Yesterday’s post generated an awful lot of email. While I try to respond to all of them I am still catching up from my past few weeks of being discombobulated, so please be patient. I think that the gist of most of the emails is what will direct this post today.
There are two hard and fast rules to life that you need to internalize if you are going to keep yourself healthy, sane and whole.
1) Everything changes. That is the nature of life even on a cellular level. We, and everything around us, are in a constant state of change. Our psyches are no different. Every second affects how we perceive and interpret the world.
2) There is nothing you can do to change the past. We can act in the present and choose to prepare for potentials in the future but we cannot go back and change anything that has happened. This, as well, applies to the human psyche.
Now, apply rule number 1 to rule number 2 and the result is that everything changes including what has happened in the past. Seems like a contradiction, doesn’t it? But as our psyches change, how we perceive events in the past changes as well. Our understanding of the hows and whys of things and their impact on our present is always in flux. We cannot change what has happened, but the place events hold in our internal histories is constantly moving.
This is the core element of the process of healing. By allowing our perceptions of a past event to change, we begin to heal – to act in the present and to make choices to prepare for our possible futures. It is when we engage in a kind of frozen perception that madness can occur. By clinging to a single interpretation of an event, we go against the laws of nature. We become unnatural. And in becoming unnatural we can make ourselves ill, full of dis-ease and dis-order.
In Erich Fromm’s book, The Sane Society, he posits that the modern western industrialized society has made itself insane by placing too great a value on homogeneity and stillness. The invention of the assembly line, in which every part is the same and processed with the same action, invited in a kind of societal madness. The suburbs, with their repeated house designs and even the reconstruction of the American Dream to state that everyone could achieve the same thing was the beginnings of a great, mass psychosis.
Baumeister hypothesizes that the reason there is such a drive towards escapism (through substance abuse, spirituality and other repetitive behaviors) is that we can no longer bear the responsibility of being independent persons on a full time basis. We reject functionality and seek dysfunction for release from the sheer stress of living as moral and responsible beings that constantly have to respond to change by making choices. We have become a society that is incapable of independence. It is too stressful for modern man and we seek release from it through a variety of passive, sedative activities (movies, TVs, yoga, hobbies etc.). The more numb we become the easier it is to let go of that evidence of self that I talked about yesterday. The more numb we are, the more open we are to a kind of self-induced ICU psychosis, only this is occurring on a mass level and psychosis, as Fromm states, has become perceived as sanity and the sane are labeled ill.
Independence, the illusion of individuality, has become commoditized to the point that there is even an assembly line feel to it. Our philosophers teach us that there are no new ideas. On that point I half agree, mostly because I agree with Chesterton who said that there could be no new ideas until we actually follow through and finish some of the old ones. But the old ideas – of equality, fraternity and independence proved to take too much effort and they were abandoned. As were the original ideas of most faiths abandoned when they proved too taxing to live. These old ideas have been replaced with corporatism, homogeneity, codependence and fanaticism – assembly line thinking – that still clings to their original names but beneath the masque, there is no relation between how these ideas were intended to be enacted and how they are lived today.
As I watch the news there is an orchestrated effort to begin dismantling the Occupy Wall Street protests. You cannot ignore that fact as videos and photographs surface from city after city, all within the same week, of the camps being taken down. There are, in many cases, valid reasons for the dismantling of the camps. But the reasons were actually created by a very flawed and ill society.
Watching the protests, seeing the interviews with many of them has been a painful experience. There has been no greater showcase of the loss of our ability to think independently then this movement. In wanting to break down the greed machine, they were demanding a new kind of assembly line. A somatic guarantee that there would be no worry or strife. The lack of focused protesting is worrisome. In the sixties, on which this protest was modeled, the protests were focused – this one is about war, this one is about race and so on. Focused protests achieve change. Look at what is going on in Chile.
If I were to suggest one thing for OWS to focus on that would be the beginnings of a return to the burden of independence, it would be for the removal of the rights of corporate personhood from the law books. The concept of corporate personhood is the embodiment of the assembly line – where no individual exists, no person is accountable, no living being drives the machine that affects so many lives.
But advocating for this implies that we are willing to stand and bear the responsibilities of our past. Our participation in a society based upon assembly line action, greed and manipulation. And that, is a burden that I am not sure many psyches can bear.
c.2011 Cassandra Tribe All Rights Reserved.