Friday, June 13, 2014

Express Your Uniqueness. Everybody's Doing It!

We are all forced to adapt to a world we didn't make. However, what would a world we did make look like?

No matter who you are and how much you know, your world would be an impoverished and piss-poor substitute for this one. A man without an inherited culture is not even an animal. Which is why we cringe when we see a human being behaving like one.

This is one of those foundational truths inverted by the left, beginning with Rousseau, who thought that man needs civilization like a Raccoon needs a tuxedo. In other words, he thought that man minus civilization was the real deal, or that man plus civilization is something false and meretricious.

You can follow this theme right on up through, I don't know, Nancy Pelosi's loony belief that Obamacare will free millions of Americans to be painters and poets. For the left, it's just a matter of unleashing man's inner goodness, either by removing societal impediments or handing out cash and other valuable prizes. Never mind that we already have way too many books, poems, and paintings.

This is a really dangerous and delusional idea, but that doesn't prevent one from earning a Ph.D. in Dangerous Delusions. I nearly did so myself, when I was studying psychology. I began doing so on my own, in my usual multi-undisciplinary way, starting with Freud. Freud was a "scientist" -- a trained neurologist -- and yet, was as insanely romantic as Rousseau in his belief that the secret of life was to liberate the pre-civilized man from the constraints of civilization.

"The primary friction" of life, Freud thought, stems "from the individual's quest for instinctual freedom and civilization's contrary demand for conformity and instinctual repression." As a result, "our possibilities of happiness are restricted by the law."

"Happiness?" What's that? Mostly an illusion, but I suppose we get a glimpse of it when discharging an instinct -- for example, raping, or killing, or gorging: "Many of humankind's primitive instincts (for example, the desire to kill and the insatiable craving for sexual gratification) are clearly harmful to the well-being of a human community. As a result, civilization creates laws that prohibit killing, rape, and adultery, and it implements severe punishments if such rules are broken. This process, argues Freud, is an inherent quality of civilization that instills perpetual feelings of discontent in its citizens."

There are many errors in Freud's analysis, beginning with the artificial dualisms between man and culture, man and man, and man and himself. Other than that, he's spot on.

Even so, I well remember thinking this made sense. After all, there is desire -- what we want -- and various societal impediments -- oh no you don't! -- which results in frustration. That's life.

If we could summarize Freud's -- and the left's -- error, it might fall under the heading of "dis-integration." In this view, there is no hope of integrating instinct and civilization into a higher vertical unity. Indeed, that's just an illusion. After all, there can be no middle ground here: either religion is real or it is a delusion, a fantasy, a drug.

Having said that, there is something trivially commonsensical about Freud's analysis, in a folk psychology sort of way. We all have the occasional urge to do something we shouldn't. It doesn't ruin life. Rather, it is somewhat like the impersonal fuel (the "id") that drives life. But the mind has an engine and a steering wheel, and as with a car, it's pointless to have one without the other. That is to say, they are integrated by or in the person

In beginning with the idea of person, Christian humanism avoids -- or should avoid -- the dis-integrating tendencies alluded to above. This is a theme of the excellent-so-far The Common Mind: Politics, Society and Christian Humanism from Thomas More to Russell Kirk.

I suppose we could say that "innocence" is a primary state of integration, or at least pre-disintegration. We all undergo a fall from this state, hopefully not prematurely, such that it leaves no traces of vertical recollection of unity. I can already sense in some of my son's skeevier friends that the dis-integration has begun. You can see and feel the darkness. Children are supposed to be protected from this, but our culture shamelessly exposes them to it. Who wants to explain to their child what an erection lasting longer than four hours is, and why one needs to seek immediate medical attention should one arise?

Talk about a world one didn't make.

Now, another fallacy of the Freudian-Rousseuian perspective is that freeing people of "repression" will unleash the individual. Rather, the opposite occurs, in that the so-called id is the most anonymous and impersonal feature of our standard equipment.

Thus, as Moore writes, "in the twentieth century, and into the twenty-first, [people] feel an increasing sense of disintegration and separation -- from the past, within individuals and within communities which increasingly seem to hold little in common except the will to be as as different as they please from any sense of the normal."

"Paradoxically" -- I would of course say orthoparadoxically -- this "leads to a dull uniformity of the lowest common denominator."

Yet, it seems this "collective disintegration" is "celebrated by many for its freedom, vitality and novelty, such that we become convinced... of a collective insanity in which we do not share."

In short, I prefer the vertical world not made by man to the horizontal one the left has created so as to feel at home in their spiritually naked barbarity.

36 Comments:

Blogger Van Harvey said...

"... Freud was a "scientist" -- a trained neurologist -- and yet, was as insanely romantic as Rousseau in his belief that the secret of life was to liberate the pre-civilized man from the constraints of civilization..."

And with the success of each step in that direction, we express our shock at the rise in uncivilized behavior.

And of course the need to make further pro-regress in that same direction.

6/13/2014 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

No matter who you are and how much you know, your world would be an impoverished and piss-poor substitute for this one. A man without an inherited culture is not even an animal.

Along those lines, I was reading this article today about the GOP's habit of pandering to get the youth vote, and about the same tendency within many of today's churches:

"You see they needed young’uns like myself to grow up in the church and not depart from it. They needed to appeal to us. But their basic strategy was to incorporate me and my peers, not by encouraging us to acclimate to the traditional culture of the church but instead by adapting that culture to us. Their watchword was “relevance.” Their gameplan was to create a hip cool spot that kids would congregate in naturally. The modi operandi were Christian rock and pizza parties and youth pastors that had holes in their acid-washed jeans and maybe an earring. Can’t tell you how many times I showed up for the Wednesday night youth service to blaring music and soda and music videos on a widescreen. They even had a couple arcade games in the lobby of the recreation center where we would meet. Despite all these blandishments, though, the effect of the church environment was increasingly dispiriting and odd.

...

Even as a teenager—hell, especially as a teenager—I could read the writing on the wall. Nobody was buying it. My peers, even the ones who like myself who were sincerely religious, we could see through all the pyrotechnics that the adults had engineered for us. And we didn’t especially like the lack of confidence that such antics betrayed. Here was this group of grown ups, purportedly in possession of divine and ancient truths about life, about God, love, the nature of the universe. In possession of the sayings of old, of pearls of wisdom, of the words of the Lord. Stewards of a religion that stretched back millennia. And yet they were clearly pandering to us. Why did concepts of ours like “cool” even figure into their thinking? Why were they copying us? Didn’t they have more important considerations to attend to?"

6/13/2014 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

But the mind has an engine and a steering wheel, and as with a car, it's pointless to have one without the other. That is to say, they are integrated by or in the person

Wow, it just hit me about that new Google "self-driving" car that has no steering wheel. What a metaphor.

6/13/2014 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

You are not a Boomer, Julie. It makes it harder to understand. The Boomer myth is that we ran things, everything was built around us.

Of course, as individuals that wasn't true, certainly wasn't true for me -- but it was true enough on a collective level that it became part of the Boomer approach to everything that they then transferred to their unfortunate progeny.

Sometimes I think the world would have been better off if Cuban Missile Crisis had gotten hotter.

6/13/2014 01:29:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Who wants to explain to their child what an erection lasting longer than four hours is, and why one needs to seek immediate medical attention should one arise?

The 10-year old in me has a good joke in here somewhere.

6/13/2014 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger ted said...

Just finished reading Making Gay Okay. Terrific read, and very rationally coherent arguments. But it was an amazing self-reflection exercise for me. I live in an extremely liberal area, and have some gay friends. While I found it to be a book I can internally agree with, I also noted a part of myself that could never espouse these ideas in my public circles. Oddly enough, I am now in the closet.

6/13/2014 03:17:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

If you don't agree on the principles, you can't agree on the details. What surprises me a little is that more homosexuals don't realize they are different from heterosexuals, and are therefore in need of their own institutions. Instead they want to be pretend heterosexuals. If I am not mistaken, more homosexuals understood this in the past (they would have regarded marriage as hopelessly bourgeois and anti-gay), but now that they've become a mascot of the left, they have assimilated the usual bland leftist principles.

6/13/2014 03:39:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Maybe it's that big flamboyant weddings are so gay, gays want in.

6/13/2014 03:45:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Ted,

Oddly enough, I am now in the closet.

In the leftist's paradise, the flamboyantly gay are to be celebrated, while the quietly conservative had best keep their mouths shut if they want to keep their jobs, their businesses, their homes, or their kids.

6/13/2014 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Jesus advised us to stay in the closet. Isaiah (26:20) said it might not be a bad idea for a while: Come, my people, enter your chambers,
and shut your doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
until the fury has passed by.

6/13/2014 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

In short, I prefer the vertical world not made by man to the horizontal one the left has created so as to feel at home in their spiritually naked barbarity."

Well said, Bob!
Also, the left have nothin' to brag about. Lots to lie about though.

6/14/2014 06:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Freud was a "scientist" -- a trained neurologist -- and yet, was as insanely romantic as Rousseau in his belief that the secret of life was to liberate the pre-civilized man from the constraints of civilization.


I am truly amazed that a professional psychologist could have such an abysmally poor understanding of Freud.

6/21/2014 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

A week on and under cover of anonymity, the gloves are finally off.

If you're going to throw down, Anon, you might as well bring it to today's post; then we won't have to scroll down so far while eating popcorn.

6/21/2014 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Freud is a goldmine of stupid comments. Some random thoughts from the Master:

What we call happiness in the strictest sense comes from the (preferably sudden) satisfaction of needs which have been dammed up to a high degree.

A civilization which leaves so large a number of its participants unsatisfied and drives them into revolt neither has nor deserves the prospect of a lasting existence.

The goal of all life is death.

The liberty of the individual is no gift of civilization. It was greatest before there was any civilization.

America is a mistake, a giant mistake.

6/21/2014 10:57:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I might add that the commenter has committed the Butterfield Fallacy, in that it is because I am a professional psychologist that I have had so much first hand experience with so many Freudian mediocrities.

6/21/2014 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Indeed; I'm guessing the commenter is somebody with more of a musical background. I.E., someone who literally doesn't know what he doesn't know about Freud, and figures he doesn't need to know any more...

6/21/2014 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I don't know. I suspect a Freudian submediocrity who is unhappy because Sivilizashun.

6/21/2014 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a Freudian, I've just read enough to know what he says and what he doesn't say. I was commenting on your very specific remarks, not arguing for Freud in general, so your citation of other remarks of Freud is completely irrelevant. Again, the notion that Freud was arguing for the "removal of the constraints of civilization" could only be made by someone entirely unfamiliar with the man, and since any halfway educated person should know this, I'm amazed to find a professional psychologist saying this.

6/22/2014 07:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eg this, taken almost at random.

6/22/2014 07:17:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

anonymous, did... you... actually read that passage you chose at random? And you found that to be, what, Freud praising the effects of civilization? How about the paragraph which follows it?

Have you actually read the entire essay? Maybe refresh yourself with the last three paragraphs of it, which finds this:

"There is one question, however, which I can hardly ignore. If the evolution of civilization has such a far-reaching similarity with the development of an individual, and if the same methods are employed in both, would not the diagnosis be justified that many systems of civilization - or epochs of it - possibly even the whole of humanity - have become neurotic under the pressure of the civilizing trends?"

I think Inigo Montoya had you in mind.

6/22/2014 10:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, you would agree that and yet, was as insanely romantic as Rousseau in his belief that the secret of life was to liberate the pre-civilized man from the constraints of civilization.? Because nobody with even a high school level understanding of Freud would say that, so I'm still trying to figure out how a professional psychologist could. Maybe you can point out the place in Civilization and its Discontents that makes that argument, since you know it so well?

6/23/2014 11:56:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

aninnymouse said "...Maybe you can point out the place in Civilization and its Discontents that makes that argument, since you know it so well?"

Are you even up to a high school level understanding of Rousseau? Let alone Freud?

There was a reason I picked that quote above, if you don't notice a similarity between Freud's & Rousseau's views from that (not that Freud endorses Rousseau, but that their essential views have similarities), then you have seemingly no familiarity with either Freud, Rousseau, or very likely what 'Romantic' refers to (Hint: It's not the same as Harlequin Romances).

6/24/2014 05:25:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

If "the price we pay for cultural progress is a loss of happiness" (p.71), then the logical inference is that we are happy in its absence. However, I personally wasn't limiting my comment to C & its D, but to the implications of Freud's whole metapsychology. Suffice it to say that it is not even wrong.

6/24/2014 07:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes their are similarities between Rousseau and Freud. Both wrote about the relationship of individual to society; both had some critiques of civilizations effects on the individual. So what? It is also the case that neither advocated the stupid assertion that kicked this off, that " the secret of life was to liberate the pre-civilized man from the constraints of civilization". That is a comically bad reading of Freud, and of Rousseau as well.

Ever see A Fish Called Wanda? You really bring the character of Otto to mind, specifically:

Otto: Apes don't read philosophy.
Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don't understand it.

6/24/2014 07:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Dr. Freud said...

Happiness is a problem of the economics of the individual's libido. What we call happiness in the strictest sense comes from the satisfaction of instinctual needs. To the extent that civilization thwarts the libido, it is a permanent barrier to man's happiness and fulfillment.

6/24/2014 08:22:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

anninnymouse said "That is a comically bad reading of Freud, and of Rousseau as well."

I think it is more likely comical that you are unable to see the bad in reading what you were told was good.

Voltaire, no saint he, was nevertheless able to spot the primitive barbarity in Rousseau's pose. After reading a copy of Rousseau's 'work' The Social Contract, Voltaire replied:

"I have received your new book against the human race, and thank you for it. Never was such cleverness used in the design of making us all stupid. One longs, in reading your book, to walk on all fours. But as I have lost that habit for more than sixty years, I feel unhappily the impossibility of resuming it. Nor can I embark in search of the savages in Canada, because the maladies to which I am condemned render a European surgeon necessary to me; because war is going on in those regions; and because the example of our actions has made the savages nearly as bad as ourselves."

Aninnymouse, if you can actually read Rousseau, read the entire 'A DISCOURSE on a subject proposed by the academy of dijon: what is the origin of inequality among men, and is it authorised by natural law?', and not come away with a clear sense of his loathing of civilization, especially Western Civilization, then you probably ought to stop watching "A Fish Called Wanda", and go back to Plato; you'll find lots of folks there that will make you feel right at home, like Polemarchus, who on confronting and forcing Socrates and his friends to come with him, waved off his attempts to persuade him (The Republic, Book 1):

"Polemarchus: "But can you persuade us, if we refuse to listen to you? he said.
Certainly not, replied Glaucon.
Then we are not going to listen; of that you may be assured. "


Keep reading though, it turns out that, though a popular position to take (especially today), bad things tend to follow. And GEICO isn't hiring cavemen anymore... so....

6/24/2014 09:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are unable to see the bad in reading what you were told was good.

This is 10-year-old level thinking.

I never said that Freud or Rousseau were "good" or otherwise. Before you can even begin to hope to make sense of a question like that, you have to understand what they were saying. And you don't, probably because you have a good guys vs bad guys view of the world that is appropriate for watching saturday morning cartoons, but not for serious thinking.

6/24/2014 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

aninnymouse said "This is 10-year-old level thinking"

Oops, sorry, I was trying to talk down to your level... not quite far enough? No worries, I'm sure you'll be up to it in another decade. Or two.

You've been stumbling over your own words, accusations and inability to recognize the meaning of your own examples since you got here - best you run along now.

But please, when you're able to make it up to the level of being wrong, give it another shot.

6/24/2014 07:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh well, this is pointless. It's pretty obvious you are unable to engage in anything even faintly resembling coherent discussion, so it's all bluster and boogeymen, all the time. I hope you are being deliberately obtuse, since the alternative would be pretty depressing.

So, toodles, unless you answer the original challenge, that is, produce some writing of Freud that can in any way support the original assertion that he believed that "the secret of life was to liberate the pre-civilized man from the constraints of civilization".

6/24/2014 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Instead of being so buttsore about it, why not just instruct us as to the mechanism and source of happiness within a Freudian framework? Why the anal retentiveness?

6/25/2014 08:27:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

(I think maybe he likes being full of it)

6/25/2014 08:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Dr. Freud said...

The number two reason for human happiness is indeed regular and unconflicted defecation. All others are third or lower.

6/25/2014 09:02:00 AM  
Anonymous Dr. John Harvey Kellogg said...

One should never, ever, interrupt one's desire to defecate. I have inquired at the Bronx and London Zoos as to the daily bowel evacuations of primates. It is not once, twice, or three times, sir, but four. At the end of an average day, their cages are filled with a veritable mountain of natural health.

6/25/2014 09:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Dr. Freud said...

As you no doubt aware, my esteemed Dr. Kellogg, I was once awarded the Goethe Prize for my published mountain of natural health, so I know of what you speak.

6/25/2014 09:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Dr. John Harvey Kellogg said...

Indeed. In fact, I must take issue, sir, with your advocacy of acting upon one's sexual desires. An erection is a flagpole on one's grave!

6/25/2014 09:18:00 AM  
Anonymous Dr. Freud said...

Sounds like you've seen Mrs. Freud.

6/25/2014 09:29:00 AM  

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