and that which initiates the change is meaningful.
In general this approach seems right to me. My only quibble is that I am not so sure the archetypes are genuinely transcendental, rather than being purely figments of the imagination or distortions of perceptions.
If we accept the neoJungian (Sherry Salmon’s) postulate that the early childhood self and the adult ego run as it were side by side, like lines along a train track (this is my way of understanding the term, “pre-Oedipal field”) then the closer the association between the two, the more psychically complete one will feel.
Consider the alternative — that if one recognises ego only, at the expense of the whole, one may end up succumbing to the effects of repression when one doesn’t expect this. For instance, one may see the world and what is in it in a black and white manner by splitting the good and bad of it, whilst projecting the opposite metaphysical dimension onto others. To view reality in such a bifurcated way creates what Jung refers to as “the shadow” side to consciousness, which is an undesirable psychical construct.
What “ego deflation” means to me is the removal of an alien cultural component from my psyche. It is the denial of the puritanical cultural element that is the engine behind so much useless and time-wasting psychological warfare demands in various ways to be “purer than thou”, whether in epistemology, degree of intelligence, or in interpretations of personal behaviour and what supposedly lurks behind it.
In contradistinction to all of this empty posturing as the basis for social competitiveness, ego deflation allows for intellectual honesty and skepticism. “You do not have a basis for asserting that my behaviour denotes the kinds of attitudes you are attributing to it, any more than I have a basis for placing your own behaviour within my own invisible moral hierarchy,” skepticism asserts. Intellectual honesty rejoins: “We do not know for certain that our experiences are so different from each other’s, any more than we know for certain that they are in any way similar. It will take concerted intellectual effort, and much good will and desire to meet each other half way, to find out. However, postures of moral or intellectual purity will certainly get in our way, in terms of this endeavour.”
My intellectual pathway to knowledge and improved integrity is possible only through a denial of the posturings of ego — either within you or within myself. Ego knows much less than it seems to assert, since its end goal is to pat oneself resoundingly on the back, rather than to know what is true and what isn’t.
Some primary differences:
Freud preferences the ego over the pre-oedipal self, whereas Jung weights the importance of pre-oedipal selfhood as of equal ontological value with the ego, when it comes to dissecting the contemporary soul. So, in Jung, there is more emphasis on the unconscious components of selfhood as features of mind that exist in their own right, rather than as (as Freud sees things) elements that require to be mastered by the ego. But Jung’s model also implies that a fragmented — or perhaps “postmodern” — consciousness is actually normal, whereas the unified view of selfhood, even if it were possible, is an oversimplification by virtue of embracing a narrow rationalism.
My own experience is that Jung’s model is closer to the model of the psyche you will experience as normal if you are brought up within Zimbabwean culture, and influenced by its native roots. The reduced sense of the importance of the individual per se, the magical feeling of connectivity to others and to Nature, and certain ironic gestures towards “civilisation” (ie. to the claims of ego) are common in this culture.
The hardest cultural problem to solve as a migrant turned out to be rather more of a psychologically based one, rather than being purely cultural, as one might have supposed.
“It’s like you have to build up a certain amount of pressure with your mind, in order to ward off the reality around you,” he remarked.
The logic of survival in the new environment was different from the logic of survival in the last. In the last environment we had grown up in, one survived by being in unity with the state of Nature, and with the social moods that lent fragrance to the air around you. There might have been a few things wrong with this arrangement, since it did not promote originality of thought in any profound way. The benefits, however, were that one could move around the locality of where one lived, and speak to people easily and naturally, without first having to build up the pressure within you.
To build up the pressure within you in order to fend off the negativity around you — that is, the hostility of others who must earn a living by competing against you and yours — may come more easily to those conditioned from an early age to put up walls designed to keep the Other at a safer psychological distance. Freshwater fish go into shock when placed in salt water, as their internal fluids are not viscous enough to maintain against the pressure of the seawater. Due to the nature of this uneven balance between internal and external pressures, fluid flows out of them osmotically, which leads to dehydration, and then to death.
One who has grown up in a society where the environment is not a direct psychological threat feels the same sensations — something psychologically akin to emotional dehydration, and a sudden and unprecedented threat against survival. The culture which is driven and defended by salty, viscous egos seems alien, bizarre, and threatening all at the same time. The challenge is to build up enough internal, psychological pressure to withstand the feelings of constant assault.
The adaptive development of the internal pressure of ego inflation is created by the habituation to psychical bruising. This bruising must surely occur at the earliest ages of childhood, gradually but assuredly, for those who are given the best start in adapting to a barbarian culture. Those who come from a different sort of society entirely will have too late a start for effective adaptation to constant hostility.
Ego inflation and the inflation of expectations that caused the economic bubble go hand in hand, since both are concerned with warding off negative phenomena — such magical thinking is designed keep perceptions of actual environmental negativity at bay in order to forestall the effects of psychological harm which comes from dealing with great environmental hostility and overwhelming odds against one. One becomes firm by injecting positive ideas into one’s heart and mind to build up one’s internal pressure. Effectively, in actual fact, one bleeds inwardly. Psychological bruising by a harsh environment demands inward signs of self-assurety, as compensation.
Ego inflation is a practical psychological defence. One responds to the principle of mechanics by producing an equal and opposite reaction to the negativity one experiences and expects from one’s environment: negative put-downs and dehumanisation become, thereby, positive self-affirmation, necessarily independent of actual input from the environment. Thus one insulates and isolates oneself from one’s environment, as a rational and self-preserving mode of defence.
I watched Apocalypse Now last night, and … has anyone ever considered how strange it is, the right wing male’s fear of being directly observed?
Marlon Brando’s effective performance of Colonel Kurtz reminded me of this facet of right wing male behaviour. How rarely do they dare to reveal themselves as they are. Whenever a photo or a genuine idea (unstolen or unborrowed) is presented, it is always shamefaced, bashful. The right-winger appears to know that his public face is an illusion, based upon a fixed game, an uneven powerplay.
Of course, Kurtz is very much more than this. He is genuinely brave and misguided.
Yet his lurking in the shadows is something else — this is what fatefully resonates with a psychological disposition that I have seen, time and again, from those whose moral courage and honesty with themselves are severely limited.
Of course the psychological influence of industrialism is only part of what makes people and whole societies “old early”. The combination of a certain arid rationalism helps too. The Japanese, for instance, with their Shintoism, which retains much of the psychology of shamanism (in its reverence for Nature and for the multiple spirits of the air and water), are rarely so old at heart as are their Western counterparts. They, too, tend to be “young late”.
I see a basic psychological division of human nature, according to which I either feel comfortable and normal or extremely uncomfortable in the company of others. Those who are “young late” make allowances for features of life or of their environment which they accept they do not fully understand in all respects. They are far more likely to excuse inconsistencies and attribute innocence to human error than are those who see the world through the eyes that are “old early”.
The terror I endured of always anticipating that the next thing I might say could gravely injure somebody’s fragile self-esteem or self-concept made me unable to operate effectively within the Western work environment, where rigid views of what is or isn’t rational hold sway, and where much spontaneity is considered a vicious assault on other people’s developed natures.
The fragility of the self-concept of Western ego is evidenced through the fact that whose thinking is more playful, and more free, than that of their Western conditioned counterparts, present a challenge that seems dangerous and irresponsible at once, to those who walk with teetering footsteps along pre-established lines.
And once again, the greatest quarrel I have with postmodernism as a methodology is that it doesn’t touch on anything that I can personally experience. Those who profess postmodernism are generally, so far as I can tell about their character structures, old early. They are the products of a late capitalist — and perhaps departing — civilisation. Reality, for them, has taken on an all too definite aura — and they are sick of it. Reality, for them, is too firmly outlined, too rigid and too inevitable in all of its appearances. They want something new, something that takes them away from the definiteness and fixedness of all social forms.
Deconstruction is an invaluable tool for those who want to escape from the rigidity and stark definition of social relations formed under late industrialism. (Even their appropriation of the term “post-industrialist” gives them a sign of freedom and consolidates the hope of making an escape.) Postmodernists may want to escape the Oedipal nature of social relations, with well-regulated hierarchies, by pronouncing themselves anti-Oedipal or “schizo-affective”. (see Deleuze.)
The rigidity of the character structure of those caught in this mesh produces a craving from deconstruction and signs of disintegration of an all too certain social construction of identity (and all too well-defined identities). Breaking down the rigidity is a release from some of its binds — the character structure on the rack of civilisation finds some release in this.
Postmodernism, therefore, suits and appeals to a certain type of character structure produced by stark late industrial social relations. Such a character structure is often “old early” — since even undergraduates may have the feeling that deconstruction and disintegration of the salient social forms are their best options for freedom.
The reason I cannot relate to this appeal at all is that I am approaching the issue from the opposite direction — namely, I am “young late”.
I come from a society that for all intents and purposes basically precedes industrialisation and its values of mechanistic regulation of social values. If postmodernism is anti-Oedipal in its predilections, I am culturally pre-oedipal. To me, that is to say, reality is not yet fixed or defined in any firm or enduring way. Identities, also, are potentially fluid and mutable. (Whereas I realise that this is not the case for others, I still have a lot of volcanic energy that could potentially move parts of my own character structure around quite easily.)
To me, the imperative is not to disintegrate or to fragment in order to release the pressure on my psyche — for my psyche is still fluid and responds to pressure really easily with an almost infinite number of adaptations and reformulations of selfhood. Rather, my imperative is to identify social structure and to locate myself in relation to it. Thus, the direction of my development is towards greater solidity and certainty of my self and my world, rather than in the opposite direction.
For me, “old early” recipes for escaping the pressures of a far too definite and prematurely crystalised selfhood are precisely the opposite to what a “young late” mind requires.
This explains a lot of my previous gut-level antagonism towards the movement of postmodernism.
I once labelled myself “emotional” as a protest against the vulgar robotic ideal of contemporary worker conformity. I also did so in recognition of my acute awareness of myself. I have a strong dialectical relationship with my dreams and with my subconscious. I’m self aware.
Yet, these days I have come to a change in consciousness about the term, “emotionalism” and what it means to me. Today I identify people whom I would term emotional in both their ways of responding to the world and in terms of their general political rhetoric. It has become more obvious to me, now, that there is a degree of self-debasement in relation to emotionality that I had not been aware of, before recently. In light of my new awareness of how some people use emotionality — especially emotional blackmail — to try to get their way, it seems to me that my own attitudes and approaches have never been emotional in this way. Rather I have used emotional energy in much the same way that dynamite is used, to break a quarry. My primary goal has not been to enjoy emotionality for its own sake, but to mine the quarry that I’ve broken. My interests, in other words, are profoundly analytical.
A significant insight that I now have is that there is little point engaging with someone whose viewpoints are defined by strong emotionality. Whilst I may have mistaken these kind of people for someone like myself in the past, I realise now that they are not intent on mining their own quarries. Therefore engagement with them can provide me with very little of what I need.
Is it not possible that the black rain that beats its channels through Marechera’s head creates the basis for his social and political discourse?
Meanwhile the conventional or accepted idea of what a discourse is turns out to be the patterns beaten into the heads of those whose mentality is collectivist.
Thus we have an immanent notion of discourse contrasted with one that has been given as if “from above” — a transcendentalist conception of discourse.
Which is the true discourse? The discourse illuminated by trauma, or the discourse that is discovered as the ant traces his passage through society in the same ways, each time?
The complexity of the discourses illuminated by black rain reveals more of a palimpsest of one’s personal (and perhaps collective ) history. The discourses illuminated by rationality and by mapping what has gone before, in relation to the experiences of others and in regards to previous generations gives an idea of what has been, but not of what will be.
Discourses of the latter sort recognise social accommodation to the rule of power; whereas discourses of the former sort reveal the degree of resistance evident within the subject, who confesses that his understanding of reality is a detail etched within his mind, caused by the corrosion of ‘black rain’.
Freud speaks about how sometimes une femme de trente ans can disturb him and his ilk because of her peculiar “psychical rigidity”.
[The term, "psychical", by the way, I snatched from Freud. I haven't seen it elsewhere. It was far better than what I was trying before: "psychic" (which has other connotations for us today or "spiritual" (which sounds vague and wafty).]
Thinking about what “psychical rigidity” means these days, I am inclined to see it as much less likely to be attached to women who have grown prematurely old internally, but to a particular class of men of the current time and era, to whom the generic term, “right wingers”, could be loosely attached.
The ability to intellectually and emotionally nurture oneself may have once been attached to the concept of masculinity — as it was, in fact by Nietzsche, and as Freud seems to do it implicitly in refence to the gender comparisons he makes (above).
However, these days, if they are indeed different from those of the past, psychical rigidity seems to be the attitude and condition of a determination to be parasitical upon the generative energies of others (intellectual and emotional) without doing any of the groundwork oneself.
The parasite on other people’s intellectual or creative work is rigid because he knows only one trick – both figuratively and literally, he knows how to suck.
What he best knows how to do is to provoke some emotional reaction in the other, and then by setting himself and his emotional or intellectual position off in contradistinction to whatsoever happens to be expressed by the other, he sucks the life out of them, leaving them an emotionally empty husk, whilst inflating himself.
Ego inflation, these days, is the mark of the man of ressentiment. Whilst he may sometimes succeed in hiding this uncool aspect of himself in terms of the contents of the ideas he espouses (eg. by presenting himself as “the strong” and the vitalistic element of society), in terms of his methodology in engaging with others, he almost always gives himself away, in terms of what he really is. The means by which the right winger debates, in order to reveal to the watching public who is right and who is wrong is almost always according to the following formula:
…[P]icture “the enemy” as the man of ressentiment conceives him – and here precisely is his deed, his creation: he has conceived “the evil enemy,” “the Evil One,” and this in fact is his basic concept, from which he then evolves, as an afterthought and pendant, a “good one” – himself!
Isn’t it true that for the right winger in politics and debate, these days, the nature of being “good” is rhetorically defined by the failure to present an intellectual or substantive political opinion most of the time (thus reveling in a passive conceptualisation of “good”.) More precisely, aren’t most of the standards of goodness and righteousness on the part of the political right derivative and borne out of reacting to a projected notion of “evil” that is said to be emanating from out of the minds and hearts of the liberals, viewed as the moral enemy?
The inability to come alive, to invent policies, perspectives and moral values of one’s own lies at the heart of the psychological destitution of the right winger, in character and constitution, today. He has to suck the blood-life out of another, but he is running out of means and methods to perform the one trick he knows how.
Psychical rigidity has often been mistaken for strength in the past, and it is possibly a typical error to mistake what is merely rigid, and unbendable in the breeze, for that which has perspective and endurance. A rigid character structure is ultimately duller, more brittle, less easily able to fend for itself, than is one that still has young sap in it, and is capable of fluidity.
L’homme de trente ans
, these days, often frightens me and mine with his psychical rigidity.
I was a child when that war really got underway. It had been going for sixteen years already when I first hit my teens. And I remained a child until several years after it was over — deeply politically ignorant. (The Victorian legacy of the status of the ‘woman-child’ seemed to have been much under sway up to and during the height of the war, in the mid-70s — I becoming the unwitting victim of it.)
One of the reasons I liked Bruce Moore-King’s writing in White Man, Black War was that he had the courage to speak of things that few people dare to. Perhaps most also lack the insight, analytical skills or complexity of experience necessary to elucidate what it is like to be born in a cult.
My own calculations suggest to me that for the most part the time-locked Rhodesian culture that I was a part of was about 30 years behind the rest of the world in its attitudes and modes of thinking. I realise that cultural ideas and progress procede unevenly, and that there were resonances in my culture of the British Romanticism of the 1780s and a culture of war that seemed to linger from the 1940s, promoting a comfortable British triumphalism over the defeated axis powers. However, in terms of the peaks of our culture, not the depths or even the regressive aspects, I would have put us 30 years behind the times. Moore-King, in his note to me, however, clocks us back to 70 years behind, in cultural attitudes, compared to where we should have been. He may be right.
I didn’t participate, as he did, in the war, or even in engaging in attitudes about the war. When it was all over, in 1979-1980, I was just turning thirteen. The innocence of my condition might be viewed in terms of the fact that I did not consider Mugabe’s regime to be meaningful or a threat to me, when it came to power in 1980. Niether did I consider the integration of blacks into my school to be a threat or anything capable of causing hardship. It ought to be noted that I’m not aware of any of my peers having a problem with it, either. It was very easy for me, then, to become a part of the new Zimbabwe regime — mostly because in any meaningful way I had not been a part of the old Rhodesia regime. I had been born too late, and given too little that would make me partisan for such a transition to bite.
What now seems clear to me, however, is that I paid for my easy transition (brought, no doubt, at the price of ignorance) by becoming the victim of those, left and right, who demanded that my adjustment to the new world order had to come at a price. I should not be permitted to get off the hook that easily, they insisted.
Bullying, of course, has its advantage in making down and out people feel better about themselves. Moore-King confirms my thesis that gender attitudes were pretty backwards where I came from (a reality that I was largely protected from up to the point that I was no longer permitted so much to be a child — right when the war had been resoundingly lost.) What gets me is that gender attitudes are backwards here, in Australia 2008, as well.
Let me get right to the point. Most people do not seem to realise that patriarchy (and its ideals of dominating women) is fueled by a herd mentality. My father’s poor treatment of me when I came of age gave other men permission to treat me badly too. It was like they got a whiff of a certain logic of witch-hunting and denunciation in the air, and couldn’t help themselves. They had to follow suit, conceding that his opinion of me was the correct one. Who knows, for all the colonial outpost stoicism training I’d had, I simply must have been ‘hysterical’ I guess.
I wasn’t. Let me repeat and rephrase. The patriarchal abuse of women, the bloodlust promoted by patriarchal ideology makes men hysterical. Something becomes wrong with them when they embrace another man’s oppression of a woman as the right option. When they refuse to see the truth of the situation, about who is oppressing who, they regress back 70 years, prior to where they ought to be.
The infectious nature of the will to regress is something I have vividly observed. Those who condemn the excesses of the Rhodesian regime so morally, and yet regress so quickly to a level of culture that it had promoted, betray their true colours.
It seems like everything is going to the dogs. Do we need to be reminded who the dogs are? Well one is Atilla, represented by Donald Sutherland, in Bertolucci’s epic film, 1900. Atilla saw himself as his master’s dog. In the role of such he murdered in a gruesome fashion and smashed developing brains against the walls. A creature of instinct, not of reason, he eventually delightedly embraces his own death at the hands of the communists, as if the works of a lifetime had met with a seal of approval in the form of violence being exchanged for violence.
A pitbull with lipstick would have certainly approved.