Two thinkers that I do not particularly like

Two thinkers that I do not particularly have a high regard for — perhaps more due to their effects (and the way that their writings have made society superficial) than because of their ideas — are BF Skinner and Jacques Derrida.

Derrida, for instance — he correctly discerns the inevitability of in interpretive slippage between what is written and what is interpreted in the writing. However, he doesn’t at all seem to countenance that there could be a huge amount of tragedy involved in this. For someone who does not have a voice that anyone will listen to within a particular society, and who therefore takes to writing, so much of what it means to be recognised as human and as vitally real depends upon reception of the work without distortion. So the eternal play of diffĂ©rence may be, in practical terms, within a multicultural society, to some degree entirely necessary as well as inavoidable. Yet the agonising screams of the subaltern who has once again had his attempts to communicate denied should not fail to somehow reach our ears. Derrida’s system which accustoms us to embrace an approach of consumption of meanings as they appear to us on our own terms (that is, without seeking further elucidation, through examinings history and political context) enables us to accept with pleasure — but, on limited terms only, the existence of a mild alterity between oneself and others. One accepts, in other words, the joy of making (necessarily) false interpretations, as a lighthearted game. The radical alterity of the subaltern has nothing to offer us as material for this lighthearted game. His needs are more desperate than that — his necessity to be heard is not even a game, but a matter of life and death (in the emotional sense, and possibly in more ways than this, since actual death can be an outcome of being radically misunderstood.) Let us not be lazy, therefore, with interpretation.

BF SKINNER: He doesn’t really tell us anything, beyond giving us some general principles that may as well be metaphysical, like yin and yang, for all of the predictive value that they have.

Of course, we all behave in certain ways to get rewards in life, and do our best to avoid various aversive stimulii. That is BF Skinner’s grand insight. So let us stop there. Beyond his assertion of this fact, his insights do not enable us to predict any single thing about any single person.

For right above the first layer of my feeling that something is an incentive, there lies an immediate disincentive, and above that the disincentive starts to look like an incentive again, but then through the power of my mind and will, I am actually able to conjure up its image as an overall aversive stimulus.

These are the layers of meanings we have in us — no doubt because we were conditioned through our early years by various experiences. Yet these experiences we had do not rest in our brains as isolated stimulii but in the form of comprehensive ideas and facts.

When I do kickboxing, I go towards an aversive stimulus. I suffer all sorts of mental and physical pains. Above that pain rests the reward of being more proficient. But above that positive stimulus there also remains the aversive stimulus of developing an injury. But, fortunately — above the likelihood of getting wounded rests the almost metaphysical delight of being able to look back in life and say that I’d achieved something.

So, don’t come at me with your aversive stimulus of pain and automatically expect me to pay you any mind. If life were simple like that, we would all be rats in a jar.

BUY MY SNAKEOIL

If homogeneous thinking involves thinking in terms of units which are equal and exchangeable, like money, then one can detect its appearance on this basis.

Perhaps the most shocking cultural experience I have ever had was … well, it was a long, ongoing shock (it still is) of discovering that most of those around me do not think about themselves or society in terms of a common humanity, but in terms of facets of life which have an implicit exchange value.

Let me explain (and this relates to the harm that almost certainly arrives to me when I speak naturally, without too much thinking):

I enter the room. There I find tense people, who may or may not be benevolent. Perhaps they are not evil. I will find out. I begin to entertain them with an aspect of my experience. (Now, according to my earlier acculturation — that being non-western– a story should entertain and possibly open up an arena for sharing common experiences.) I start to speak.

I try to speak but there’s an aura of suspicion here, now. What could I possibly be speaking about? Suspicion settles in for good. I must obviously be a snakeoil salesman trying to rort the system, because nobody has experiences like that. What am I trying to prove? Evidently, I am making myself out to be worth more than I am really worth. How dare I have an experience which is not available to everyone!? It’s wrong to have a good experience and then talk about it.

What if I’ve had a bad experience and spoken about it, though? Then I have merely decreased my own value in the public realm. I’m a raw idiot. I deserve to be punished by a hostile silence, if not worse.

Thus I find that everything — even personal experiences — have been given an implicit exchange value.

This is the meaning of homogeneity. A very homogeneous society denies you scope to speak about your experiences in a way which can lead to moral reflection. A very homogeneous society punishes those who think for doing something that the rest of the society has not been able to permit itself to do. It’s as if you were trying to sell them snakeoil, just by being friendly. A homogeneous society despises anything which comes for free, rather than exchange. It is also ashamed in front of the snakeoil saleman as it has a very dry and scaley back.

marechera writing/myself

There’s madness whirring in the eastern hemisphere. My understanding increases, the whirring never ceases. I watch — and understand far better than I did before. Life is connected in a way I hadn’t noticed before. An investment in madness — although all too subtle — has been beneficial to my intellectual and creative vision. I now see myself more transparently than I had previously managed; a sharpening of instinct. When I make assessments about psychological things, they feel immediately correct.