“There is a good deal else that would not exist without “poisonous pedagogy.” It would be inconceivable, for example, for politicians mouthing empty clichés to attain the highest positions of power by democratic means. But since voters, who as children would normally have been capable of seeing through these clichés with the aid of their feelings, were specifically forbidden to do so in their early years, they lose this ability as adults. The capacity to experience the strong feelings of childhood and puberty (which are so often stifled by child-rearing methods, beatings, or even drugs) could provide the individual with an important means of orientation with which he or she could easily determine whether politicians are speaking from genuine experience or are merely parroting time-worn platitudes for the sake of manipulating voters. Our whole system of raising and educating children provides the power-hungry with a ready-made railway network they can use to reach the destination of their choice. They need only push the buttons that parents and educators have already installed.”
~ Alice Miller (as quoted from Poisonous pedagogy)
This video is an insightful analysis. I don’t have in opinion about the book in question (The Catcher in the Rye) since it’s been many years since I read it. There is another video about it from the movie Six Degrees of Separation. I like what Will Smith’s character is saying about imagination.
The two views of the book are a bit different, but maybe there is a connection. What kills the imagination? Imagination is very personal. For the imagination to become externalized and objectified (as entertainment or organized religion) implies that a violent disconnection has occurred. So, what about our society is responsible for this?
Since I’m reading Derrick Jensen right now, I have been thinking about the connection between abuse and hierarchy. Jensen discusses it in terms of the victimization cycle of victims becoming victimizers and the culture of power and fear (in particular, Jensen discusses all of this in relation to child abuse including his own personal experience). Related to the imagination and the individual, Jensen also talks about the commodification of our culture. Imagination becomes a commodity as entertainment and people become commodities as workers. This process is largely dependent on proper ‘education’.
The guy in the first video pointed out something I hadn’t heard before. He mentioned that both prostitutes and those who seek them out tend to have histories of sexual abuse as children. I had heard about this being true for sex workers, but it’s strange that sexually abused people would seek eachother out to form this kind of business relationship.
I think it’s important that he connects abuse to general dysfunction both in the individual and society. Abuse early in life messes up a person psychologically and often turn to self-medication. Everyone blames the victim, says this guy… and he has a theory about it. “Of the three major kinds of abuse (verbal abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse), it is the verbal abuse victims who become the political leaders… Those who are physically abused become the workers… While those who are sexually abused often become the criminal class.”
Civilization isn’t the normal state of the human species. People have to be formed correctly at a young age to fit into such an unnatural situation. Mostly this isn’t planned out in a conscious way (and conscious awareness of the process is discouraged by the system itself). Abuse is self-replicating. In a society based on victimization, it is easier for a victim to become a victimizer than it is for a victim to become a defender of victims. We are all victims in various ways as we live in a very oppressive society, but abuse makes for a good example because it’s more obvious (for anyone who wants to see). Child abuse is very common in our society and most often children are abused by their parents. A child is statistically safer around strangers. Rape, whether of children or adults, is also very common.
If you blame the victimizers, you’d be blaming a large percentage of our entire society and most victimizers were also once victims. To go by the theory presented in the video, maybe blaming the victims in the first place promotes victims becoming victimizers. The separation between victims and victimizers is less than we like to think. There is the cartoon of the boss who yells at the employee who goes home to yell at his wife who yells at the kid who yells at the dog. That is a simplification of the process. Everyone wants to be in the position of the abuser rather than the abused. If the employee becomes the new boss, he will then yell at his employees. When the kid grows up to be a parent, he will yell at his kids or his wife.
No single person can be blamed. The victimization is systemic to our entire culture. It can be seen in the news and in entertainment. It can be seen in politics and war. It can be seen in the police force and in business practices. It can be seen at work and at home. It’s all around us and we are all apart of it. The key point that Jensen makes is that we shouldn’t blame ourselves for being born into this society. We do what we can. We should understand that we all are the walking wounded and should be compassionate.
I must admit that I find it difficult to be compassionate at times. I’m one of the walking wounded as well. My own suffering sometimes makes me more compassionate and sometimes less. I wish I were capable of always being kind and caring, but it is always a challenge. I found helpful the attitude expressed by Thomas Ligotti which comes down to hate the sin, not the sinner. In speaking about his own pessimism (which could be applied to Derrick Jensen’s pessimism), he writes:
“It would be a sign of callousness to bemoan the fact that pessimistic writers do not rate and may be denounced in both good conscience and good company. This judgment makes every kind of sense in a world of card-carrying or crypto-optimists. Once you understand that, you can spare yourself from suffering excessively at the hands of ‘normal people’, a pestilent confederation of upstanding creatures who in concert keep the conspiracy going by rehashing their patented banalities and watchwords. This is not to say that such people do not have their struggles and responsibilities, their pains and sufferings, and their deaths by accident, murder, or disease, which only makes all the more pestilent their normal thinking that being alive is all right and that happiness should attend upon the arrival of life’s newcomers, who, it is always assumed, will be normal.”
~ “Thinking Horror” by Thomas Ligotti, Collapse IV (which is an extract from the soon to be available The Conspiracy Against the Human Race)
If you criticize society, those who identify with society and promote it’s values will at the very least criticize you in return. But if this is all they do, be thankful. Many people throughout history (and in the present as well), have been ostracized and imprisoned, beaten and killed for criticizing society. As long as you merely criticize, those with vested interests often don’t care. But as soon as you attempt to act on those criticisms, prepare yourself be punished and put back in your place.
Knowing this, you have two responses. You can go by Ligotti’s advice… Don’t provoke the dangerous animal! Or you can go by Jensen’s advice… Someone has to stop the dangerous animal from continuing to kill. I understand Jensen’s view, but I don’t have it in me to fight the system. I’ll write my criticisms and hope for the best.
In conclusion, the following is a quote from an article that strengthens the argument about the connection between society, trauma, and addiction (I’ve written along similar lines in the post Homelessness and Civilization). Dislocation is one of the most fundamental aspects of victimization and one which Derrick Jensen speaks of in terms of destroying stable traditional cultures.
The Roots of Addictionin Free Market Society
by Bruce K. Alexander
As free market globalization speeds up, so does the spread of dislocation and addiction.
In order for “free markets” to be “free,” the exchange of labour, land, currency, and consumer goods must not be encumbered by elements of psychosocial integration such as clan loyalties, village responsibilities, guild or union rights, charity, family obligations, social roles, or religious values. Cultural traditions “distort” the free play of the laws of supply and demand, and thus must be suppressed. In free market economies, for example, people are expected to move to where jobs can be found, and to adjust their work lives and cultural tastes to the demands of a global market.
People who cannot achieve psychosocial integration develop “substitute” lifestyles. Substitute lifestyles entail excessive habits including—butnot restricted to—drug use, and social relationships that are not sufficiently close, stable, or culturally acceptable to afford more than minimal psychosocial integration. People who can find no better way of achieving psychosocial integration cling to their substitute lifestyles with a tenacity that is properly called addiction.
In case you’re interested in the evidence and arguments behind the view of the first video, the same guy made some other related videos: