Dinner and a lecture on Marcuse

Another thought-provoking lecture (circa 1993) from Duke Professor Rick Roderick on the writings (“One-Dimensional Man”; 1964) and attitudes expressed by German philosopher Herbert Marcuse:

Didn’t know a thing about Marcuse before today, so far as I can recollect.

Alienation. Rationalization. Banalization. I’d say those three pretty much hit on the head what we’ve been confronting so long as I’ve been alive.

On the menu this evening were sauteed beer brats, steamed green beans, and microwaved easy mac. And now I’m off to work once again for about an hour.

The folly of science-worshiping

A number of people today are science-worshipers.

Now, what do I mean by that term? A science-worshiper is someone who places a tremendous amount of faith in science and scientists to save humanity from itself. What do I mean by that? Well, have you been listening to people out and about in our society? Many seem to be laboring under the illusion that scientific advancements automatically should be equated with “progress.” Many of these same people can go on and on about all the innovations and luxuries we enjoy today that wouldn’t have been possible without science, arguing that scientific exploration has wrought more benefits than harm and always will.

When I interject to say it’s unwise to assume future success will automatically follow past successes, this is dismissed. When I question whether these advancements have truly, aggregately, done more good than harm, I’m considered a loon. Why is that? Because people are blinded by science. The latest in technology. Some people apparently can’t handle their precious adoration of all that is scientific being scrutinized by “Luddites” like myself who wonder if it isn’t such a good idea to run headlong into the future without any pause to ponder what it is we’re trying to do here exactly. The science-worshiping attitude seems to be that all problems that will arise can and will be remedied by the application of newer and better scientific innovations. Cased closed. Luddites everywhere be damned.

But no, the case is not closed simply because some folks choose to approach the vast topic of living in a decidedly scientific era through a largely uncritical lens. That is their blind spot, which they can’t see because they’re in attack mode and out to ridicule anybody and everybody who isn’t as madly in love with all that is scientific as they are.

I do love scientific exploration. Always have. BUT, doing so doesn’t require me to be devoted to defending all that is scientific as if we have some sort of war on. The war’s already been won. Didn’t you get the memo? Science won out. It’s here to stay, folks, assuming we don’t somehow knock ourselves into a new Dark Age. There’s no need to defend it tooth and nail against anyone who wishes to critique what technologies are being used to do and how they’re altering our world in ways that aren’t uniformly positive.

I, for one, pay attention to how our technologies have come to alienate us from one another (in conjunction with other cultural realities, including population density, globalized communication and trade, grand economic imperatives that all are subjected to, etc.). The swift transitioning of life at this point in time is mind-boggling for nearly everybody, because we’re having to learn so much for our own selves, the old ways being on the way out and rendered obsolete in the new world we’re helping co-create. Wisdom of old stands no chance in a topsy-turvy age that has us redefining our values and tolerating lifestyles that are basically imposed upon us.

So where does the new wisdom come from then? From one another, from the wider collective, from the greatest number of people capable of reaching some sort of consensus. People like to bat around the term “democracy,” but what they’re really getting at is majority rule. On one hand people will argue that we each have rights and voices that deserve to be respected, YET when it comes to what impresses most on us, it boils down to what the majority of people have come to expect from one another.

And this leads back to my criticism of science-worshipers. Many of these people seem incapable of comprehending how much they’re accepting as if it’s granted. And how do they know so much? Because they read it in a journal somewhere, or in the newspaper, or saw it on television or in a documentary, or learned it in school. Where else would they get all this information that they claim to know?

See, we’re relying on what others tell us, yet again, this time scientists and so-called “experts.” And who are they? Employees of institutions mostly, which can and does lead to conflicts in interest. Because scientists, like everybody else, are trying to earn a living here. And like everybody else, they aren’t impervious to personal biases or being ego-driven or simply being wrong at times. They are human beings, not superheroes. Scale ’em back down to reality and have a closer look. Take notice of how the FDA actually operates and how much overlap there is within it and corporations backing research tied in to the economics game. How much truly independent research do we think is really going on out here?

And even if most scientists prove to be decent, upstanding people with sharp minds and boatloads of integrity, they aren’t oftentimes in control of how they’re findings wind up being used by others, namely the institutions they work for. So you see this isn’t simply about bashing scientists or science here, not for me; it’s about following the money and trying to remain realistic about what’s actually happening within the realm of scientific exploration, rather than just focusing on some idealized set of events we wish were taking place.

Now, here’s the real kicker. We common laypeople (some of whom may be “experts” or scientists in one field or another, but all of us are laypersons when it comes to everything outside of our own individual focus) are trusting information handed down by scientists. Which scientists? Typically the ones backed by their peers. But what if the majority of persons—all persons, including scientists—are laboring under popular illusions?

This point is most clearly demonstrated when we turn to the pseudoscientific realm of psychiatry. It’s come to receive widespread support within American society, going so far as making people out to be lunatics who speak out against what it’s doing. This is a field that donned a scientific veneer so as to be taken as seriously as medical science, but without actually curing a thing and possessing no diagnostic tests that clearly tell us much. So the MRI scan shows the brains of these children to light up in places that differ from the “normal” majority of other kids? So what? That still doesn’t tell us much. Techniques of this nature are being used to lend credence to a field that makes money through aiming to “correct” non-conformists, whether that be active children or adults unwilling to slap on a smile and perform for others in this collective delusion pretending life is dandy, just peachy keen.

Because a field of study utilizes scientific techniques, that still doesn’t qualify it entirely as a full-fledged science. Anyone can make up a scheme and set about trying to find evidence to support it, but if the evidence is incapable of being falsified (either because there’s not enough information available to go on or because the wacky scheme was hatched rather as an attempt to garner support for what’s ultimately being used as a social engineering project), it isn’t science. Not if that word is to maintain any value.

On the topic of psychiatry, I’ll link to external sources that can break down the situation in greater detail:

Let me say briefly that my own attitudes toward the fields of psychology and psychiatry were shaped growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, witnessing people around me taking these prescribed psychotropic drugs and learning how easy it is to get them (even general practitioners hand them out like candy). So my viewpoint on this has been shaping up for a long time on its own, but then a few years ago I stumbled across the works of Dr. Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist who was critical of his own field. And what I find when I talk to people on this subject is they are quick to dismiss Dr. Szasz because he was a voice pushed to the fringe and drowned out by the vast majority who work in the field and sing its praises. Why overlook the concerns of that man? Simply because his views ran counter to what the majority wants to believe. I speak his name and promote his books because they provide a very interesting way of understanding how the psychiatric field has come into being and what it has historically been used for. His arguments strike me as very compelling. But why would they compel someone who’d prefer to believe the opposite is true?

And this is the crux of it, folks: oftentimes we believe what we want to believe. We tend to seek out sources that bolster beliefs we already have and to be resistant to contradictory evidence and arguments. Many, many people go along to get along. They will accept what the majority is up to, uncritically. If this many people believe something is true, it’s not likely to be wrong. Right? Wrong. And history has shown us this again and again. People are wrong all the flippin’ time, even scientists (and decent ones are willing to admit this). Life involves trial and error. Human biases have a tendency to get in the way. Plenty of the most influential seekers of truth up through history were viewed as heretics in their communities, and some were killed as a result. We know this. And yet many continue fallaciously making appeals to the majority. Why? Probably because it feels like the safest bet. And it requires less legwork out of us, because information corresponding with popular viewpoints is pasted everywhere.

People believe what they want to believe. And they also believe who they want to believe. Based on what? Personal biases. Conformity pressures. None of us are immune to this. But it still comes down to beliefs, because we laypersons aren’t conducting these experiments for ourselves — we’re trusting what others claiming to be more knowledgeable put forth. We’re placing faith in them to use proper methodology and to not be biased by political and economic pressures. We’re placing faith in them to know better than we do because they claim access to information the vast majority of us aren’t privy to. That is a form of faith. What is faith but an enhanced level of trust?

People can argue all day that this and this is verifiable, but if we can’t personally verify it for ourselves, it’s just chatter. It’s big talk that we can’t back up. Because, in reality, most of us just don’t know. We trust the doctors and scientists to know what we don’t know and to act on that knowledge in our best interests. How is that not a leap of faith all unto itself? Especially when it comes to the latest findings or highly abstract subject matter. How does this differ all that significantly from people centuries back placing faith in priests who also claimed to know on matters that the common people couldn’t access and comprehend for themselves (in the times before the advent of the printing press)? People today will argue that “one is true while is the other proved false,” but hindsight is 20/20, folks. How can you be so certain that what you strongly believe today won’t prove false someday as well?

And what reason is there to assume that scientific exploration alone can provide the full picture? What does science teach us about morality and philosophies? How far can it really go in helping us create lives infused with meaning?

With modern life in hyperdrive and new technologies being spit out daily, how can we pretend to know so much? When I contemplate it seriously, all of this demonstrates to me is yet another way in which we humans are growing increasingly dependent, in this case on “experts” and the explanations and arguments they hand down.

This blog entry was read and recorded and then uploaded as a video on YT:

On homosexuality, religion, and the mental health field — excerpts from the book “The Manufacture of Madness”

More from Dr. Thomas Szasz’s book The Manufacture of Madness: A Comparative Study of the Inquisition and the Mental Health Movement (1970). Picking back up in chapter 10, page 160:

The change from a religious and moral to a social and medical conceptualization and control of personal conduct affects the entire discipline of psychiatry and allied fields. Perhaps nowhere is this transformation more evident than in the modern perspective on so-called sexual deviation, and especially on homosexuality. We shall therefore compare the concept of homosexuality as heresy, prevalent in the days of the witch-hunts, with the concept of homosexuality as mental illness, prevalent today.

 Homosexual behavior—like heterosexual and autoerotic behavior—occurs among higher apes and among human beings living in a wide variety of cultural conditions. Judging by artistic, historical, and literary records, it also occurred in past ages and societies. Today it is part of the dogma of American psychiatrically enlightened opinion that homosexuality is an illness—a form of mental illness. This is a relatively recent view. In the past, men held quite different views on homosexuality, from accepting it as a perfectly natural activity to prohibiting it as the most heinous of crimes. […]

 The Bible prohibits almost every form of sexual activity other than heterosexual, genital intercourse. Homosexuality is prohibited first in Genesis, in the story of Lot. One evening, two angels come to Sodom, disguised as men. Lot meets them at the gates and invites them into his house. First, the angels refuse Lot’s hospitality, offering instead to spend the night in the street; but at Lot’s urgings, the Old Testament tells us, “they entered his house; and he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house; and they called to Lot. ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.’ “

 The men of Sodom wanted to use the travelers as sexual objects. Among the ancient Israelites, however, he who gave shelter to strangers was obligated to protect them from harm. Because of this, Lot offered his daughters as substitute objects: “Lot went out of the door to the men, shut the door after him, and said, ‘I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known man; let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please; only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.’ “

 As this suggests, homosexuality was considered a serious offense. This story also makes clear the abysmal devaluation of women as human beings in the ethics of ancient Judaism. Lot values the dignity of his male guests more highly than that of his female children. The Christian ethic did not raise the worth of female life much above the Jewish; nor did the clinical ethic raise it much above the clerical. This is why most of those identified as witches by male inquisitors were women; and why most of those diagnosed as hysterics by male psychiatrists were also women.

 […]

 It is important to note that only male homosexuality is forbidden: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman . . .” God addresses males only. He does not command woman not to lie with a female as with a man. Here by omission and implication, and elsewhere by more explicit phrasing, woman is treated as a kind of human animal, not as a full human being. The most up-to-date legal statutes of Western nations dealing with homosexuality continue to maintain this posture toward women: Though homosexual intercourse between consenting adults continues to be prohibited in many countries, nowhere does this apply to women. The inference about the less-than-human status of women is inevitable. No wonder than in his morning prayer, the Orthodox Jew says, “Blessed be God . . . that He did not make me a woman,” while the woman says, “Blessed be the Lord, who created me according to His will.”

 Biblical prohibitions against homosexuality had of course a profound influence on the medieval equation of this practice with heresy; on our contemporary criminal laws and social attitudes, with regard to homosexuality as a hybrid of crime and disease; and on the language we still use to describe many so-called sexually deviant acts. Sodomy is an example.

 Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary (Third Edition) defines sodomy as “The homosexual proclivities of the men of the city as narrated in Gen. 19: 1-11; carnal copulation with a member of the same sex or with an animal or unnatural carnal copulation with a member of the opposite sex; specif.: the penetration of the male organ into the mouth or anus of another.” This definition is pragmatically correct. In both psychiatric and literary works, the term “sodomy” is used to describe sexual activity involving contact between penis and mouth or anus, regardless of whether the “passive” partner is male or female. Fellatio is thus a type of sodomy. Because human beings frequently engage in these and other nongenital sexual acts, Kinsey correctly emphasized that there are few Americans who, in their everyday sexual lives, do not violate both the religious prohibitions of their faith and the criminal laws of their country.

 In short, the Church opposed homosexuality not only, or even primarily, because it was “abnormal” or “unnatural,” but rather because it satisfied carnal lust and yielded bodily pleasure. This condemnation of homosexuality, says Rattray Taylor, “was merely an aspect of the general condemnation of sexual pleasure and indeed of sexual activity not directly necessary to ensure the continuation of the race. Even within marriage, sexual activity was severely restricted, and virginity was declared a more blessed state than matrimony.” It is no accident, then, that carnal lust, leading to nonprocreative sexual practices and pleasure of all kinds, was a characteristic passion of witches. They were supposed to satisfy their cravings by copulating with the Devil, a male figure of super-human masculinity, equipped with a “forked penis,” enabling him to penetrate the woman at once vaginally and anally.

Moving on to page 168:

Psychiatric preoccupation with the disease concept of homosexuality—as with the disease concept of all so-called mental illnesses, such as alcoholism, drug addiction, or suicide—conceals the fact that homosexuals are a group of medically stigmatized and socially persecuted individuals. The noise generated by their persecution and their anguished cries of protest are drowned out by the rhetoric of therapy—just as the rhetoric of salvation drowned out the noise generated by the persecution of heretics and their anguished cries of protest. It is heartless hypocrisy to pretend that physicians, psychiatrists, or “normal” laymen for that matter, really care about the welfare of the mentally ill in general, or the homosexual in particular. If they did, they would stop torturing him while claiming to help him. But this is just what reformers—whether theological or medical—refuse to do.

Best conversation in cinema!

That was a clip from the movie “My Dinner With Andre,” which I haven’t watched in a few years. Very interesting yet simple film, this point in the dinner conversation between these two men being the best part.

It is available on Netflix.

Couldn’t express how much I understand where the character of Andre is coming from here.

We humans have embarked on a new era. I really like how Andre ponders whether the 1960s was likely the last major display of natural humanness, all decades since pushing toward a weird, robotic, and what I consider highly domesticated, all-new way of life, worldwide. With everything in me, I too wanted to run, but where to? There turned out to be nowhere to go.

We can’t hide from the future. We can only engage it in one way, shape, or form. Actively or passively. We might escape through death, but even that isn’t guaranteed. Might be reincarnated. Might find out that life truly is eternal in that sense. *shrugs* Who knows? The thought unsettles me too, as I’ve grown quite fond of the idea of someday winding up as inert worm food. There’s peace in the belief that one’s life cannot go on indefinitely. Bullshit for all eternity sounds tiring and pathetic. And perhaps if we don’t shape up our acts that’s what we wind up with.

But jokes aside, the “pantheistic” expression of consciousness that the Andre character discusses here is age-old wisdom that we humans seem to have a hard time grasping. And even when we comprehend it on some intellectual level, that says nothing about our individual ability to walk down that path.

A comparative look into the history of the mental health field — excerpts from Dr. Thomas Szasz’s book “The Manufacture of Madness”

Following are transcribed tidbits from a book by Dr. Thomas Szasz titled The Manufacture of Madness: A Comparative Study of the Inquisition and the Mental Health Movement (1970), beginning with pages 13-15:

With the decline of the power of the Church and of the religious world view, in the seventeenth century, the inquisitor-witch complex disappeared and in its place there arose the alienist-madman complex.

In the new—secular and “scientific”—cultural climate, as in any other, there were still the disadvantaged, the disaffected, and the men who thought and criticized too much. Conformity was still demanded. The nonconformist, the objector, in short, all who denied or refused to affirm society’s dominant values, were still the enemies of society. To be sure, the proper ordering of this new society was no longer conceptualized in terms of Divine Grace; instead, it was viewed in terms of Public Health. Its internal enemies were thus seen as mad, and Institutional Psychiatry came into being, as had the Inquisition earlier, to protect the group from this threat.

The origins of the mental health hospital system bear out these generalizations. “The great confinement of the insane,” as Michel Foucault aptly calls it, began in the seventeenth century: “A date can serve as a landmark: 1656, the decree that founded, in Paris, the Hôpital Général.” The decree founding this establishment, and others throughout France, was issued by the king, Louis XIII: “We choose to be guardian and protector of said Hôpital Général as being of royal founding . . . which is to be totally exempt from the direction, visitation, and jurisdiction of the officers of the General Reform . . . and from all others to whom we forbid all knowledge and jurisdiction in any fashion or manner whatsoever.”

The original, seventeenth-century definition of madness—as the condition justifying confinement in the asylum—conformed to the requirements for which it was fashioned. To be considered mad, it was enough to be abandoned, destitute, poor, unwanted by parents or society. The regulations governing admission to the Bicêtre and the Salpêtrière—the two Parisian mental hospitals destined to become world famous—put into effect on April 20, 1680, provided that “children of artisans and other poor inhabitants of Paris up to the age of twenty-five, who used their parents badly or who refused to work through laziness, or, in the case of girls, who were debauched or in evident danger of being debauched, should be shut up, the boys in the Bicêtre, the girls in the Salpêtrière. This action was to be taken on the complaint of the parents, or, if these were dead, of near relatives, or the parish priest. The wayward children were to be kept as long as the directors deemed wise and were to be released only on written order by four directors.” In addition to these persons “prostitutes and women who ran bawdy houses” were to be incarcerated in a special section of the Salpêtrière.

The consequences of these “medical” practices are described by a French observer after the Salpêtrière had been in operation for a century:

In 1778, the Salpêtrière is the largest hospital in Paris and possibly in Europe: this hospital is both a house for women and a prison. It receives pregnant women and girls, wet nurses and their nurselings; male children from the age of seven or eight months to four or five years of age; young girls of all ages; aged married men and women; raving lunatics, imbeciles, epileptics, paralytics, blind persons, cripples, people suffering from ringworm, incurables of all sorts, children afflicted with scrofula, and so on and so forth. At the center of this hospital is a house of detention for women, comprising four different prisons: le commun, for the most dissolute girls; la correction, for those who are not considered hopelessly depraved; la prison, reserved for persons held by order of the king; and la grande force, for women branded by order of the courts.

Surveying this scene, George Rosen bluntly states that “the individual was committed not primarily to receive medical care but rather to protect society and to prevent the disintegration of its institutions.”

As recently as 1860, it was not necessary to be mentally ill to be incarcerated in an American mental institution; it was enough to be a married woman. When the celebrated Mrs. Packard was hospitalized in the Jacksonville State Insane Asylum for disagreeing with her minister-husband, the commitment laws of the state of Illinois explicitly proclaimed that “Married women . . . may be entered or detained in the hospital at the request of the husband of the woman or the guardian . . . without the evidence of insanity required in other cases.”

In short, it is only a relatively recent rationalization in the history of psychiatry that a person must “suffer” from a “mental disease”—like schizophrenia or senile psychosis—to justify his commitment. Being an unemployed young man, a prostitute, or a destitute old person used to suffice. “We must not forget,” remarks Foucault, “that a few years after its foundation [in 1656], the hôpital général of Paris alone contained six thousand persons, or around one percent of the population.” As a means of social control and of the ritualized affirmation of the dominant social ethic, Institutional Psychiatry immediately showed itself to be a worthy successor to the Inquisition. Its subsequent record, as we shall see, has been equally distinguished.

The French hôpital général, the German Irrenhaus, and the English insane asylum thus become the abodes of persons called mad. Are they considered mad, and therefore confined in these institutions? Or are they confined because they are poor, physically ill, or dangerous, and therefore considered mad? For three hundred years, psychiatrists have labored to obscure rather than clarify this simple problem. Perhaps it could not have been otherwise. As happens also in other professions—especially in those pertaining to the regulation of social affairs—psychiatrists have been largely responsible for creating the problems they have ostensibly tried to solve. But then, like other men, psychiatrists cannot be expected to act systematically against their own economic and professional self-interests.

Picking back up on pages 51-53:

We would like our hospitals . . . to be looked upon as treatment centers for sick people, and we want to be, of course, considered as doctors and not jailers. . . . It is well known that there are legal safeguards against what is commonly called railroading people into mental hospitals, and we contend that people are well protected in all of the States. I have never in 30 years of constant living with this problem seen anyone whom I thought was being railroaded. . . . The opposite is true, however. People are railroaded out of mental hospitals before they should be, because these institutions are so crowded . . .

. . . I wish to point out that the basic purpose [of commitment] is to make sure that sick human beings get the care that is appropriate to their needs . . .

We, as doctors, want our psychiatric hospitals . . . to be looked upon as treatment centers for sick people in the same sense that general hospitals are so viewed.

If psychiatrists really wanted these things, all they would have to do is to unlock the doors of mental hospitals, abolish commitment, and treat only those persons who, like in nonpsychiatric hospitals, want to be treated. This is exactly what I have been advocating for the past fifteen years.

Lea describes the social function of the Inquisition thus: “The object of the Inquisition is the destruction of heresy. Heresy cannot be destroyed unless heretics are destroyed. . . . [T]his is effected in two ways, viz., when they are converted to the true Catholic faith, or when, on being abandoned to the secular arm, they are corporally burned.” This statement is readily converted into a description of the social function of the Mental Health Movement: “The object of Psychiatry is the eradication of mental illness. Mental illness cannot be eradicated unless the mentally ill are eradicated. . . . [T]his is effected in two ways, viz., when they are restored to mental health, or when, on being confined in state mental hospitals, they prove incurably sick and are therefore removed from contact with healthy society.”

Perhaps more than anything else, the claim of a helping role by the prosecutors and the judge made the witch trial a vicious affair. “The accused was,” Lea tells us, “prejudged. He was assumed to be guilty, or he would not have been put on trial, and virtually his only mode of escape was by confessing the charges made against him, abjuring heresy, and accepting whatever punishment might be imposed on him in the shape of penance. Persistent denial of guilt and assertion of orthodoxy . . . rendered him an impenitent, obstinate heretic, to be abandoned to the secular arm and consigned to the stake.”

The assumption of a therapeutic posture by the institutional psychiatrist leads to the same heartless consequences. Like the accused heretic, the accused mental patient commits the most deadly sin when he denies his illness and insists that his deviant state is healthy. Accordingly, the most denigrating diagnostic labels of psychiatry are reserved for those individuals who, although declared insane by the experts, and confined in madhouses, stubbornly persist in claiming to be sane. They are said to be “completely lacking in insight,” or described as “having broken with reality,” and are usually diagnosed as “paranoid” or “schizophrenic.” The Spanish inquisitors also had a demeaning name for such persons: they called them “negativos.” “The negativo,” Lea explains, “who persistently denied his guilt, in the face of competent testimony, was universally held to be a pertinacious impenitent heretic, for whom there was no alternative save burning alive, although . . . he might protest a thousand times that he was a Catholic and wished to live and die in the faith. This was the inevitable logic of the situation. . . .”

One of the important differences between a person accused of crime and one accused of mental illness is that the former is often allowed bail, whereas the latter never is.

Moving along to page 58:

The conduct of a society’s business, as that of an individual’s, may be likened to playing a game. The religions, laws, and mores of society constitute the rules by which people must play—or else they will be penalized, one way or another. Obviously, the simpler the games and the fewer in number, the easier it is to play them. This is why open societies and the freedoms they offer represent an onerous burden to many people. As individuals find it difficult and taxing to play more than a single game, or at most a few, at any one time, so societies find it difficult and taxing to tolerate the existence of a plurality of games, each competing for the attention and loyalty of the citizens. Every group—and this includes societies—is organized and held together by a few ideas, values, and practices which cannot be questioned or challenged without causing its disruption, or at least a fear of its disruption. This is why independent thought often undermines group solidarity, and group solidarity often inhibits independent thought. “We belong to a group,” says Karl Mannheim, “not only because we are born into it, not merely because we profess to belong to it, nor finally because we give it our loyalty and allegiance, but primarily because we see the world and certain things in the world the way it does . . .” To see the world differently than our group does thus threatens us with ostracism. Hypocrisy, then, is the homage intellect pays to custom.

[Italicized emphasis his — bold emphasis mine]

Dr. Thomas Szasz really helped me flesh out my understanding on the subject of mental health, along with the writings of psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. Both I highly recommend others to check out. Because these are extremely important dots needing to be connected in the minds of people today who naively assume the field of psychiatry, along with the biopharmacology industry, to be looking out for people’s best interests. No, they are agents of something outside of us, namely 1.) the State and 2.) the economy. Even when well-intending people join its professional ranks, this does little to undermine its overarching agenda to press for a new kind of conformity among the masses.

Independent thought is indeed being pushed to the fringes, particularly if it demonstrates no economic value or seeks to undermine the status quo on any level.

Middle of the night thoughts on power, enslavement, domestication, and what isn’t working

I created this blog project as a space to share info and ideas I’m picking up along the way. Here’s one such video deserving to be promoted:

There’s tons of stuff I’d like to share, from videos to documentaries to book excerpts to links of interest. For several years I kept another blog to store stuff like that, and the goal was (and occasionally still is) to mine through that and pull what strikes me as particularly relevant or interesting out and drag it here. Little by little I am doing so.

But … part of me just isn’t sure how much it gives a damn anymore. Rather, let me say this. It’s not that I don’t care tremendously about what’s happening to my country and also around the world, what’s going on with us socially and psychologically, how laws are being turned against us as instruments of oppression, how the habitats we’ve created are proving toxic and our species is completely out of balance with the rest of nature. All of that matters to me. But I don’t know what to do.

Arguing for the sake of arguing winds up sounding like chatter piled on chatter. So I’m taking time to look within and see if I can gel these things together into a more cohesive and coherent narrative for my own self. Because these aren’t matters that can be tackled purely through legal means. The problem appears to boil down to slavery and humans’ propensity for winding up in it ever since the dawn of civilizations. We as a species can’t seem to maintain the reins for directing our own lives. We’re prone to follow leaders claiming to know the best way forward. We’re prone to get into frenzies and lose sight of what we’re actually aiming for and what we’re trying to support. We fall in the same traps again and again, highly predictably, hence how a few have risen to power — they study us and then exploit our weaknesses and proclivities.

What’s worse is we like to help them, particularly when it comes to policing one another in accordance with standards handed down by the few. We utilize the laws already working against us all to compete with and attempt to dominate one another. We allow fear-mongerers to pander to our insecurities without questioning what underlying motives may be at work.

We, aggregately, are not critical or skeptical enough toward the reality human beings have helped construct. We speak as though the laws of man are no more malleable than the laws of nature, as if taxation is as unavoidable as death. But what are we being taxed for? Who or what ultimately benefits the most from collecting portions of our income? Us? No. We know this, and yet we act as if it’s impolite to bring it up. Might unsettle someone. Might stimulate an argument. Might disrupt our antidepressant-riddled lives.

And that’s about the point where I started giving less of a damn. Because most folks don’t seem to care all that much. So long as they have clean stores and restaurants to frequent and relatively reliable cars to drive and comfortable homes to retreat to, whadda they care? See, it appears most folks are content with being domesticated to the point of resembling housepets — well-groomed, well-fed, worried with getting enough physical exercise, settled into daily routines. That’s what a lot of people want. And I’ve been thinking on this long and hard.

Who am I to obstruct people from doing what it is they want? Even if their idealized paradise looks to me like hell on earth, what could I do to change their minds? Work to shove another law down their throats (which they’ll only attempt to counter)? Arguing with them incessantly and getting tripped up continuously on what amounts to trivial details has grown old with me. Been there and done that. What now? Stand around holding up signs that get ignored? Keep sending letters to congresspeople who aren’t responsive, especially when you represent what appears to them a tiny minority interest? Keep voting and praying?

I don’t know. Seems like we need a better strategy, and that likely involves learning to live without expecting a whole lot of positive change in the foreseeable future. Because, as a nation-state,we’re in big trouble, and that’s not going to turn around anytime soon. And as a people, we are lost. What some see as order, I experience as chaos. The whole deal looks topsy-turvy from where I sit. And for many years I’ve been angry and seriously unhappy with the developments.

So what can we do? What power does any one of us possess? We have the power to resist through our lifestyles and choices. We have the right to fight back where able. We have the power to continue trying to engage with one another in an effort to relate and hopefully establish more common ground. We can vote, however much that matters anymore. We can study and read and turn off our televisions and learn to think more for our own selves. We can work toward providing incentives for others to want to work with us, namely by not unfairly attacking and insulting one another (difficult as that sometimes is). We can work to become better than this modern-day slavery is trying to twist us into.

But can we resist following our own base natures? I ask this as someone who struggles with my own. And I don’t yet know the answer. It’s an ongoing ‘spiritual’ conundrum and crisis in will, and none of us are alone in confronting this. Age-old problem of living as a human being. Because unlike the housepets, we comprehend far more about our world and exert great influence in altering it. We are not trapped indoors, thwarted by our lack of opposable thumbs, rendered at the mercy of someone else to provide for our needs, dependent on appeals to emotion in an effort to manipulate to get what we want — we are men and women, and as such we are co-creators of shared realities. We are not powerless, though so many of us feel that we are. We’re currently trapped in a cage of illusions.

Influential men in my life

Contributions from important men in my life:

My Papa (maternal grandfather):

  • He genuinely loved me, as his first-born grandchild whom he helped raise.
  • Scolded it into my brain to always look over my shoulder before switching lanes while driving. Good to check the mirrors too, but people like to coast in blind spots. A life lesson that’s on an infinite loop in my mind and likely saved my tail on many occasions.
  • Always made certain my vehicles were properly checked out when I visited and insisted on me toting around various tools, jumper cables, tie-downs, tarps, flashlights, and supplies in my vehicle in the event of an emergency.
  • From a young age let me help when he worked on vehicles in doing tasks I could manage, like pumping the brakes or holding the flashlight steady. That let me be involved so I could learn a little without getting in the way.
  • Demonstrated the damage alcoholism can do to a family. He quit drinking in 1990, but this also taught the lesson that changes made later in life can’t always rectify what was previously broken.
  • Used to say to me, “Sugar, I don’t know what’s wrong with people or the world.” And I heard the pain in his voice, yet witnessed how he was unable to leave the outside world alone, socially-extroverted as he couldn’t help but be (like me).
  • He showed that he would protect me, and I appreciated that so very much, because I was young and misguided. He couldn’t protect me much of the time, but when he could, he tried in his own way. And that was a blessing.
  • He was the reason I took up smoking, him being the only smoker around me. I wanted to be like my Papa, so I began stealing cigarettes from him the summer before I turned 14. He caught on and one day came in and tossed a carton of Marlboro reds at me (back when they were $16 a carton) and yelled “Now, don’t steal from me anymore!” I can see both the folly and the value in that lesson. I quit stealing.
  • Took me fishing many times, though I probably annoyed the hell out of him by chattering too much, but those memories will be cherished forever.
  • Took me out to shoot guns in the sandpit.
  • Drove my dogs and me out to the local springs to play in the summer months, allowing us to ride in the back of his pick-up there and back.
  • I tear up nearly every time I hear Otis Redding’s song “Sitting on the Dock (of the Bay),” because we’d listen to it on cassette in his little Toyota truck while driving around. That and Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might Be a Redneck If…” comedy. Those were the two cassettes we could both agree on listening to together.
  • When I was little, he took me everywhere. He was proud to show me off. He would say “Come on if you wanna go with,” inviting me to ramble around town with him while he conducted his errands. I felt proud sitting beside my Papa in his little truck, playing on his CB radio.
  • As an adult, he respected my decisions and left alone the subject of my lifestyle. That allowed us to become close again after the tumultuous teen years.
  • He showed restraint throughout my life. There were occasions where he stepped over the line, but overall he did a good job of checking what I know were strong impulses inside him. I was a difficult teenager who obeyed no one.
  • Put up with my (ex-)husband.
  • Tolerated my gay friends, despite acting weird and uncomfortable in their presence. That was very kind of him to try to be open-minded.
  • Aided people and church groups in cleaning out houses on the Mississippi coastline after Hurricane Katrina hit. I personally met one family afterward and witnessed their gratitude toward my Papa. It’s heartwarming that he got to experience that. He deserved to feel good about himself.
  • Papa showed me what someone who’s grown up pained can look like. We share a bit of a bond in common due to our mothers, but he had a much more severe and heart-wrenching upbringing. Much more. And it left a permanent scar all over him. Not just his mother, but his father and his stepmother beat him and rejected him and turned him into a slave, all while keeping him from his own loving grandpa. They damn near broke him. I met him in his 40s and observed him until the day he lost the battle with cancer at age 71. I will forever miss him so much. He was the closest person to a daddy I ever knew.

This is an emotional blog entry. It can’t be helped. My Papa was a major star in my sky. He was by no means perfect, but he was ultimately a man who wanted to be decent, to help people, to improve his ways. And unfortunately in a number of ways he served as an example of what I really ought not do. Papa and I shared a lot of parallels, despite most of the rest of our immediate families being a bunch of teetotalers.

Papa had an undeniable impact, but others did as well. Typically completely opposed to the example Papa set. For instance, my Stepdad:

  • Finally succeeded in drilling into my head that the economy is amoral. If anything is to be moral, it is we people, we consumers, we employees. But no law or regulation can force the economy to behave morally. Very true. It eventually sunk in, though he argued that from more of a neocon-type perspective, which tripped me up from the start.
  • Invited me and my husband to stay with him temporarily when we were in a financial bind toward the end of our short marriage. I was able to stay on for a few more months after my then-husband moved away. Living without rent is helpful sometimes, especially for a 21 year old.
  • Offered me challenging feedback and criticisms of my stated views. Frustrating as that has been at times, our email correspondences over the last decade have proven very valuable overall to me.
  • Books that he’s recommended or mailed to me. He generally has good taste in what will maintain one’s attention. Fiction or non-fiction.
  • Was my earliest introduction to the science fiction realm.
  • Exposed me early on to Weird Al Yankovic’s tunes.
  • Provided my first real taste of classic rock music, hearing it blare out of his basement office occasionally, learning it was contained in the CD-changer I was only free to touch when he wasn’t around.
  • Pushed math as a subject, though unfortunately turned it into a chore when assigned as punishment for violating curfew or whatever. When I was really young he’d tote me along with him to his boring-ass office at the university to be made to sit at a desk and complete math problems he assigned. I remember being maybe 7, sitting there whining about not knowing how to do multiplication and division that he expected me to figure out. But I did learn and excelled for a few years. (Until returning to Mississippi, back before placement tests were allowed—I know, seriously, right?—and I wound up trapped way back for 2 years and gave up on caring about the subject.)
  • Introduced me to aquaria, which I turned out to love.
  • Appreciated my writing skills.
  • Took my brother and me to museums.
  • Played boardgames with us regularly.

Father’s Day is coming up, so we’ll just stay focused on the positive.

My ex-Husband:

  • Exposed me to the psychology of someone raised up in a strict, Christian-fundamentalist-type household.
  • Taught me more about the bible (for critical purposes) than I knew back then.
  • Strongly introduced the notion of libertarianism into my life.
  • Engaged me intellectually, at least when we weren’t bickering.
  • Showed me the reality someone living with juvenile-onset diabetes faces.
  • Opened me up to music, particularly old country tunes.
  • Advocated feminism (which turned out to be both good and bad for me).

And now the night must come to an end. Bedtime. I’ll try to finish this list tomorrow.

Enjoying a stormy night in June with tunes

On the agenda for tonight is sipping a little brew and listening to music while the lightning flashes through the blinds. Glad to be done with driving for the evening, but I have an early morning, so making the best of what remains of a Friday night.

Lindsey Buckingham performing “Big Love” on acoustic guitar:

That man razzles and dazzles me.

Fleetwood Mac’s awesome performance of “I’m So Afraid”:

One of my favorite songs by Tom Petty:

But all of his songs are good.

You truly don’t know how it feels to be me, and I don’t know how it feels to be anyone else. Such is life for all of us.

Switching gears a bit:

“Why You Wanna Trip On Me” came on over the headphones earlier today, and it’s a good song to listen to from time to time.

Michael Jackson’s 1988 performance of “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Man in the Mirror”:

I’m gonna make a change

For once in my life

It’s gonna feel real good

Gonna make a difference

Gonna make it right

 

As I turned up the collar on

A favorite winter coat

This wind is blowing my mind

I see the kids in the street

With not enough to eat

Who am I to be blind?

Pretending not to see their needs

 

A summer’s disregard

A broken bottle top

And a one man’s soul

They follow each other

On the wind ya’ know

Cause they got nowhere to go

That’s why I want you to know:

 

[Hook]

I’m starting with the man in the mirror

I’m asking him to change his ways

And no message could have been any clearer

If you wanna make the world a better place

Take a look at yourself and then make a change, yey

Na na na, na na na, na na na na oh ho

 

I’ve been a victim of

A selfish kind of love

It’s time that I realize

There are some with no home

Not a nickel to loan

Could it be really pretending that they’re not alone

 

A willow deeply scarred

Somebody’s broken heart

And a washed out dream

They follow the pattern of the wind ya’ see

Cause they got no place to be

That’s why I’m starting with me

 

[Hook]

 

Take a look at yourself and then make the change

You gotta get it right, while you got the time

Cause when you close your heart

Then you close your mind

 

Make that change!

I have to admit, when I watch videos that show his fans freaking out and fainting, it weirds me smooth out. But…I also must say that some of his songs truly are transcendent in spirit. Realizing this won’t make sense to some folks, Michael Jackson did possess a certain kind of power in his songs and in his way of being. All allegations against him set aside for a moment (and yes, they continue to trouble me), the man struck a chord in people. Quite nearly religiously. And I can understand the almost-gospel quality of many of his songs.  It’s not the sort of thing words do much to help explain to those who can’t comprehend it already. His song “Man in the Mirror” strikes me deep, and I just have to say that. Always has. Not because he’s Michael Jackson but because of the song itself, the lyrics, the message, the beat, the pleading to oneself to realize change begins with ourselves. It must. It can be no other way. I struggle with getting myself to fully accept this truth.

When people refer to Michael Jackson as a gift from God, I do grasp what they mean. As I said before, child molestation accusations aside. To be quite frank, they turned me off on him for many years, because I assumed they were likely true. The man appeared (in the media) to be a freak. The man invites children to stay in his house and at least one he admit slept in his bed. But you know what? Since his death, and also after reading Chris Hedges’ scathing denunciation of Michael Jackson and his funeral in the book Empire of Illusions, I can’t help but wonder if the man wasn’t framed and if it all wasn’t an attempt to sabotage his immense popularity. Why? Look at how people (over)reacted to him. Look at how overwhelmed they were by his messages. He impacted people, and he spoke out against the pains and problems of modern life, including our government and police brutality, in a simple, straightforward lyrical fashion.

The man, through his lyrics, was pointing people toward loving one another, toward giving one another a chance, toward questioning powers-that-be, and toward looking at ourselves honestly. His music was merely a vehicle, encouraging us to care about one another, particularly those in need. Who might that upset? And who in the past has been murdered or dragged down for attempting similar feats? Not claiming he was intentionally killed, however. I’m just sayin’. Gotta keep an open mind when it comes to Michael.

Remember back when we still figured Michael to be a normal heterosexual man? Hahaha. It deserved to be said:

That song accompanied with the video is so funny. “There’s something about you, baby … I don’t know, I don’t know…”  And that was our first clue he apparently wasn’t as “normally heterosexual” as originally assumed. Seriously, dude? It’s Naomi Campbell gyrating. Were you mad, man?? How can you NOT know what that something is, and then remain conflicted about giving in when Naomi Campbell is all up in your video saying she wants a secret hot tryst? LOL

And that “ahhh” he whimpers after she whispers something to him, hehe. For some reason it reminds me a little of Beavis. But a man’s shyness can be very cute too.

Michael undeniably possessed a feminine streak, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Just sayin’. He’s not a man I’d be interested in sexually, and it’s a little perplexing to me how so many women found him sexy. Michael Jackson was an amazing performer with a unique voice and style, and I adore much of his music, but the thought of having sex with him does nothing for me. And maybe other folks are just confusing their awe of him with sexual excitement, who knows? Different strokes for different folks.

That video serves the dual purpose of being Michael’s own coming out of the closet moment. Not as a homosexual, mind you, but as something different than people expected. He bopped to the beat of his own little drummer.

Video aside, my most favorite and routinely and randomly remembered lyrics from that song:

Touch me there

Make the move

Cast your spell

Hot. Sizzle, sizzle.

If I weren’t such a lazy bum these days maybe I’d add content of greater value on this blog. lol  drinking