The primitive components of our brains are preoccupied with setting invisible boundaries that are defined by social inclusion or exclusion is . Nationalism, sexism, racism and all other forms of social identity rely on this primeval mechanism of division and exclusion.
We can’t directly fight these aspects of our thinking, since they are part of our way of structuring the social realm. This part includes certain members socially by exclusion and scapegoating. “Projective identification” creates negative identities by scapegoating, whereby those who are perceived to be outsiders of the group are made out to represent the kinds of qualities the group doesn’t want to own as part of its identity.
Fear and pride predominate at this level of consciousness.
Identity politics, which attempts to make us address our “privilege” has failed on every level. It has only led to infighting within the left, which has created a gigantic gap for those who are better organized on the right to perpetuate their agendas. This they have done ever since the eighties, so that American society is effectively dominated by an extreme right-wing agenda.
Leftist identity politics is just like its right-wing counterpart. It is wrong-headed because we cannot attack a part of our own humanity without failing. It is better to understand the workings of the primitive brain and use our knowledge to become more fully human, and not fight it as snooty moralistic ascetics.
Few people are aware that our brains create basic boundary divisions at an unconscious level. More specifically, most people take the divisions they meet in the world as natural and logical. Ethical groups all have essential qualities. Zionists are crazed and wrong and Palestinians are noble. That’s just how they seem to our naked eye. Or, vice versa: school teachers are leaching off our system and business men are here to help. That, too, is visible to the naked eye, if one is brought up with the “right” forms of conditioning — that is if one has a pure, religious heart and fears the economic bust.
Just as being aware that the sun rises in the morning is not the same as commanding it to rise, being aware how the mind creates divisions does not mean that one applauds them.
For instance, much has been suggested, in the past, that Georges Bataille, who engaged with the psychology of fascism and understood the psychological states involved in it, must necessarily be a “left fascist” himself. After all, why study something, unless one in fact is the object one is studying? If one is not lifting up the sun with one’s eyelids, why claim that the sun actually exists?
I have Michael Richardson to thank for pointing me to Georges Bataille’s shamanism, at least in the sense that Richardson conceives that Bataille’s emphasis on “facing death” was shamanistic and that it was Bataille’s intent to cure himself via this method.
Another trope of shamanism is boundary crossing:
[S]hamans are men in some cultures, either men or women in others, and biologically male transvestites in still others. Some Inuit cultures are especially well-known for their association of shamanism with cross-dressing. If we wish to think about this in terms of symbolic classification, it seems quite logical that crossing one symbolic boundary, that between the sexes, should be made to “stand for” another symbolic boundary-crossing, the bridging of the gap between humans and the supernatural. [David Hicks, quoted by University of Waterloo]
Whereas I’ve heard it mentioned, in a class at university, that Georges Bataille engaged in cross-dressing, to learn about the other side of consciousness he was repressing, I have been unable to trace any written references to this effect. That is to my regret, for it makes entirely logical sense that Bataille would have engaged in this kind of experience, given his other shamanistic proclivities (documented by me elsewhere).
Dambudzo Marechera, whose writing I’ve also pointed out as being shamanistic, was a quintessential boundary crosser:
Hell is crossing the railway line
In dark mood on a dark night
This railway line would have been between differently segregated parts of town, in racially segregated Rhodesia.
Crossing boundaries gives us access to experiences we have earlier avoided, but without being aware of our avoidance thanks to the operation of the primitive parts of our human brains.
Shamanistic crossings thus undo the boundary-making that our lizard brains have formulated. Transgression breaks through the code of primitive thinking, and expands our minds.
There’s nothing necessarily primitive about breaking down primitive unconscious processes, even though the means themselves may seem strange and dangerous to us. “Watch out!” Primitive lizard brain warns us. “Boundaries of identity are there to preserve you. Breaking them down will be dangerous to your health!”
Still, the shaman must be master of the lower mind: This isn’t fascism, this is the denial of fascism; its undoing.