29 January 2008

My work has no relation to my interests

Copy of a letter to a philosophy professor

While the standard ways of interpreting things in the modern oppressive ideology decree that a person who has been deprived of a career and has no way of earning money or drawing ‘social security’ is not to be regarded as being prevented from using their ability in a productive way, and that anything they may manage to do is supposed to correspond exactly to their most passionate interest, I should like to point out that actually I have never been able to do anything meaningful since being thrown out of Oxford University without a single usable degree fifty years ago.

This is not, realistically, surprising as I have never had even a one-person salary with which to support myself and provide myself with the institutional environment which is absolutely necessary to me.

So why should anything I have managed to squeeze out be regarded as any indication of what I would have been doing if not totally deprived of financial support? Why, without money, should one be expected to be able to do anything at all? That I have produced anything at all is a tribute to my exceptional ability and extreme determination, and should (in a non-oppressive society) be regarded as a reason why I should not continue to be kept absolutely deprived of opportunity by lack of a salary and status.

Everything I have squeezed out, including the DPhil thesis, bore no relation to what I should have liked to be doing but was an application for readmission to the ranks of the salaried and statusful. The choice of material both in psychology and philosophy was determined under duress and the work was carried out in oppressive circumstances.

There is absolutely no way in which I have ever been free to ‘follow my interests’ or derive gratification from expressing my views or ‘sharing my ideas’ in my ignored publications.
The only one of my books that could be regarded as an expression of anything I might want to say just because I thought it was the case, was The Human Evasion and I wrote that only because I was still under extreme duress (six years after being thrown out) and unable to do anything. I had had no intention of writing about my psychological ideas.

I had not intended to use my psychological ideas in any way except that of facilitating my own productivity. I thought that my understanding of centralised psychology would make it possible for me to be very happy and productive as soon as I got back to the circumstances necessary for an academically and intellectually productive life. But in fact the goal of re-entry to a university career at a suitable level of seniority or, indeed, any level, was no nearer, in fact receding; and my energy level was declining in boredom.

So I thought that I should write at least something based on my memories of centralised psychology before they became too inaccessible. I thought that The Human Evasion might get me established as a writer, whose book-sales might make up for my lack of an academic salary and enable me to do research work of some kind that might be regarded as establishing a claim to reinstatement as an academic.

26 January 2008

Cape Fear

When I am doing my daily exercise quota on my cross-trainer, I scan the television programmes for moving wallpaper to look at. This has made me aware that modern films are almost universally unpleasant and uninteresting, so far as I am concerned, having a much greater content of explicit sadism than when I was growing up.

If a film is ‘serious’, rather than a ‘comedy’ (I don’t find comedies pleasant either) the storyline is almost certain to depend on some person or persons doing something to other persons which is very nasty and sure to be against the will of those persons. People are tortured, murdered, raped etc. and then may seek revenge against those who maltreated them, whether by retaliatory brutality or by ensuring that they (the perpetrators) are exposed to ‘justice’ in the form of imprisonment or execution.

These films seem to shed a light on a fundamental element in human motivation. There is, it would appear, a drive to assert oneself by making some other consciousness aware of its impotence; you are forcing it to experience something to which it cannot feel reconciled. I see that this could be a displacement of the drive to assert oneself against objective reality which is too powerful and threatening, and which may make you painfully aware of your impotence. But you may be in a position of power relative to some other people, especially if you can get on the right side of the social system in which you find yourself.

The film Cape Fear (1991 – a remake of a 1962 film with the same title) seems to express this rather well, at the same time as placing this drive in its place as an important part of the psychodynamics of socialism.

In this film a well-set-up, respectable lawyer once wronged a serial rapist whom he was defending against a charge of rape. The victim was a girl of 16, and the lawyer was so moved by her injuries that he suppressed a piece of evidence, to the effect that she had been promiscuous, which might have counted in his client’s favour. The client was ‘poor’ and illiterate, and hence an object of sympathy, but it is clear that he was quite likely to do sadistic things, to the point of killing people against whom he had a grievance. This partly accounted for the length of time (14 years) which he had spent in prison, where he brutally killed someone in the course of his confinement.

In asserting yourself to other people, it seems to be very important that they are made unmistakeably aware of the fact that you are able to threaten what is most important to them, and to make them feel out of control and inadequate to defend themselves or other people whom they mind about. (This is more or less the position in which people find themselves vis-à-vis agents of the collective in modern society.)

Near the beginning of this film the released prisoner tells the lawyer that he is going to make him experience loss. Then he sets about devoting his menacing attentions to the lawyer’s wife, girlfriend and daughter, and poisons their pet dog.

It may be noticed that he has no scruples about persecuting people (and an animal) who were not responsible for the imprisonment of which he is so bitterly resentful, but sees this as a valid way of doing things that the lawyer will not be able to avoid minding about.

Towards the end of the film, when he has the lawyer, his wife and his daughter at his mercy on a houseboat, the wife tries to make him believe that she understands what he has suffered, and pleads with him to do whatever he has planned to do to her daughter to herself instead.

The persecutor says he is glad she has made her feelings so plain to him. Now he knows she feels so strongly about it, it will make what he is about to do to her daughter all the more enjoyable.

In this, the later version of the film, the themes of wishing to have a destructive effect on people’s lives and the relationship to socialist ideology are far more clearly brought out. In the earlier version (1962) it is more a case of good guys being persecuted by a bad guy. In the 1991 version, the lawyer is (we are invited to believe) being rightfully punished for a misdeed, and his persecutor is a representative of the wronged class of the ‘poor’ and illiterate. The film is expressing the class warfare underlying modern society, in which well-set-up and successful bourgeois people are seen as natural targets of resentment, and in which the avenging individual, as the member of a wronged class, is ‘beyond good and evil’ and is free to disregard old-fashioned and hypocritical moral restraints.

23 January 2008

Organs and 'social justice'

In theory, removing organs on this basis [presumed consent] can be made to sound humane, but remember the law of unintended consequences. Anything promoted by government as life-enhancing can be turned into the opposite by greedy and/or unscrupulous individuals (Peter McKay, Daily Mail, 14 January 2008.)

As usual, reference is made to the risks of ‘greedy and/or unscrupulous individuals’, but not to risks which arise from agents of the socially oppressive system.

‘We must never be denied the right to choose’, says Melanie Phillips weakly, but we already are, if we allow ourselves to be forced into contact with the medical Mafia. Whether or not consent to remove organs after death is presumed unless refused, what is to prevent disapproval of those who refuse being covertly expressed in bad treatment by doctors and nurses? I have seen it suggested that those who refuse to donate their organs should themselves be refused treatment.

If doctors are able to presume consent for organ removal, they will be given even more power to do things against the will of their patients. It is clear that a considerable percentage of the population would not consent to removal, and not all of them will be efficient and initiativeful enough to register their lack of consent in the required way. Even those who do will be at the mercy of the system, and will have to be confident that there will never be any failure to communicate their refusal at the right time to the right doctor. Given what we know of the fallibility of computer systems and of the medical profession in modern society, there is a very obvious and serious uncertainty here.

To be sure that they are not violating the will of their patient, doctors should wish to have an explicit expression of consent.

But, of course, a modern person may say, even if an individual does not consent, they ought to. A person who says this is welcome, so far as I am concerned, to set up a charity financed by like-minded individuals, but not by the state, to convince people that they ought to want to donate their organs.

The issue of the motives, including unconscious ones, of the people implementing the proposed scheme is, as usual, entirely left out of account. This includes those operating the computer systems as well as the doctors. In borderline cases, it may be difficult to determine whether a person is dead or not, or whether it would have been their wish to be resuscitated. In such cases, the motives and preferences of the doctors will inevitably exert some influence. It is assumed that their motives can be only virtuous and disinterested, and that the only risk of abuse could come from outside the system. But in a borderline case, the characteristics of the organ-possessor may be relevant. If they are aged and infirm, there may well be a stronger tendency to give up on them than if they are young and have what the doctors consider to be an adequate quality of life.

Nor, given the way that considerations of ‘social justice’ are entering into medical ‘ethics’ (as well as everything else) these days, is it inconceivable that ideas about ‘fairness’ might influence their decisions at the margin. Might not a ‘privileged’ middle-class individual be more likely to be treated as ‘dead’ than a more ‘deserving’ working-class patient? Might not ‘do not resuscitate’ decisions be affected by whether somebody has a harvestable organ?

In considering the dangers of databases, reference is only made to the risk of abuse by criminal individuals who are not agents of the collective or otherwise authorised users of the data base. An upper-class banker (John Monckton) was murdered in his entrance hall two years ago by someone who used published information to target wealthy people. There was some suggestion that the murderer’s motives may have included resentment of the rich, as well as the usual pecuniary one. What is to prevent a person with similar motives from being among those who have official access to a data-base and using it to seek out people whom he or she regard as too well-off? Or perhaps just using the access to delete their refusal to have their organs harvested after death, as a way of expressing his aggression?

Agents of the collective such as doctors, teachers and social workers are just ordinary people. They are no more immune from the risk of behaving irresponsibly or abusively than anyone else.

20 January 2008

Reflection of the month

Beethoven's housekeeper

Beethoven had a housekeeper. She did the cooking and housekeeping while he composed music. I am sure the modern view of the matter is that Beethoven did not need a housekeeper, or, if he did, he should not have done. Plainly, they should both have composed music, and both have cooked their own meals. The fact that Beethoven composed music better than the housekeeper could have done is beside the point. It is the business of society to iron out these unfair advantages of endowment, not to enhance them. Why should the housekeeper not have had just as much chance to practise creative self-fulfilment? It is interesting to observe that the housekeeper could probably have composed music just as well in the intervals of her cooking and housekeeping as she could have done if she had had all day free to devote to thinking about the music. Beethoven, on the other hand, probably could not have composed nearly so well. This proves that the housekeeper had a better social adjustment than Beethoven, and is all the more reason why Beethoven should not have received preferential treatment.

(from the forthcoming book The Corpse and the Kingdom)

12 January 2008

Analysing Britney Spears

Recent events in the life of Britney Spears provide a telling illustration of how far disrespect for the autonomy of the individual has gone in modern society. But these events are supposed to be a reflection on Britney Spears herself, and to “mark a new low” in her “wayward life”.

After effectively holding her two children hostage at her Los Angeles home, she was forcibly taken by police to hospital having been strapped to a stretcher. As the 26-year-old was kept under "involuntary psychiatric hold", a judge suspended her right to see her sons Sean Preston, two, and 15-month-old Jayden James. (Daily Mail)

The Daily Mail asked a panel of experts to write an open letter to the star giving their views, again illustrating that in modern society everyone is supposed to know better than the person themselves what is good for them. One of the contributors to the open letters is Oliver James, a clinical psychologist, writer and TV documentary maker.

James wants to tell Britney Spears that she should not put her difficulties down to youthfulness and the magnitude of her success. “In themselves, these do not drive people crazy.” He does not mention the possibility that being deprived of the freedom to look after, or even see, her young children, and then being incarcerated against her will in a psychiatric ward, so that doctors can decide whether or not they wish to set her free, might in themselves be enough to drive a person crazy.

I do not myself have any opinion about whether there are any grounds for regarding her as “crazy”, but it seems to me that in modern society a failure to accept meekly that you have no control over the most important factors in your own life is sufficient to justify being described in that way.

Oliver James also wishes to inform her that her own opinions about her life are valueless, and that her parents are to blame.

Having interviewed more than 50 famous people for a TV project, I want you to know that only two out of those 50 did not suffer severe maltreatment as children. Again, as adults, only a handful of them did not suffer from symptoms of depression or personality disorder — "me me me" narcissism — compensating for feelings of helplessness and insignificance dating back to childhood.
You told a journalist: "I was never pushed, I never had to be. It all came from me." But I would ask you to think again: because I have never encountered a case where this was actually true. Showbiz prodigies like you often felt invisible to their parents, especially as babies, and they lack identity as a result. Being recognised in the street makes them feel important and noticed. However much you may wish to protect your divorced, devout Baptist parents, they will have made love conditional on success.
Glittering prizes became conflated with love. This is what made you — but not your siblings — vulnerable to the Affluenza virus of placing a high value on money and fame. You were infected with it from before you can remember and, sadly, it has now driven you crazy. But please do not despair. With the right therapy, I am sure your life will come together again.

Oliver James, like the other ‘experts’ quoted in the Daily Mail, pronounces his opinions on the diagnosis of individuals, even those they have never met or communicated with, with remarkably dogmatic assurance. Nearly 60 years ago I was amazed at the presumptuous and unrealistic diagnoses that were made of me, but in those days this sort of thing went on covertly and anonymously. James feels able to assert that 48 people he interviewed received “severe maltreatment” as children — meaning, of course, from parents rather than from agents of the educational or social systems. He also implies that, because this is (supposedly) true of most of the 50 people he interviewed, there is a strong presumption that the same is true of Britney Spears — regardless of the facts of her individual case, including her denial that it is so.

06 January 2008

More 'research' on gifted children

Apparently there is a terrible place called "Research Centre for Able Pupils" (RECAP) at Oxford Brookes University. (See article ‘Is your child a genius’ by Sarah Harris, Daily Mail, 5 January 2008.) We are told that someone called Bernadette Tynan, formerly of RECAP, "has toured schools helping identify talented pupils for a Channel Five series, Make Your Child Brilliant, which starts on Thursday."

Before confiscating even more money from taxpayers for ‘research’ to be done by socially appointed oppressors of humanity, they should have devoted at least the same amount of money to restitution and reparation of those who have been deprived of a career, or even an acceptable means of livelihood, by the oppressive school and university system.

They should close this place now, and give me the money which is being spent on supporting it, so that I can set up at least a minimal institutional environment within which I and my associates can at long last have progressive and productive academic careers.

The same applies to the other appalling place, the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth at Warwick University (now taken over by the education department). If both were closed and the money given to me, I could proceed to make some use of my ability on a more adequate scale.

The money that is being spent on ‘helping’ the present generation of gifted children should first of all be spent on undoing the harm that has already been done to the lives of former gifted children, rather than doing ‘research’ on even more effective methods for destroying the lives of those with high IQs.

Usually discussions of whether or not treating gifted children, or any others, in a certain way is good or bad do not start by arguing about what are the correct assumptions to be made about the motivation of those concerned (this is usually assumed to be unquestionably benevolent). Instead the discussion is solely about whether the outcome of their attentions is to be regarded as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, again with plenty of unexamined assumptions about what is good or bad.

It is certainly possible to discuss the matter on these terms, but I know that nobody is likely to agree with my analysis of the psychological driving forces in the situation. So before doing so, let me first say that on what appears to be the basic moral principle, society should interfere as little as possible with the individual's freedom to evaluate for himself the various factors which affect his existential situation, and to react to it as effectively as his resources permit. On these grounds, compulsory education is immoral, and compulsory state education even more so.

But since we live in an oppressive society which has both compulsory education and state education financed by taxation, one would hope that those concerned in the educational system were trying to provide their victims with what the victims would wish to purchase for themselves, with their own money, if they were able to do so, and not to impose the providers’ own evaluations of the priorities of life, in an attempt to manipulate the outlook and behaviour of the victims. However, it is fairly obvious that the providers are often primarily interested in social engineering and ideological manipulation of all kinds.

There is no reason to assume that because teachers and educational experts have nothing to gain financially by frustrating and oppressing their victims, they will refrain from doing so, or will even, as is usually assumed, be motivated to bring about results that are advantageous to the victims.

There is every reason to think that many of those involved in education have ideological axes to grind; and even if they did not, they are in a position of so much power to influence what goes on in the lives of their victims, that it could hardly be expected that their subconscious motives would not have considerable influence on the outcome. Their motives are not necessarily purely ideological; they may simply prefer or dislike one type of person rather than another. In particular, jealousy of exceptional ability, exceeding their own, is likely to be a very influential force in the situation.

It now appears to be widely accepted that it is ‘bad’ for able children to constantly succeed, and that they need to be ‘challenged’.

On a website called ‘Gifted Exchange’, there is an example of this way of thinking.

Charles Murray [in an article called 'Aztecs vs. Greeks'] calls for the gifted to be given a challenging, classical education. He further states that we need to encourage gifted kids not to become just smart but wise. 'The encouragement of wisdom requires a special kind of education. It requires first of all recognition of one’s own intellectual limits and fallibilities – in a word, humility. This is perhaps the most conspicuously missing part of today’s education of the gifted. Many high-IQ students, especially those who avoid serious science and math, go from kindergarten through an advanced degree without ever having a teacher who is dissatisfied with their best work and without ever taking a course that forces them to say to themselves, “I can’t do this.” Humility requires that the gifted learn what it feels like to hit an intellectual wall just as all of their less talented peers do, and that can come only from a curriculum and pedagogy designed especially for them.'

The editor of the site, Laura Vanderkam, agrees with this and says:

If anyone reads Aztecs vs. Greeks and decides to push for education that holds gifted kids’ feet to the fire, intellectually, then I’ll be happy.

This is just an incitement to those who are running the lives of gifted children to humiliate and frustrate them. Such people do not need any incitement.

In the Charles Murray quotation he uses vague words, wisdom and humility, with confidence that these attributes (whatever is to be understood by them) can be produced mechanically by paternalistic manipulation, and by subjecting the victim to certain types of experience. What is really meant is that incipient centralisation* is to be opposed, and decentralisation enforced. The demand for gifted children to be ‘challenged’ is really a demand for any rudimentary centralisation to be destroyed. This is now a far more explicit part of the modern ideology than it was when it was so destructively applied to me.

* A state of psychology involving a sense of self-determination and identification with one's life. For more details, see link.