This blog is dedicated to the memory of David Weintraub, who took on insidious astroturfers and won.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fascism or Freedom? (part 2)

     Why does tension exist between teacher and student? Why has `banking education' been the prime force in educational practices? To answer these questions one would want to uncover the origin of patriarchal trends in education. These are found in the family, for the family as an agent of society is the root of all history.

     Alice Miller's conception of `poisonous pedagogy' helps us to expand on Freire's excursus on education to a general theory of pedagogy. If one is to speak of a teacher/student dichotomy, one must first speak of the parent/child relationship of inequality. According to Miller in Thou Shalt Not Be Aware, `poisonous pedagogy' refers:

          ... to that tradition of child-rearing which attempts to suppress all
          vitality, creativity, and feeling in the child and maintain the autocratic,
          godlike position of the parents at all costs. (4)

     Simply put, Miller is saying that the needs of the parents replace the needs of the child. In ideal relationships, however, no one should be idealised nor should anybody's needs take precedent over any other person's needs. Yet many parents believe that children are innately, aggressive animals who need to be civilised. Hence, the source of the problem in the parent's eyes becomes the child's feelings. When a parent perceives such honest emotions as anger, jealousy, envy, and powerlessness as being subversive, the parent tries to get the child to rid her/himself of the emotion. Since Mommy and Daddy are always right according to `poisonous pedagogy', the child inevitably develops a core of self-hatred and self-doubt. The creative drive is inverted as the child is directed to be silent and watch television like a good kid.

     Miller, in agreement with Freud on the valid influence that the past has on our present conciousness, nonetheless breaks with him on his theory of aggression. While Freudians would argue that children are born with innate, aggressive drives that need to be repressed for the good of society, Miller retorts that aggression is a product of repression motivated by fear. When a parent is confronted with such real emotions as fear, joy, and despair, these emotions are too strong for the parent to tolerate. Ways are then found by the parent to pacify the child without any regard for the harm being done to the child's creativity and self-growth.

     The parent may believe that no harm has really been done to the child since he/she is very young and will forget about the event anyway. Yet, these events will haunt the child again and again via the repetitive regressive compulsion. Whenever this occurs, the individual will re-experience and re-enact the great traumatic events in the development of her/his self-growth and awareness.

     To understand how Freud could have distorted his earlier discovery of the transforming consciousness, one needs to inspect carefully his starting points and how they led him to a patriarchal solution. At that point we would understand how Freud was a prisoner of his own borgeois morality and patriarchal values. Freud started with the id. As it is the oldest, most primitive, and fundamental self, the id aims for the satisfaction of its instinctual needs in accordance with the pleasure principle. In contrast to the pleasure principle is the reality principle. According to Freud, this latter principal acts for the advancement of society by repressing instinctual needs. His concept of sublimation refers to the suppression of some aggressive need to be transformed into a civilised solution. Freud believed that the child needed to fit into society and to do so must forgo of the pleasure principle.

     Hence, the ego is to act as the mediator between the id and the outside world. It has the task of representing the external world to the id. The ego, by dethroning the pleasure principle, supposedly offers an individual so-called greater success and security. Subsequently, people act in one-dimensional ways according to the reality principle in the guise of `what is right action'. As with `poisonous pedagogy' the actions of so-called authorities become exemplified in contrast to the object person's actions. Finally, it is the superego which tightens the grips on the repressed self. By turning mind and body into instruments of alienated labour, those forces of the status quo churn out the propaganda of the performance principle.

     Things that seem harmless such as shopping malls, radios, and microwave ovens when seen critically show their repressive nature. They are all part of a system based on mass cultural depravity. Instead of fighting their subordination to the productive process, many people carry on as if their lives were actually free and enlightened. By sublimating their pleasure drive they become geared to a rationality which is imposed on them from the outside. Yet, neither the alterations of society nor their desires are their own. Society, nation, and civilisation has organised them all. And this is enforced by both parents and educators.

     Herbert Marcuse in Eros and Civilisation says,

          In a repressive society, individual happiness and productive development
          are in contradiction to society. If they are defined as values to be realised
          within this society, they become themselves repressive. (5)

     If the reality principle and `poisonous pedagogy' continue to guide Western civilisation, then interests of domination will prevail over the struggle for existence and repression will continue. However, if people could overcome their subordination to the productive process, then liberated instincts could finally reign over the aggressive ones. Repression and mutilated longings would die away as natural Eros would guide our actions. Instead, Eros is weakened as the growth of aggression lies inherent in the oppressive organisation of society.

     It is precisely the frustration of that life instinct which results in the need to destroy. Irrationality becomes institutionalised resulting in alienated people working against one another. Labour no longer acts as a mean to self-realisation but limits the worker's `pleasure time' to four hours. Yet, in the end, the repressed, natural longings which no politician could cure and which have no limit as to time, shock the ego into rebellion. Without proper attention by good teachers or friends, such people tend to become increasingly paranoid and detached.

     In speaking about the inter-connectedness of Eros and Thanatos and their relationship to destructiveness, Erich Fromm in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness says that,

          The drive for life and the drive for destruction are not mutually
          independent factors but are in reversed interdependence. The
          more the drive towards life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive
          towards destruction; the more life is realised, the less is the
          strength of destructiveness. Destructiveness is the outcome of
          unlived life. (6)

     According to Fromm there are three sacred substances that the body may hold. The male body expresses itself through semen. The female body expresses itself through milk. The third fluid, which so happens to transcend biological sexuality, is blood. (7)  Basically, the first two fluids mentioned are strongly associated with Eros, the life drive. They are the sensuous and positive highlights of a natural, sexual life.

     However, if an individual has become fragmented by a sexually repressed patriarchal system, Eros will equally become disoriented. The Death Drive or Thanatos will strengthen and expand as a result. One manifestation of a repressed people will be the need to control, even to the extent of mutilating a person's life force, her/his blood. Whenever Thanatos dominates Eros to such an extent, necrophiliac tendencies can rise. According to Fromm,

          Necrophilia in the characterological sense can be described as the
          passionate attraction to all that is dead, decayed, putrid, sickly; it is
          the passion to transform that which is alive into something unalive; to
          destroy for the sake of destruction; the exclusive interest in all that is
          purely mechanical. It is the passion `to tear apart living structures'. (8)

     Two types of necrophilia exist. First, there is sexual necrophilia where men feel the need to have sexual relations with dead females. Cemetery attendants for centuries have been known to have committed such ghastly, perverted acts. Secondly, there is nonsexual necrophilia which Fromm defines as,

          ... the desire to handle, to be near to, and to gaze at corpses,
          and particularly the desire to dismember them. (9)

     When people have no core self, that is, when there is a great amount of regression-surplus from years of Eros-defeating events, two types of people may emerge. One is the masochistic automaton who finds relief in her/his weakness and insignificance through a blind submission to the strong father-figure like a fuhrer. The second type is much more dangerous. This type includes sadists and authoritarian characters who have an intense desire to control and hurt people. The core of sadism is to have control over that third sacred substance which is blood.

     Yet, the sadist cannot kill everyone, as he needs the objects alive if he's to control them. Nonetheless, even though the sadist may have more power and brute authority over the automaton, he will always be dependent like the automaton on outside realities which have none to do with self-awareness and enlightenment. Thus, neither the automaton nor the sadist is free.

Next up in part three: Hitler


Anonymous said...

I'd always wanted to see your academic mind at work. Thanks for this, very interesting.

You should stop twittering your life away and go back for a PhD IMHO.

Of course, I would take exception with the anti-Freudian sentimentality, for Freud essentially nailed the human condition and like Marx, gets hated because he couldn't solve the problems he so accurately identified.

Of course psychoanalysis doesnt work. D'uh. One cannot consciously out with one's subconscious, not to mention one's unconscious.

Human nature is impervious to fixes.

Alice Miller like pretty much everyone else who comes after Freud is relegated to an existence in his shadow.

She believed perhaps in a bit more optimism of the human spirit, but I find this dishonest in a sense.

Sure, sure, treat the little monsters with love and positive affirmation (as I did with my own kids) instead of chastening them with the belt leather (as me daddy did me).

However, end of day, yes improved senses of self-worth, self-esteem levels improved but....deadliness of the human condition with its inchoate, perverse dual nature reignes supreme. A bandaid is not a cure. There is no cure, short of worldwide simultaneous enlightenment.

Yes, Buddha is the anwer. Pyrrhiod. All other roads lead nowhere.

The turn away from both Marx and Freud in the infotainment age is what we in the 60s called a "cop-out."

Or as Nicholson said in that movie, we "can't handle the truth."

Therefore we evade, we run around, we jump up and down, we play reindeer games, we tweet our mock outrage, but every step of the way in this the era of the infoboobtubes....we succumb to the fascism of the internets" (and in that retreating parallel universe AKA "real life too) rather than stare down our own demons, we allow the oligarchs to rule us.

Very much looking forward to the next part of this series and playing Godwin games with it.

This is really excellent, thought provoking work. Is it new or was this a master's thesis?

socrates said...

Thanks. I mean that.

This was part of my studies in Ireland. The basic requirements for the master's were two seminar papers and a thesis. For those scoring at home, that meant two twenty page papers and one 100 pager.

This is from one of the shorter writings. The seminar was on the roots of fascism and the department did identify itself with The Frankfurt School of Critical Theory.

This is about halfway done. The next part will carry the bulk of the remainder. Part four will wrap it up and provide the footnotes and bibliography.

The second seminar paper was on mass culture, i.e. e.g. tv, radio, all forms of media, you know what I'm talking about. The professor for that class had the best game in the information commodity -racket- market, i.e. university life. He basically got paid for watching stuff.

The thesis was on South Africa. I used it as a springboard to cover Social Theory as a whole.

I could probably tap into my writings and self-publish them. It is time consuming. Picture Orson Welles slicing and dicing through 500 hours of film to put together 90 minutes. Not that I'm arrogant and put myself on any other level than nobody. I'm talking about the mechanics of what it would take to turn what I got into something public.

Your post is thought provoking. I will respond.

socrates said...

Twitter is definitely being phased out. I had to take one last close look to finally understand it. I'll let the paid trolls expose themselves from now on.

I'm also done with college. That bird flew away years ago. Eastwood said a man needs to know his limitations. I ain't no scholar.

Freud and Marx can't be denied. Sincere debate on them is fun. Ridiculous stuff is not. Like with Stranahan and McCain attacking Critical Theory. That's kind of a mind-blowing coincidence from my humble viewpoint.

I was the George Washington of the Kimberlin Awareness Movement who also has Critical Theory in my back pocket. I dared McCain to debate the topic. All I got back was the sound of Twitter crickets.

But I digressed.

Freud was a product of his times. It's tough to blame him for ending up so cynical.

We can debate Hobbes vs. Locke all night. Or free will. Or the death penalty. Or the existence of God. There's no way to nail those questions, no pun intended.

To me, it boils down to how Freud and Miller looked at child abuse. She spoke of the child within. She tries to get victims to return to who they were before the trauma happened.They were victimised. They did nothing wrong.

Freud would turn that into how the victim is now all fried because of innate sexual drives.

I think psychoanalysis works. I never had it myself, but it can't hurt to let stuff out. The key is to find a shrink who knows what they are doing.

I agree the internet is an imposed reality. It is a steering device for negative social change.

Now I'm over-thinking.

socrates said...

On second thought, there will be three more parts.

Anonymous said...

At some point it became de rigeur among psychologists to discredit Freud but to me that says more about the lameassness of modern psychology, its softening and selling out for pop dollars than it does about this intellectual giant among dwarves. Same as with Marx and Spengler. Bitter jealous hacks who couldnt caddy their golf bags fo them yet somehow they think they are better players because they have superiour equipment.

I have long determined from my own experiences of psychosexual development and the stresses and strains of being a single lunatic stuck in a societal strait jacket that Freud was basically correct.

And more than ever, science seems to be catching up now that they have better equipment.

socrates said...

This is Freud starring Montgomery Clift.

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