The Evolution of the Other & the Hidden Nature of Democracy (Perceptual Warfare 8)

(cont from last post)

This strangely contradictory philosophy is used to justify everything from invasion of privacy to the torture of children, from unprovoked invasions into “undemocratic” nations to early interventions in the minds and bodies of “uncivilized” children. The contradiction inherent to the American Way of Life makes it inherently self-destructive, since it is divided against itself. When a group values individualism above all other values — and will kill and torture individuals to enforce that collective value— its cohesion as a group is not merely tenuous, it is like nitroglycerin on a roller-coaster: a recipe for catastrophe. The more firmly established the group identity becomes, the more of a threat it must be, not only to outsiders but to its own constituents. US society is only collective society writ large, however. In fact, this self-destroying mechanism is a feature of human culture itself.

This internal conflict within the American (and human) psyche is apparent in the homogenization of culture and is inextricably bound up with the spreading of “democracy,” which is supposedly a universal human value. In his essay “Democracy in America,” Morris Berman quotes Pierre Manen’s Toqueville and the Nature of Democracy: “As a society, democracy is antisocial; it severs individuals from one another by pronouncing each of them equally free. All of the traditional relationships are broken or weakened.” Berman then quotes the back of the book for good measure: “the growth of state power and the homogenization of society are two primary consequences of equalizing conditions.” Once again, a profound contradiction can be found at the heart of this process. The more the differences between individuals are erased (democracy), the shakier their sense of social identity becomes, the more threatening any remaining differences become to individuals within that society. Identifying such differences in others and perceiving them as a threat is a way for people to feel safer in their own sense of sameness, their group identity. The only safe way to exist in such a culture is by imitation (even if the imitation must be covert, because what’s being imitated is individualism!). This gives power to the state because it strips the individual of autonomy (which is the freedom to be different) and hence of his or her individuality. One result of this is that any individuals who are seen as threats to the state (i.e., the social group) are increasingly seen as threats to the individual. An extreme difference in another person does not need to pose an actual threat to be perceived as a threat. Since autists, alienated, disturbed, or even just awkward and socially maladroit youths adequately fit the bill of “otherness” — since they are living proof that the group values are not universal — they are naturally seen as a threat to the other members of the group.

A movie like We Need to Talk About Kevin attempts to address this psychic situation (which is the real time bomb), but only compounds it because it’s not playing with a full deck. The mother’s incomprehension and fear of her (autist-misfit) child is shared by the filmmakers, and so it’s transferred to the audience. Kevin isn’t blamed for his behavior (it’s not a reactionary film), but at the same time, he’s not human (understandable) enough for audiences to empathize or identify with him either. He’s “the other.” The reason “we need to talk about Kevin” is that no one is talking to Kevin. Why? Because he is beyond the pale. To allow a dialogue with the other would mean admitting that the other is not so “other” after all, and that would jeopardize the stability and cohesion of the group.  As individuals, to a lesser or greater extent, we are unwilling to identify and understand our own monstrous, dis-eased natures. We do not want to open up a real, honest dialogue with our sickly-monstrous children (our pathologies), because the first thing “they” would tell us is that they are us. It’s this refusal to face our individual and collective demons that’s perpetuating, both society’s incomprehension of and its hostility towards, all and any forms of “deviance” — including (or especially) neuro-deviance. Violence then becomes not only necessary but appropriate as a response. It becomes the only remaining way to allow a dialogue between the self and the other.

The exact components of this collective wall of defense against the other are unknown; in a sense they are irrelevant. We can posit a combination of covert military and intelligence programs, sinister event manipulations, psychological techniques of behavior modification, medical and psychiatric irresponsibility or lack of ethics, prescription drugs, fact distortion and outright fabrication by the mass media, uninformed books and movies. Or we can dismiss all such “conspiracy theories” and say it’s just “human nature” and “mass hysteria” at work. But the result is the same: all of these forces are conspiring to prevent an honest dialogue from happening, at both a micro and macro level. They represent the visible, organized vanguard of an unconscious, collective conspiracy by the social organism, or group mind, to suppress, control, demonize, and disown the dreaded “other.”  Just how close this other is to returning home to roost is indicated by the form it takes, and the fact that the evolution of the other, as of 2013, appears to be almost complete.

The children we raise have become the killers which we create.[1]

[1] Charles Manson gave the prognosis in 1970, in his testimony at the Tate-LaBianca murder trial: “I never went to school, so I never growed up to read and write too good, so I have stayed in jail and I have stayed stupid,  and I have stayed a child while I have watched your world grow up, and then I look at the things that you do and I don’t understand. You eat meat and you kill things that are better than you are, and then you say how bad, and even killers, your children are. You made your children what they are. These children that come at you with knives. They are your children. You taught them. I didn’t teach them. I just tried to help them stand up.”

4 thoughts on “The Evolution of the Other & the Hidden Nature of Democracy (Perceptual Warfare 8)

  1. hey jake a lot for me to digest here so i `ve got to withhold commenting except just off the top of my head maybe this is why indian joe is out doing his gold thing it does seem hopeless unless maybe if your a quasi anarchist trying to get in touch with and stay in touch with your original nature/mind namaste`dermott easier put maybe some would say a dropout

  2. I think they are related – as Bob Dylan said, you gotta serve somebody. Being reliant on Nature directly is one way to shift allegiance away from Culture and towards one’s own internal value system.

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