The Precariat, Again

A couple of years ago I commented on how the older generations were preserving themselves in comforts at the expense of the young — that the young were being screwed by political and policy trends, much like an old growth forest deprives the seedlings of their own day in the sun and of the nutrients they need to flourish.

Current data, as published in today’s Guardian, bear that out (“the 30-year economic betrayal dragging down Generation Y’s incomes“). This generational gap probably accounts for the attraction of Bernie Sanders’ campaign in the United States, although, as the data reveals, the problem is global. Sanders’ relative success, particularly amongst the young, can also be seen as coming from the Occupy and Snowden Effects as well.

So, it’s not so much the case of being “no country for old men” as it is no country for the young. That is also reflected in the polls. The young don’t feel they have a stake in their respective nation’s economic and social arrangements, and as such memes like “homeland security” have no traction with the Precariat who live in a perpetual state of insecurity anyway. This might account for those polls that show the young quite concerned about economic inequality but much less concerned about environmental degradation. Frustrations with economic arrangements apparently trump concern for environmental health.

It is not a good situation when the young don’t feel that they have a stake in the commonwealth. But then, the commonwealth has been quite rapidly eroded through neo-liberal privatisation schemes that have left little left over for the young to feel that they have a share and a stake in.

The problem is as old as Aristotle’s commentaries in Rhetoric on the generation gap of his time, probably voiced in the context of the decadence of Greek civilisation, and which I quoted at length in an earlier post (“The Golden Mean in Everyday Life“). Aristotle’s comments on the mikropsychos (the “small-souled”) and the megalopsychos (the “great souled”) seem as pertinent today as they did in his time.

Of course, the problem this presents for the ecologically-minded is somewhat obvious. It’s going to be difficult to get the young interested in environmental health when their primary anxiety is their present and future social and economic security. Sanders’ charge that the game is being rigged against them not only resonates with the Precariat, it seems quite evidently true from the data published in The Guardian. A personal anecdote might be illustrative here. Recently I attended a political meeting about local environmental quality issues. It was very well attended, except there wasn’t a single youthful face in the entire assembly, which I found quite disconcerting.

One must be cognisant of the fact that when the old secures itself only at the expense of the young and the new, and to the extent that the young no longer feel they have a common stake and share in the commonwealth, then this is a symptom of civilisational decadence. The Guardian, in any event, thought it alarming enough to be the lead article in today’s edition. I don’t think they were necessarily in error to think so, either.

 

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45 responses to “The Precariat, Again”

  1. davidm58 says :

    This correlates with an essay I was reading this morning, titled “The Other Side of the Global Crisis: Entropy and the Collapse of Civilizations.”

    Evidence that our system is no longer able to discharge entropy out of itself includes the fact that we are concentrating entropy inside the system to the places that are less powerful to resist it, including our young people. Here are the relevant paragraphs:

    “As the industrial economy overruled and substituted all the others, it became the only one economy in the world. And so, necessarily, it found it more and more difficult to dissipate energy outside itself. In practice, sinks become problematic before wells do. But remember that in order to implement its own complexity, a dissipative system needs a growing energy flow, that is it needs cornucopian energy wells.

    Today, both global pollution and massive immigration into the more industrialized countries evidence that our system is no more able to expel entropy out of itself. But if entropy is not discharged out of the system, it necessarily grows inside it. And when there is more energy, there is more entropy in a typical diminishing returns dynamic. Maybe, we can see here a negative feedback which has stopped the economic growth and that will possibly crash the global economy in some decades.

    If this reasoning is correct, the political and the economic crisis, social disruption and, finally, failing states are nothing less than the visible aspect of the growing entropy inside our own meta-system. Eventually, global society is so large and complex and is contained in many correlated sub-systems, and we are managing so far to concentrate entropy inside the less powerful ones: some yet problematic countries, lower classes and, especially, young people. But these phenomena produce political shifts, riots and mass migrations to the core of the system. This means that also the elites have lost the capability to understand and/or control the internal dynamic of the global socio-economic system.”

    http://www.resilience.org/stories/2016-03-07/the-other-side-of-the-global-crisis-entropy-and-the-collapse-of-civilizations

    • Scott Preston says :

      Interesting article: ” This means that also the elites have lost the capability to understand and/or control the internal dynamic of the global socio-economic system.”

      Key statement, there, which very much ties in with Gebser’s notion of the mental-rational functioning in deficient mode: the logic of events exceeds the boundaries of the understanding, and therefore the capabiities, of elites to regulate and control — complexification. It has its own logic, of course, although that logic appears like “chaos” only because it overwhelms the limited perspective of the prevailing model.

      My guess is this began in the early 70s, when governments and economists began wrestling with the problem of “stagflation”, which wasn’t supposed to happen according to the models. This was the beginning of the end of the Keynesian consensus and the beginnings of neo-liberalism (Chicago School). Then it became the proverbial “one damned thing after another”.

      • Steve Lavendusky says :

        You don’t see this very often – at least I’ve not run across it, but here’s a course on Heidegger in which Corbin’s approach is taken seriously.

        SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY
        Fall 2015
        Heidegger’s Being and Time
        PHIL 770 TH 3:35-6:20 HUM 384
        Instructor: Dr. Mohammad Azadpur

        Nov. 19: Being-Towards-Death Being and Time: “Dasein’s Possibility of Being-a-Whole and Being-Towards-Death,” pp. 274- 311. “From Heidegger to Suhrawardi: An Interview with Phillipe Nemo,” Henry Corbin, the first translator of Heidegger into French and the prominent historian of Islamic philosophy, is interviewed,” on iLearn.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    Owen Jones, writing in The Guardian, has an article today that, in the main, pretty much reflects the sentiments expressed in this post.

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/09/war-generations-younger-voters-millennials

  3. Scott Preston says :

    The head of the European Central Bank today has, surprisingly, expressed sentiments pretty much reflecting what I posted here (although one can argue with his proposed solution — more growth, more neo-liberalism): “European job market is rigged against younger workers, says Draghi”. It is not restricted to Europe, of course.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/11/european-job-market-is-rigged-against-younger-workers-says-draghi

    The house that Jack built really is stuck in a grinding predicament — really a case of being damned if you do and damned if you don’t, and no amount of financial policy tinkering is going to rectify this dilemma.

  4. Scott Preston says :

    The Guardian’s recent published research on so-called “Millennials” seems to have resulted in a flurry of articles related to the socio-psychology of “Gen Y”. Here’s another interesting one about millennial anxiety and its connection with inordinate concern with healthiness (ironically, a very unhealthy anxiety). But note, the anxiety expressed in the article all pertains to food and exercise, and nothing much is said at all about the social or natural environment!!

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/11/striving-for-healthiness-makes-us-unhappy-millennials

    Very strange that Gen Y has its own form of “conspicuous consumption” in the form of health-food products. And perhaps this accounts for the low standing of environmental issues (compared to economic ones) in the polls taken of millennial attitudes. Seems quite myopic. But then, millennials are largely the product of Suburbia. Nor do they seem to realise, in the main, the broader systemic and structural nature of the debt bondage they’ve fallen into.

    • Scott Preston says :

      At the present, I would say that the Millennial’s obsession with well-being, as expressed in the article by Sarah Marsh linked to above, is very narcissistic — and that is connected to the sense of anxiety about healthiness. But if that drive should ever become conscious of itself — politically conscious — then it would fulfill the requirement for what Rosenstock-Huessy foresaw as the principle of the “fifth revolution” to close and seal the Modern Era. Back in the late 30s, Rosenstock foresaw that a fifth revolution event, based on the principle of “health” (integralism) would be the next big political development. Anxieties about well-being, while unhealthy in themselves, can be the embryonic form of that principle slowly coming to political and philosophical articulacy. That makes Marsh’s article interesting.

  5. Risto says :

    Hi Scott!

    Thought I could comment again from here bushes (I don’t know, if that’s an expression in English, makes sense in Finnish). The situation here in Finland is exactly what the article and you’re describing. It’s also very present in my own life as unemployed Gen Y’er. The current Finnish government is doing everything they can to make bad situation worse. It’s hard to have any high hopes for the future (if we leave the spiritual and integral aspects aside), when you know things are not going to get better. Maybe that was one the reasons I asked your opinion, what should we do about everything last time I commented.

    About the health thing: I’ve been searching a lot of information about prober diets and other health issues lately for personal reasons. I think the reason, why young are so obsessed with well-being, is that the surrounding world is so sick: when you start to think that everything’s making you sick somehow, it makes you crazy. Especially when it’s obviuos, that the health industry and conventional medicine are not for the common man’s interest. Luckily for my issues I’ve found good sources, where alternative views have benefitted me. Here’s one I’ve been checking for couple of days now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3V3TITSDxc

    • Scott Preston says :

      Thanks for the link, Risto. I’ll have a look at it when I get home later today.

      For the last few days, I’ve been roaming the global websites and the situation of the so-called “millennials” looks the same wherever. It’s structural and systemic — the younger generations are being deprived of a heritage, and this has a lot to do with the austerity fraud and the social philosophy of neo-liberalism (privatisation and the stripping of the commonwealth). A prime example of that is the soaring cost of education. Education is a public good, a necessary public good. But it, ,too, has been largely privatised, and the young are saddled with unmanageable mountains of debt before they even graduate — basically in debt bondage. The commoditification of education (let alone health care) is a perversity.

      This is the more decadent aspect of neo-liberalism that few analyses even mention — that it deprives the younger generations of a common heritage. But when they speak of the massive transfer of wealth from the young to the old, that’s basically what it signifies — stripping the commonwealth so that the young have no common inheritance or heritage.

      The social philosophy behind this is all wrong, and it seems that Gen-Yer’s haven’t yet glommed on to the fact that they’ve been had, and had badly. They even seem to have appropriated this extreme individualist ideology as their own — that their individual well-being is solely their own responsibility. That is a great burden and a huge stress for a young generation, and it’s bound to have effects on mental-health. There are no social supports. They really have been indoctrinated to believe that failure is their own fault, and not the fact that they have been left without a heritage by schemers.

      As I say, very few analyses of neo-liberalism actually address the pernicious generational effects of the ideology, so the Guardian’s research on this has really stirred up the pot, it seems, especially on fundamental issues like education, health, and housing. But they shouldn’t ignore that environment is a big component of the commonwealth and heritage as well.

      • Risto says :

        In Finland the education has been free for all and still is, even in university. I got my master’s degree without debt, so the situation isn’t that bad here. Unfortunately our last year elected super reactionary government is shutting the system down as fast as they can repeating TINA-mantra. One very infuriating aspect in this is, that the politicians made promises that they wouldn’t cut the funding in education. Year after the elections pretty much all of the promises are forgotten.

        Since many things have been so good here in Finland, it’s really sad to see the neo-liberalistic dogma destroy all of that. Probably couple of decades ahead the country has been sold to The Very Big Corporation of America (as in Monty Python).

        • Scott Preston says :

          The neo-liberal dogma basically transforms every nation into a corporation — countries are revalued as “economies” — and every government is either subordinate to the “Invisible Hand” of the market or completely replaced by this Invisible Hand. That is pretty much the ideal of neo-liberalism. The head of state becomes the nation’s CEO, subordinate to the authority of the Invisible Hand. Pretty much the essential self-contradiction in neo-liberalism is that it leads straight to corporatism, and a nasty bit of business that is.

          • LittleBigMan says :

            Unfortunately, I have been able to read your posts only every few minutes during the day when I get the chance. But every comment you have made here is very insightful and right on target.

            “They [Gen-Yer’s’] even seem to have appropriated this extreme individualist ideology as their own — that their individual well-being is solely their own responsibility. That is a great burden and a huge stress for a young generation, and it’s bound to have effects on mental-health.”

            Tell me about it! I went through that, myself. At the time, my most favorite adage was “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

            “The head of state becomes the nation’s CEO, subordinate to the authority of the Invisible Hand.”

            Precisely! You know, this corporate inversion is some menace that, as of yet, remains unpunished and unanswered. In the United States, there has been a gigantic transition from mom-and-pop businesses to corporate franchises (apparent in the types of businesses that pop up at every new intersection as towns grow), but corporations have shown zero loyalty to the people of the communities they are meant to serve.

            https://consumerist.com/2016/01/25/walmart-comes-to-town-other-stores-close-then-walmart-leaves/

            It seems that there is no such a thing as corporate responsibility. They can’t just move in when it’s profitable for them and get up and leave when it’s not. The impact on the lives of the people who live in these communities will be severe and irreversible.

            I have to get back to some mundane but necessary work now, but there’s a great deal to be said about the “Invisible Hand,” that is behind this global menace.

      • Risto says :

        I don’t know if you watched the previous link, but I think this John Bergman guy’s views resonate with what you have to say. Here’s a video which basically says that your thoughts are essential for your health, in another words you create your own reality: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6N2BLlKYwz8

  6. abdulmonem says :

    I feel sometime that we are distancing ourselves from understanding the real problem by using words and phrases that cover the problem instead of clarifying it or sometime missing the causes and speak about the effects or continuing to emphasize the same philosophy in addressing the same problem. For example we forget the bombs or the ill policies that cause the migration or the greediness of the wealthy that is causing the youth uncomfortable situation. Once I heard one of the wealthy condemning the churches for sheltering the homeless, helping the poor or feeding the hungry. It is a sick conduct. It is misplacement of concepts. Competition is beautiful when used in the arena of charitable service and compassionate work and it turns into ugliness when it is used in the field of greed and wanton desire. Even oppression is healthy when used against the oppressors to stop their oppression. It seems we have reached the stage when governments despite of all their powers, are no longer capable to mend or control and it seems that people are called upon to take the initiative to rectify their situation and it seems also that peoples are working in that direction. It is the functioning of the law of the polar cycles. It is a war not of generations or of cultures or of religions but a war between the oppressed and the oppressors.

  7. abdulmonem says :

    After finishing my comment , I listened to the video Rusto of Finland has mentioned only to find more confirmation to what I said, but more horrifying example that of the polio vaccine that has been prohibited in America but to be sold to India and Nigeria. What an excellent, civilized code of ethics.

    • Risto says :

      You misspelled my name quite funnily abdulmonem, your version means gristle in Finnish.

      The polio thing is fine example of the duplicity.

      • abdulmonem says :

        Sorry Risto, for the mistake, however I hope you will be a tough bone in the dying thrown of duplicity.

  8. abdulmonem says :

    Again, in stead of using the most deprived class in our society, we use the word. precariat which is only few know, despite the problem we are addressing, touches the many who need to be aware of the situation and move to do something about it. This recall to my mind a saying by Dostoevesky if I remember well which goes like this, the insulted and the injured can not realize his situation until you tell him that he is insulted and injured. Exposure is a corrective tool, that is why all dishonest governments are afraid of truth and they condemn all whistleblowers.

  9. LittleBigMan says :

    That Guardian article was very strange. The article explains the economic plight of the young (twenty somethings), but only one of the pictures of the young people posted with the article is of a woman who looks worried; the rest are smiling!!

    Yes, not only the precariat is real, it is created intentionally; that is, the precariat is no accident and it isn’t even the result of carelessness or poor management of the economic affairs of the country – and I am speaking of the United States now. The wheels that turn and bring about the burgeoning precariat in this society are acting intentionally and with purpose.

  10. davidm58 says :

    Even Asher Edleman, the real person who inspired the fictitious character of Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall St. is saying that in order to strengthen the economy, we need to increase the velocity of money turn-over. So rather than concentrating wealth among the existing rich, who don’t spend a lot of their money, we need to do a better job of distributing wealth, the middle and lower classes who spend most (if not more) of their money. “A shrinking consumer base leads to a shrinking velocity of money.” Hence, he is supporting Bernie Sanders. He says “Bernie is the only person out there who I think is talking at all about those fiscal stimulations and banking rules that will get the banks to begin to generate lending again as opposed to speculation.”

    Of course, I don’t think it’s that simple, but it’s interesting that even Gordon Gekko thinks we’ve gone too far in creating the precariat,

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes, I agree with you. It’s a bit simple. America needs a big dose of social democracy (or the social gospel) at this juncture for more reasons than economic ones — as a corrective to the extremes and excesses of competitive egoism, which have induced severe and widening divisions. This should just be the “common sense”, but for all sorts of reasons the common sense is failing and giving way, instead, to frenzy (“chaotic emotion”). Frenzy, of course, is a symptom of the disintegration of the mental-rational consciousness structure. Another term for frenzy, in the economic sphere, is “irrational exuberance”. And I think “chaotic transition” and “frenzy” are pretty much synonymous (as are expressions like “the gloves come off”).

      • Steve Lavendusky says :

        Just finished an incredible book. NATURE WORD by R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz. With a beautiful and brilliant foreword by the always brilliant Christopher Bamford. Wow!! good good stuff.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Schwaller de Lubicz is, for some reason, a familiar name. I think I might have come across it in The Secret History of Consciousness by Lachman? Can’t recall exactly. The description of the book sounds interesting, though.

          • Steve Lavendusky says :

            René ‘Aor’ Schwaller de Lubicz (1887–1961) was an Alsatian artist, chemist, revolutionary, Neopythagorean, and Egyptologist. More covertly, however, he was a practicing Hermetic adept deeply experienced with esoteric laboratory processes. As integrally conceived by de Lubicz, alchemy possesses a fundamental theological directive, and in a very specific sense forms a hieratic ars or technē (art, science, technique); whether practised on sensible species or on the human soul, the aim of this hieratikē technē is to liberate the consciousness of an entity by rendering its body—its vehicle of expression—increasingly immortal. For de Lubicz, the bodies known through empirical phenomena, i.e. through the mineralogical and biological kingdoms, are transitional bodies—gestational phases—in the genesis of the absolute instrument of consciousness: the ‘Anthropocosmos’, conceived as the initium, telos and integrum of the entire process of cosmogenesis. More specifically, Lubiczian alchemy focuses on the so-called ‘fixed nucleus’ or ‘indestructible salt’, the stable form upon which the mutational phases of this cosmic alchemy were seen to pivot. Lubiczian alchemy, by centring on the esoteric formation of all ‘bodies’, to include the hidden ‘nucleus’ of continuity between metallurgical, biological and spiritual corporeality, speaks directly to the perception of alchemy as a nondual, operative-spiritual process.

  11. truthandconsequences1 says :

    In an effort to simplify the discussion, I suggest that there are two basic problems being discussed here: economic inequality and the degradation of the eco-system.

    To focus on the first one for now, the only real solution is the obvious one – economic equality.

    Economic equality means just that – economic equality. That is to say, it would entail at least two minimum requirements: (a) income equality for all full time workers and (b) the total abolition, insofar as that is possible, of all disparities in wealth between individuals, families and nations.

    Since equality is the fundamental principle of democracy and economic equality is the most important form of political equality, to argue against economic equality is to argue against a basic tenet of the Enlightenment, equality.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I believe the convention view on equality (or universality) is “equality of opportunity” rather than any kind of material or physical equivalence. “Equality of opportunity” is precisely what is being undercut in questions about the “Precariat”. After the World War, the soldiers returning to civilian life were offered social supports (New Deal, Keynesian economics, or social democracy) that propelled many into the Middle Classes. My own parents, being an example, became over time very well-off because of social supports (universal health care, education, and so on — those things referred to as “commonwealth” or “the public welfare”). Today my parents are millionaires, and yet now they vote for political parties that promise to undo those very social supports that aided their rise into the middle class. They are, in effect, kicking the ladder away now that they’ve reached the comfortable sinecure of prosperous retirement. The ladder they are kicking away is, of course, “equality of opportunity”. By their political choices, they are denying the young the same social supports — the commonwealth — that they themselves enjoyed when they were younger. I see that, and so I can well understand the research data compiled by the Guardian respecting the differing prospects of the old and the young today. This also reflects current demographics — an aging population simply has more political clout, and can exercise it at the expense of the younger generations.

  12. truthandconsequences1 says :

    I was talking in my post about economic equality and I believe I explained clearly what I meant by that – not that it needs explaining as the term “economic equality” is self-explanatory.

    Equality of opportunity is a totally different thing from economic equality.

    If your post is meant to be a reply to mine, why are you talking about equality of opportunity?

  13. truthandconsequences1 says :

    Regarding the duplicate post above, I was fiddling around with various buttons on your page in order to do some minor editing of my post when the duplicate appeared and apparently there is no facility for me to delete it.

    Having read your post again, I would like to add to what I have already said. The first sentence in your reply to me is: ‘I believe the convention view on equality (or universality) is “equality of opportunity” rather than any kind of material or physical equivalence.’

    You are probably correct in saying that is the conventional view. However, in stating what you believe is the conventional view as a basis for your argument, you have committed the logical fallacy of argumentum ad populum:

    ‘In argumentation theory, an argumentum ad populum (Latin for “appeal to the people”) is a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition is true because many or most people believe it: “If many believe so, it is so.”’ (Wikipaedia)

    Who was that said, he who builds on the people builds on sand? Well you have built your argument not only on the sand of popular opinion but also on the sand of a logical fallacy.

    There is nothing surprising about this because any time I have raised the topic of economic equality in conversation, all I’ve ever got in response is logical fallacies of one kind or another – or in other words, nonsense.

    As can be seen from my own website, I firmly adhere to a belief system based on the Enlightenment. The reason I bothered to post here is that I thought this website was similarly disposed. As your first reply to me could lead one to believe otherwise, perhaps you might make a fresh attempt at a reply.

    Economic inequality precludes equality of opportunity because the degree of opportunity open to an individual depends largely upon which step of the economic ladder he or she is standing on. Poor people, and poor people’s children in particular, do not have the same opportunities as other people. There is no equality of opportunity without economic equality.

    The term “equality of opportunity” would therefore seem to be an example of “baffle-gab”, to use your expression. In other words, it is an attempt to bamboozle the masses into docilely accepting a false substitute for real equality.

    • Scott Preston says :

      You are confused, aren’t you? “Equality of opportunity” is not a popular prejudice, it is (ostensibly) the basis of the law, and even of the Enlightenment (which you apparently don’t understand). The “pursuit of rational self-interest” implies the necessity of equality of opportunity for that pursuit.

      Now, not even Marx, with his famous formula for communism — from each according to his ability, to each according to his need — implies equality as you have understood it, which is merely economistic. Marx recognised a differential in ability and a differential in need, and not “equality” in the sense you use it.

      What your argument amounts to is economism. And I reject it outright.

      “Equality of opportunity” was an ideal necessary to fulfill the goals of the Enlightenment, call it either “pursuit of happiness” or pursuit of “rational self-interest”, presumed to be equivalent — the principle of universality. Equality of opportunity and equality before the law are the basis of any democratic form of government.

      But in the last analysis, the one thing that makes everything equal is mortality. Death, as they say, is the great leveler.

      • truthandconsequences1 says :

        Contrary to what you claim, Mr Preston, I am not confused and I do understand the Enlightenment.

        You say ‘“Equality of opportunity” is not a popular prejudice.’ Well it is actually. In the first place it is popular in the sense of being a cliché which is often used to avoid discussing the topic I have raised – as illustrated by your response to my raising it here. Secondly it is a prejudice in the sense of being an irrational slogan, as I have shown in my previous post.

        I agree that “it is (ostensibly) the basis of the law”. Whether it is the basis of the Enlightenment as you claim is (in the spirit of the Enlightenment) open to debate. And that’s where you again flout your purported Enlightenment principles. Your dogmatic stance belies those principles.

        One of the problems here appears to derive from differing interpretations of the term “The Enlightenment”. According to the Oxford Concise Dictionary the Enlightenment was “a European intellectual movement of the late 17th and 18th centuries emphasising reason and individualism rather than tradition.”

        You seem to be confusing or conflating the Enlightenment with its historical context. The age of the Enlightenment or the Age of Reason coincided and went hand in hand with the rise of capitalism and the middle class. Thus you seem to have a problem differentiating the Enlightenment from capitalism.

        Your confusion in that regard is illustrated in the third sentence of your post: ‘The “pursuit of rational self-interest” implies the necessity of equality of opportunity for that pursuit.’ There is no logical connection between the first and second part of that sentence unless you are equating the “pursuit of rational self-interest” with the pursuit of financial gain. It is ironic therefore that you disparage my argument as “economism”.

        Unlike you, I don’t view “the pursuit of rational self interest” as being confined to accumulating capital. The term “rational” has nothing intrinsically to do with making money. The Oxford Concise Dictionary definition of “rational”, for example, is “based on or in accordance with reason or logic”.

        “Rational” has the same root meaning as “reason” in the etymological sense that both words derive from the Latin word reri meaning “reckon” or “consider”. Again this is reflected in the Oxford Concise Dictionary definition of “reason”, which is “the power of the mind to think, understand and form judgments logically.”

        For some, the definitions of “reason” and “rationality” can be as broad as those suggested in the following passage from a book by the philosopher Susanne K Langer that I read a long time ago:

        ‘”The power of reason is simply the power of the whole mind at its fullest stretch and compass”, said Professor Creighton, in an essay that sought to stem the great wave of irrationalism and emotionalism following the World War. This assumption appears to me a basic one in any study of mentality. Rationality is the essence of mind, and symbolic transformation its elementary process. It is a fundamental error, therefore, to recognise it only in the phenomenon of systematic, explicit reasoning. That is a mature and precarious product.’ (Philosophy in a New Key, p 99)

        In none of these definitions is making money mentioned and none of them imply that the “pursuit of rational self-interest” and economic equality are mutually exclusive. There is no reason to believe that being on an average industrial wage, say, precludes anyone from achieving great things in the arts, the sciences, the humanities, sports or any other field. That has been amply demonstrated down through history. Indeed countless millions of people in the world today are expected to be and are fully productive (as far as their employers are concerned at least) in return for incomes that are less than the average industrial wage in the more “advanced” economies.

        I don’t know why you’re dragging Karl Marx into this discussion. I made no reference to Marxism because, as even you admit, it’s irrelevant to my argument.

        Finally, you have made no attempt to rebut these final two paragraphs of my previous post:

        Economic inequality precludes equality of opportunity because the degree of opportunity open to an individual depends largely upon which step of the economic ladder he or she is standing on. Poor people, and poor people’s children in particular, do not have the same opportunities as other people. There is no equality of opportunity without economic equality.

        The term “equality of opportunity” would therefore seem to be an example of “baffle-gab”, to use your expression. In other words, it is an attempt to bamboozle the masses into docilely accepting a false substitute for real equality.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Any one of the readers here who has followed The Chrysalis for any length of time will know that your comment is, for one thing, untruthful, and for another irrelevant to the concerns of The Chrysalis. The Chrysalis exists to promote discussion of the social philosophy of William Blake and the cultural philosophy of Jean Gebser, and the ideals of ‘integral consciousness’.

          You’re understanding of the Enlightenment and the Modern Project is pretty lame if it depends merely on dictionary definitions and not historical understanding and context. The Modern Project (or “Enlightenment Project”) was precisely the process of individuation, which process began with the Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance. Liberal democracy was not the goal of the Enlightenment, but a means — conceived to support the process of individuation — to which end, freedom of profession, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of marriage (or choice of life-partner) were ideals in support of this process of individuation, either understood as “self-determination”, “self-realisation” or “self-government” and so on. This all came to a crashing halt with the World Wars, totalitarianism, and the disillusionment of the intelligentsia, followed by the “Post-Modern Condition” and “post-Enlightenment”.

          There is nothing wrong at all with the idea of individuation. The problem was that it was based on a faulty and deficient understanding of “self” or individuality, which was atomistic for one thing, for another it made the res cogitans (the Cartesian cogito or intellect) the centre of the personality, which it’s not. Blake, Jung, and Gebser have all arisen to try to correct the error of the premise upon which individuation was erected — that is, that the “rational” principle is identical with the individuation principle or that the ego (or cogito) is identical with the self.

          “Equality of opportunity”, as originally conceived, was to support the process of individuation, in terms of self-fulfillment, self-realisation, self-government. It has always fought an uphill battle to achieve this against reactionary forces. And if you understood anything at all about The Chrysalis (which you don’t obviously) you would know that I hold the ideals of the Enlightenment to be valid, but that the mental-rational consciousness structure has now entered “deficient mode” (as Gebser calls it) in which these ideals are being abandoned or perverted precisely because the human self-understanding was distorted, having presumed that “Universal Reason” was the yardstick and standard for determining the human, which it isn’t.

          The upshot of it is that other vital aspects of the integral human individuality have been suppressed as “junk” (like “junk DNA”) to fester away as the “unconscious” — those faculties that Gebser refers to as “aperspectival” and “arational”. So, in those terms, post-Enlightenment represents both opportunity and danger, the danger being, of course, throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

          • LittleBigMan says :

            Enlightening, as always!! Thank you.

          • truthandconsequences1 says :

            The baseless accusation that I was untruthful and your general dogmatic approach ill become you but nobody is perfect I suppose. As for the relevance of my comments to The Chrysalis, I’ll come back to that.

            The fact that I cited dictionary definitions for a specific purpose doesn’t mean that my understanding of the Enlightenment and the Modern Project depends on those definitions. I was writing a comment on a blog, not a dissertation.

            I agree with much of what you say. Does everyone here have to be in lockstep with everything you say? Because if that’s the case it doesn’t sit well with the concept of individuation you talk about.

            And speaking of individuation, I have been “walking the walk” in that mode for most of my adult life. The ideas of Jung have played a part in that along the way and also the ideas of his “disciple” James Hillman. I hadn’t heard of Jean Gebser before. However, I’m not sure how useful ideas would be to “The finished man among his enemies”.

            I agree with you about the danger of throwing out the baby of rationality with the bathwater and in that regard I have found Jung’s distinction between lunar and solar consciousness and his emphasising the need to keep a balance between them helpful. Put simply, reason can be viewed as a function of solar consciousness and the imagination, dreams and all the other “arational” (?) stuff as functions of lunar consciousness.

            The “equality of opportunity” cant is an example of a lie told often enough becoming the truth. My rational critique of it cannot be gainsaid because it is just that – a rational critique. It is testament to the authenticity of my individuation that I am capable of truly independent thought in the face of almost universal groupthink in this regard. I have explained clearly that economic equality is a sine qua non for equality of opportunity. You have failed to logically rebut it so you fall back on dismissing it as irrelevant, which is really a denial stratagem.

            Throwing out the baby with the bathwater indeed.

            • Scott Preston says :

              “Equality of opportunity” is the ideal of progressive liberalism. Without it, notions like “the self-made man” or the Enlightenment or humanist understanding that “Man makes himself” is without meaning. But these implications are without meaning without the doctrine of “the free will”, which is as much as to say that the human being has real choices, and is not ultimately determined by externalities or by circumstances. In other words, without the idea of “equality of opportunity”, self-transcendence would be an impossibility for anyone.

              So, “equality of opportunity” really boils down to one single issue — is the individual free or not? Does the individual have real choices? And that means, is there such a thing as “the free will”.

              Here, the poor man is in a better position than the rich man. The rich man — the man who “has made it” — has less reason to exercise will than the poor man, who must overcome many obstacles and challenges to the exercise and assertion of his or her will. But even if the poor man accepts the dogmas that his (or her) lot is determined by Providence or fate or class position or by “Nature” or “human nature” and such things, that also is a choice — resignation. So whether the will is free or unfree is, ironically, a choice.

              The atrophy of the will is just another term for the old sin of “Sloth” — resignation. And without the presumption of “the free will”, the liberal ideal of self-determination and therefore individuation is meaningless.

              The Enlightenment Project was best put by the Marquis de Condorect: “the infinite perfectibility of man”. This is its fundamental “progressive” character. This is its ambiguous utopian ideal, for “infinite” means here endless, while “perfect” means complete, entire, whole or “thoroughly made”, as the word means in Latin. So it’s something of a contradiction: endless growth, endless progress, endless expansion.

              And all this heady Enlightenment enthusiasm and optimism went bust with the First and Second World Wars. Dystopian themes replaced utopian schemes. From 1914 – 1945, it seemed that irrational forces had seized control of the liberal Enlightenment agenda, and indeed “post-Enightenment” and “post-modernity” dates from this period, as does “discovery of the unconscious” and questions about “free will”.

              Neo-conservatism, neo-liberalism, neo-socialism date from this. They were already in embryo during the interwar years. The prefix “neo-” has suggested a resurrection or restoration of the classical forms of liberalism, conservatism, socialism, but it’s clearly a discontinuity and rupture (clearly in the case of “New Labour”). What’s the essential rupture?

              Well, it’s precisely around this issue of the free will, isn’t it? Thatcher’s TINA principle (“There is No Alternative”) or Fukuyama’s “end of history” thesis imply that. No choice; nothing to will. Exactly what Nietzsche anticipated as “the Last Man” who no longer wills anything; who no longer seeks to overcome himself.

              That’s why no one can makes heads or tails out of neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism, or neo-socialism. They are identical. They are this “end of history” dogma in the flesh.

              So, it’s not thinking that distinguishes human beings, it’s willing. This Nietzsche understood. The automaton may be very rational and calculating, but it is without will. In fact, society as a giant automaton is even considered the ideal today.

              What does this imply for the classical Enlightenment or liberal values and virtues? Freedom of occupation, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, or even freedom of life-partner choice? Well, it makes them all moot. Utimately, these are all based on a presumption of the free will as the principle of self-determination and authentic individuation.

              So, no. “Equality of opportunity” isn’t even essentially about economics at all. It’s a spiritual principle which presumes the inviolability of the free will as the principle of individuation, not the opportunity to become just another cog in the machine. Unfortunately, people seem to have forgotten completely what these things actually mean. They pay lip-service to these values, of course. But the circumstances of late modern life have made them all pretty moot.

              It’s pretty clear to anyone with eyes to see it that Modernity is negating itself, completely consistent with Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism”. I have zero interest in reviving a lost cause. My only interest is in how to outrun this “two centuries of nihilism” and the decadence of the Modern Era. I’m not the least interesting in recovering Hegel or Marx from the impending shipwreck, let alone Descartes from whom they are both descended. Quite a few things have to be unlearned before there can be real learning.

              Even Mr. Adam Smith believed that everyone had the same opportunity to realise their happiness in the present moment — what we might call “the Bliss of the Now”. He just didn’t think it was useful for society’s economic development, so he displaced it into the future — as the chimera of the “pursuit of happiness”. It’s a peculiar thing, but as you can see is very much connected with Condorcet’s “infinite perfectibility of man” and with that, modern advertising’s continuous theme of “the perfect life” as core message of its marketing themes. Of course it’s the carrot and the stick approach — present life and happiness postponed for some chimera of future life and happiness. But for Mr. Smith, it was a “necessary illusion”. But clearly, this is one aspect of the Enlightenment we can do without — advertising’s promise of “the perfect life” continuously postponed and unsatisfied is fully the realisation of Condorcet’s ambiguous “infinite perfectibility of man”.

              Well, buddhists call that state “dukkha” — first of the four Noble Truths. “Equality of opportunity” means, for me first and foremost, that everybody has the same opportunity, here and now, to know “the bliss of the now” or what is called “kingdom of heaven”. But, as it is said also, it’s much easier for a poor man to pass through the Eye of the Needle than the well-to-do man with all his possessions (or what Nietzsche also called “miserable ease”). Everybody, right here, right now, has exactly the same opportunity to realise that which matters most. But to change the social conditions of existence you must change the inner conditions of existence because, as McGilchrist put it quite accurately in The Master and his Emissary about the divided brain: the mode of attention you bring to existence is the mode of being of your existence.

              In those terms, in the bigger picture, everybody has the same opportunity to become a man or woman of knowledge. Everybody has the same opportunity to grab their “cubic centimetre of chance”, as Castaneda’s don Juan put it — evidently this being the same as Jesus’ “eye of the needle” parable. And that’s all that really matters because it’s consciousness that determines the form of society, not vice versa.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I deleted your duplicate comment.

  14. truthandconsequences1 says :

    Many thanks for that thoughtful reply. I salute your eloquence and learning and I agree with most of what you say.

    It’s what you don’t say mostly that I still have the problem with. In trying to explain what I mean, I will use analogies. The first analogy is the philosophy of Epictetus the ancient Stoic philosopher. At one stage he was a slave in Rome but he raised himself out of that state by educating himself and he later became a teacher of philosophy. One of his teachings was that ones psychological response to a situation is more important than ones situation, even if that situation is slavery.

    That kind of thinking is essentially the same as Viktor Frankl’s “logotherapy”, which is described as follows in Wikipaedia (I think I still have Frankl’s book somewhere but I haven’t got time to go searching for, or in, it right now):

    “Rather than power or pleasure, logotherapy is founded upon the belief that it is the striving to find a meaning in one’s life that is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans. A short introduction to this system is given in Frankl’s most famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he outlines how his theories helped him to survive his Holocaust experience and how that experience further developed and reinforced his theories.”

    It seems to me that Epictetus, Frankl and you are saying essentially the same thing and I agree with you on that. However, there is more to it. Otherwise Epictetus could be viewed as justifying slavery and Frankl as justifying the Holocaust, insofar as slavery and the Holocaust were opportunities for their victims to test their willpower and moral fibre. Rather like the way you say, “the poor man is in a better position than the rich man”.

    That kind of thinking ignores political reality. In your thinking apparently, poverty is considered inevitable and beyond the power of humans to remedy. It accepts blindly the false platitude attributed to Jesus Christ: “The poor we shall always have with us”. It ignores the fact that the poor are victims, no less than Jews in Nazi Germany and slaves in ancient Rome were victims.

    You say:

    “But even if the poor man accepts the dogmas that his (or her) lot is determined by Providence or fate or class position or by “Nature” or “human nature” and such things, that also is a choice — resignation. So whether the will is free or unfree is, ironically, a choice.

    “The atrophy of the will is just another term for the old sin of “Sloth” — resignation. And without the presumption of “the free will”, the liberal ideal of self-determination and therefore individuation is meaningless.”

    Viewing poverty and economic inequality (which are essentially the same thing) as an inevitable fact of life rather than as political oppression that must be questioned, challenged and overturned is a prime example of the abdication of free will that you speak of.

    The emphasis on individuation at the expense of acquiescing in what is happening to the world politically and environmentally was discussed in a 1993 book co-written by James Hillman, as indicated in its title: We’ve had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy and the World’s Getting Worse. What Hillman was saying is that we have to stop trying to make inner adjustments to a sick world through psychotherapy or whatever and start trying to remedy the world’s sickness through political action.

    I take a Jungian “both/and” rather than an “either/or view” and I believe individuation and political action are equally important. Effective political action must be informed by rational political analysis. The problem as I see it with politics nowadays – even that of the supposedly most radical left – is that it is based on the false assumption that poverty is inevitable and that all one can strive for is reduced economic inequality rather than economic equality. It is the absurdity lampooned by Orwell in Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

    Poverty is not divinely ordained; it is politically ordained. Mahatma Gandhi said, “Poverty is the worst form of violence”. To misrepresent poverty as an inevitable fact of life or indeed a blessing is a denial of that reality.

    The Modern Project has delivered great benefits for humanity in the political sphere which derive mainly from the Enlightenment concept of human rights. The abolition of such iniquities as slavery, child labour, cruel and unusual punishments and the Inquisition are just some of these benefits. The translation of the principle of equality into economic equality is a crucial and necessary next step for that Project.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Frankl’s logotherapy is an implementation of Nietzsche’s statement: “If a man has a why he can put up with any how“, which is Nietzsche’s principle of amor fati. And yes, The Chrysalis does take much the same position, as is probably best explained in Dwig’s earlier reference to the issue of “imaginal cells” and the chrysalis stage,

      http://augustocuginotti.com/imaginal-cells-caterpillars-job-to-resist-butterfly/

      I’m afraid that the “next step” in the traditional narrative of progressive Enlightenment isn’t going to be what you think, a solution to the problem of economic inequality and the alleviation of poverty. Millions are now poised to fall into poverty. In fact, millions are already there. They just don’t know it yet.

      Poverty is actually hidden in the existing private debt to assets ratio. Private debt far exceeds personal assets. It won’t take much for millions to fall from relative abundance to absolute poverty — below subsistence. And that “something” is about to happen — automation.

      Hundreds of occupational categories are about to disappear in the next three of four years. AI has reached the point where substitution is now feasible making millions of jobs redundant. Coupled with the debt burden, climate change, etc — this is becoming the perfect storm. Neo-liberalism is a self-devouring ideology.

      It seems that current proposals circulating in some jurisdictions (and actually implemented in some jurisdictions now) for a “guaranteed annual income” are connected with the incipience of mass automation and robotics. In Canada (and elsewhere) this has been proposed at around 15,000.00 per annum. While adequate perhaps for some areas (the rural areas) it’s not even subsistence if you live in the urban areas.

      I’m sure everyone is going to be duped into thinking that the Guaranteed Annual Income is a “progressive” step, when it’s no such thing. It’s the consolation prize. But I’m sure it will keep many unemployed people well-stocked in lottery tickets.

      Possible outcomes of mass automation? There are many possibilities, including mass migration from the cities to the countryside (although that tends to raise costs in the countryside correspondingly). This would be coincident with urban decay, as the cost of living in the cities would be prohibitive even with the GAI. Bankruptcies will skyrocket with all the attendent knock-on effects rippling through the society. We’re not the least bit prepared for this. Millions will be living in what I’ve earlier called “the Shadow of the Enlightenment”. The cities could very well become militarised zones.

      Of course, industry will be looking to the State to bail it out of the social consequences, and that seems to be what the Guaranteed Annual Income is — a modest attempt to preserve social peace. Millions are about to be disenfranchised, and society seems unprepared for it. And thanks to neo-liberalism, “austerity” and privatisation, social supports have been stripped bare. No safety net. It’s a perfect storm.

      It looks, rather, that Peter Pogany’s “havoc” is going to be the near term future.

      • truthandconsequences1 says :

        For the sake of accuracy, I didn’t say economic equality was going to be the next step. I said it was “a crucial and necessary next step”.

        Unfortunately, the authoritarian virus has so corrupted our culture and political system(s) that progress along rational lines is highly unlikely and as you say a scenario such as that of Pogany’s looks most likely.

        It is the authoritarian virus that has rendered the idea of economic equality taboo. One of the many benefits of economic equality is that the decision makers would suffer the same consequences of their decisions as everyone else. The elimination of moral hazard would encourage decision makers to make ethical decisions for a change, though it’s probably way too late for that now.

        However, it seems that we will never agree. I think that’s because for me the concept of ethics is about fairness, whereas for you apparently fairness doesn’t come into it; for you it’s about the Nietzschean idea of the conflicting “moralities” of master and slave.

        If that’s the case, perhaps you need to reflect on the fact that such (Nietzschean) authoritarianism contravenes the basic anti-authoritarian principles of the Enlightenment Project which, as you say, began with the Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance. (Though it can be traced at least as far back as the Presocratic philosophers of ancient Greece.)

        In my view we have failed as a species (and are therefore possibly doomed to extinction) because the majority of people remain authoritarian despite the Modern Project. Stanley Milgram’s famous obedience experiment in the 1960s demonstrated that the majority of people are effectively Nazis. So long as that is the prevailing mentality, rational progress is impossible.

        • Scott Preston says :

          There’s a perfect shitstorm gathering on the horizons of Late Modernity that seems to be underneath most people’s radar. I give it three, four, maybe five years before the convergence of all the negative trends of the Late Modern period. Climate change is happening far more rapidly than previously thought (last month’s “bombshell” revelation that we’ve already exceeded the global warming limit of 2 C). Artificial intelligence has reached the stage where mass substitution has become feasible (autonomous vehicles for one thing), and that coupled with record levels of private and public debt makes for an explosive situation; and that coupled with the current disintegration of the mental-rational consciousness structure in an orgy of chaotic emotion and “frenzy” (“irrational exuberance” and so on), resurgence of racism, hyper-partisanship, etc. Well, it looks like Gebser’s anticipated “global catastrophe” in the making.

          When speaking of “master-slave” relationship and of slave mentality in Nietzsche, and correspondingly between the noble and ignoble values, this has to be understood psychologically, not essentially politically. The master-slave relationship is best exemplified by the relationship between the Nietzschean “ego” and the Nietzschean “self”, best represented in his chapter on “The Despisers of the Body” in Zarathustra. It is very much more appropriate to compare this to McGilchrist’s “Master and Emissary” model of the divided brain, or as Nietzsche put it, the true self is not the self that says “I” (the ego) but the self that does I. And right there you have McGilchrist’s emissary and master relationship of the divided brain. The “master” is what Meister Eckhart calls “the Aristocrat”, so is the source of the noble or “aristocratic” values which are debased by the reductionism or fundamentalism of the mode of attention of the left-hemisphere of the brain.

          If you’ve watched neuroanatomist Jill Bolte-Taylor’s TED talk on her “stroke of insight”, this should become most clear what the “master” and “emissary” means, or what Nietzsche means in saying the authentic self does “I” rather than says “I”.

          Nietzsche’s “overman” or transhuman is really only the self-realisation of this “master” or Eckhart’s “Aristocrat” associated with McGilchrist’s mode of attention (the first attention) of the right-hemisphere of the brain.

          Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism” is associated with the irruption of the master. It is not born without pain. This is also presently called “havoc” (Pogany) or “chaotic transition” or “global catastrophe” (Gebser) or “the crisis” (Rosenstock-Huessy) who compares the chaotic transition to a crucifixion upon the cross of reality. In all cases, it means the same: pain is the bridge to the transhuman. And I think we are about to experience a lot of it.

  15. abdulmonem says :

    It is very interesting exchange in the way of clarifying the why and the how of addressing the mess we are in. What is missing is the divines givens. In the realm of nature the rivers and the seas with all their abundant riches. The land and the mountains with all their various wealth etc etc. In the realm of the human the ability to sense and conceive and create and address the given or created problems of life in general, even poverty and wealth are given but not inevitable to see how the human can address them in a just and truthful compassionate fashion. It is important to view the issues we are tackling in an integral fashion away from the nested boxes our civilization have built around the inattentive or misattentive human. A civilization that have abused and overused everything and forgot any types of divine accountability or obligations and treated the given for granted without appreciation or gratitude. A civilization that has allowed itself to exploit other lands and other peoples for serving its interest, even the adaptive cycle considered colonization as the exploitation phase in the growth of the western civilization It is no wonder there are all these warning voices all around us. It is unfortunate that most peoples are still thinking we are the sole force in a cosmos that is filled with unseen forces that are already giving us warning signals whether through the human voices or through the climate change or the curtailment of the edges of the earth and the rising sea.

  16. truthandconsequences1 says :

    Thank you again, Mr Preston, for engaging in discussion with me despite our different perspectives on things.

    I’ve looked at some of the material you have cited, including the Jill Bolte-Taylor video. It’s very interesting, She and Mac Giolla Chriost (the name McGilchrist makes more sense in Gaelic – it means “son of the servant of Christ”, perhaps with some aptness) are expressing something I and many others before me have intuited (there’s that too) about the mind. I quoted Susanne Langer above. She and others, such as LA Reid, spoke about ways of knowing other than through discursive reasoning and they proposed the various forms of art, for example, as “embodying” kinds of knowledge that are beyond the power of logic to explain and comprehend.

    You can go back to the polytheism of the ancients. This is a major theme in the ideas of Carl Jung and James Hillman. For example, in his 1983 book Archetypal Psychology, Hillman wrote:

    “The tradition of thought (Greek, Renaissance, Romantic) to which archetypal psychology claims it is an heir is set in polytheistic attitudes. The imaginative products of these historical periods cannot contribute further to psychology unless the consciousness that would receive from them is able to transpose itself into a similar polytheistic framework. The high achievements of Western culture from which contemporary culture may find sources for its survival remain closed to modern consciousness unless it gains a perspective mimetic to what it is examining. Hence, polytheistic psychology is necessary for the continuity of culture.” (James Hillman, Archetypal Psychology, p 33)

    On a more trite level perhaps a similar idea is reflected in Howard Garners’s ‘multiple intelligences’.

    I’m sceptical about trying to tie down, as it were, specific aspects of the archetypal polyvalence of the psyche to identifiable physical portions of the brain. Such an effort could be viewed as committing, on more than one level, the very error that McGilchrist denounces: subordinating the imagination and the arational to empiricism and logic. It is also in keeping with some of the appalling effects of what David Kaiser has called the pernicious ideology of biopsychiatry:

    “As a practicing psychiatrist, I have watched with growing dismay and outrage the rise and triumph of the hegemony known as biologic psychiatry. Within the general field of modern psychiatry, biologism now completely dominates the discourse on the causes and treatment of mental illness, and in my view this has been a catastrophe with far-reaching effects on individual patients and the cultural psyche at large.”
    http://www.uncommonforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=60266

    What I’m trying to get at was well expressed by James Hillman in his 1976 book, Re-visioning Psychology: “Here I am working toward a psychology of soul that is based in a psychology of image. Here I am suggesting both a poetic basis of mind and a psychology that starts neither in the psychology of the brain, the structure of the language, the organisation of society, nor the analysis of behaviour, but in the process of imagination.” In this regard Hillman quotes the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus: “You could not discover the limits of the soul (psyche), even if you travelled every road to do so; such is the depth (bathun) of its meaning (logos).” (p xvii)

    The tyranny of the rational and the butchering of the soul are central to the mainstream “education” system, where what Margaret Donaldson called “disembedded thinking” is prized and promoted to the virtual exclusion of all else. The primary aim of the education system is to develop and select the “brightest and best” brainworkers who excel in a very narrow range of intellectual abilities who then proceed to the most powerful positions in society whence they perpetuate the stultifying culture beyond which they cannot see.

    I think there is a lot of merit in the ideas presented by Ivan Illich in his book Deschooling Society (1971). The present system of the compulsory “education” of young people during many of the most formative years of their lives inculcates in them above all else an authoritarian TINA mentality to which independent thinking is anathema. It is inevitable that the vast majority of people produced by such a system would be docile wage slaves.

    Your said somewhere on this thread I think that the 1970s marked a turning point and I agree with that. Ivan Illich was one of those who could see then that there needed to be a radical change in the way the world was going in order to avert global catastrophe. There has been no such change and I fear the catastrophe is now inevitable.

    PS. I agree in the main with what abdulmonem said above so eloquently. It reminds me of James Hillman’s book The Thought of the Heart and the Soul of the World and of a passage in CG Jung’s memoir Memories, Dreams, Reflections in which he recalls a conversation he had with a Native American man, Ochwiay Biano, an elder of the Taos Pueblo in New Mexico. Ochwiay Biano said:

    “How cruel the whites are: their lips are thin, their noses sharp, their faces furrowed and distorted by holes. Their eyes have a staring expression. They are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something, they are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want, we do not understand them, we think that they are mad.” I asked him why he thought the whites were all mad. “They say they think with their heads,” he replied.

    “Why, of course. What do you think with?” I asked him in surprise.

    “We think here,” he said, indicating his heart.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Jean Gebser identified the first decade of the 20th century as signalling a basic reorientation of consciousness (an incipient ‘mutation’)/restructuration of reality (basically, identical processes). After a century of testing this thesis, it seems to be the case, even if it seems rather uneven, not gradual, linear or progressive, but non-linear, discontinous and stochastic. But there’s no question, I think, but that a new orientation of consciousness to its reality is emerging.

      Hillman is someone I’ve always been meaning to read, but have never got around to. Hopefully I’ll get around to him in the future.

      i have critiqued McGilchrist’s divided brain approach in the past, but less for its reliance on neuroanatomical explanation than for his penchant for Hegelian explanation (dialecticism). It’s perhaps forgivable that he deliberately emphasises the left-right hemispheric dialectic and avoids the anterior-posterior relation as well. Probably, for similar reasons, Blake couldn’t finish his work on the Four Zoas, who are the same neuroanatomical aspects of the brain (for as Blake says, the Zoas “reside in the Human Brain” and in the “Cycle of the Nerves”). Nonetheless, The Master and his Emissary is valuable for that — for interpreting William Blake, as well as four supplying further insight into Jean Gebser’s cultural philosophy. McGilchrist also notes that his neuroanatomical approach to consciousness is largely metaphorical itself, and is largely confined by the nature of prose itself. One gets the sense, in reading McGilchrist, that he would rather be writing poetically than philosophically and prosaically. But one does have to follow certain rules of discourse, even knowing that they are the rules of discourse — a description and a way of describing. He is, after all, writing for the left-hemisphere’s way of interpretation, rather than the right-hemisphere’s mode of attention. It’s always a tricky business to try and explain the perceptions of the first attention (the right) in terms the second attention (the left) can comprehend without some losing some degree of fidelity.

      Just so, the Zoas “reside in the Human Brain”, but that doesn’t mean they ARE the human brain. It’s important to realise that for Blake and McGilchrist and Buddhism and perhaps even Gebser, the brain is simply an organ of perception itself, not the cause of perception. That’s pretty important to keep in mind otherwise, as you say, one would lapse into biologism.

      And I would say that McGilchrist’s book is, in itself (and despite some of its flaws) evidence of a restructuration of consciousness and reality.

      Learning how to unlearn is probably Illich’s chief contribution also to the new consciousness. It’s really a matter of unlearning certain things. Much of this naturally appears as “nihilism” (and in some ways it is) but it is also a Nietzschean “revaluation of values”. In fact, “revaluation of values” is just another term for “consciousness mutation” and a corresponding restructuration of reality, social relationships, etc. “Devaluation of values” and “revaluation of values” are things we should be paying close attention to, because that is, in essence, the meaning of Gebser’s “double-movement” of the times, one towards disintegration and one towards integration — and this, and only this, is the real meaning of “creative destruction”, and is Shiva’s dance, which is also the “dance of Eternal Death” that is performed by Blake’s “Albion”. Albion is Gebser’s “integral consciousness”.

  17. abdulmonem says :

    There is a very sobering article on inequality sweepstakes by Thomas Frank posted by Tomdispatch, I thought I mention here for those interested to see the horrendous scene of this ugly inequality.

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