Posts Tagged ‘chance’

Taboo: Mind Control

March 29, 2009

The internet can make it look like you’ve got some wicked memory. For instance, I know someone once said something like “if you feel in control you’re not going fast enough.” And I want to comment on that.  Voila:

“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” Mario Andretti (Italian born American Race driver. b.1940) (site)

What I’m talking about in this post is revolutionary thought, or thought itself. In the years that I’ve been around critical thinkers, I’ve seen a number lose mental control. It happens and it’s just happened to another friend, so I wanted to say a few things about revolutionary thinking.

Following Threads

Here’s a story. It’s not well documented. It’s a singular case; an amateur archeological find that I interpreted  quite quickly. The story could go in any direction, but the way I tell it fits with what I’ve seen, what I’m seeing. I found a small library of books in a paper recycling dumpster. And the books, at least to me, told a story. The older books, from the 60s and 70s, were all about social organizing, socialism, union issues (this paper dumpster was in Windsor, Ontario) and other radical works. It’s where I got my totally used copies of Rules for Radicals and The Human Use of Human Beings. But the fresher books, the books from the 80s and 90s (this was the 90s) we more mystical. There were books on angels and conspiracy theories. And some more right-wing writers. I don’t know why the books were being recycled. But I guessed the owner had died, or was taken to a home. But that movement to the mystical right interested me, maybe scared me. If you’re a thinker you probably find yourself freely following lines of thought, it’s almost as though you’re out of control. I’m not advocating control. That’s why the Andretti quote. You should feel out of control as a free thinker. Andretti had a track. Thinkers need friends, someone to say, “come back to us.” If only to keep us in the habit of communicating our thoughts. There is always the danger when going out too far alone, of not coming back.

Sure I’ve been actively following my interests as a reader, but the lines I’ve taken from the Beats and William S. Burroughs, to Nietzsche and Julian Jaynes aren’t really completely controlled by an “I.” What I’m saying is, our minds form in a way that can’t be rock-solidly linked to a directing self. What I mean is that it’s not an “I” forming thought. You don’t believe in God because you’ve chosen to believe. And I didn’t choose the opposite. There is no “I” involved, no agency, we could argue this, but to ask me to believe, is like asking you to accept the opposite. It’s not going to happen. In this round about way, I’m thinking through the necessary conditions for a turn, development, even the stasis, of thought.

Here’s another story. I remember the exact moment my world became godless. As a child, I’d see ghosts, dead people, and maybe once, at the foot of my bed, Jesus. But I’d also heard sleigh bells on Christmas Eve. My very-real-to-me-at-the-time experiences with the spectral world weren’t limited to a consistent plane of the cultural imaginary. Santa and God were aware of my every move. The Devil was there. For whatever reason, I imagined him in the breaker box in our mudroom. If Santa could make it down the chimney of our wood burning stove, Satan could sure as hell wait in the power lines to nab my eternal soul.

When I was ten, my grandfather died. It was a turning point. He’d been eaten away by cancer. A bed had been set up in his living room, because he wanted to die at home. Seeing him skeletal, on the terminal edge of life, the world became very real for me. Looking back now, I started to see and feel things differently. After his death, my family made the move from Catholicism to a more fundamentalist sect of the lightbulb turning, tongue speaking and wailing reborn. I didn’t make the move with them. They questioned Catholicism, and I questioned the existence of God. It’s not something a kid talks about with his parents. Even friends and relatives don’t go there too easily. I still dreamed of ghosts, and demons, but slowly the spiritual world became less real.

So the godless world moment: I was in my last year of high school in a history class, the teacher was talking about World War II, and as an aside he said, “This is the one event that confirms my belief that God has an active hand in history.” He was talking about the race to build the Atomic Bomb. And for him the Americans winning that race, confirmed the hand of God. And this is what I was talking about earlier, the moment he said this, I didn’t think about it, it was instant, I had no control over what happened in my head, but right there my consciousness of a spiritual dimension vanished. It was like I was immediately snapped into this world. I was all in. I am not arguing that it’s worked out well for me, what I’m arguing is that “I” didn’t think it. “I” didn’t reason it. My own consciousness is out of my control, this consciousness is not my own.

So when a radical union activist who I used to know, would go off at local meetings about the government’s plan to launch a mind reading satellite into orbit… I’ll say this in his defense, he was waving a book that laid out all the details, and he was offering it to anyone willing to read it. From my own experience, from what I’ve seen, or at least what I think I’ve seen, there is a question of control. And if we’re not in control, who is?

Freedom not power

January 26, 2009

[This was a facebook note]

Watching the Chicago 8 trial documentary I was struck by the forced conformity. There was a very large group of Americans who were expressing a different way of being. The point is that a social dialogue about social change was in play, and the state mobilized its armed forces to silence the peaceful movement for change. It became apparent that conformity is the only option. Sure we are free to live within the parameters of the system, and sure those parameters are quite broad and loose, but we are not free to change the system. We can try to change the system, but there is a power at work that will fight you all the way to your bedroom. (Ballistic evidence showed that most bullets during the raid were aimed at Hampton’s bedroom. ( ))

A distinction needs to be made between freedom and power. That I have health and nutrition, social and manual skills, and access to credit means I can exercise most of my charter rights and freedoms, but this is a “power to exercise” granted by the system. I am bound to this system or powerless. Now, begrudging this dependence is seen as selfish and ungrateful. I should be grateful for the power given me. And if I were a selfish individuated person with no desire to be social, maybe I would revel in the power that is mine, but I do desire to be social, so like the Chicago 8, I speak out against the hierarchal systems that condition the social. I speak out against, to name a few, the family, the state, colonialism, the military, capitalism.

I’m not content to live under a capitalist state system that grants more personal power to the individuated agents of its middle class than it allows in the colonies. I’m not fascist, I want freedom not power. This system, where we work beyond the necessary for a profit while others starve, needs to be considered.

When we fear human nature, we fear freedom, because freedom is social self-determination, freedom is the opposite of external controls. Restrictions impede freedom. Restrictions impede human development. That a material necessity exists, that there are material limits to freedom, shouldn’t be reason enough to accept these social limits to freedom. We can do better than this.

John Barth Beresford at 1:04pm January 27

Every damn day we’re changing the system but it’s gonna take years decades to notice. I’m not interested in too much change in one noticeable gulp. It would be perceived as a mass hallucination that would terrorize the happy, undermine the progressive, and make all the powers that be even more powerful. So go about your good deeds quietly and keep up the good work! Thanks for your support and cooperation Rodger X.

Rodger Levesque at 6:39pm February 1

Was it your plan to enrage me? Was it some flippant move, like aiming for the chest in air hockey? Or maybe putting on a Nashville hockey jersey? Were you trying to antagonize me?

Rodger Levesque at 6:42pm February 1

Luckily I thought it through before responding like Dan Ackroyd on SNL “John, you ignorant slut.”

Rodger Levesque at 7:00pm February 1

You know I’ve never been much of an activist. Have you seen “Into the Wild”? I recognize that rage and frustration. Activism drove me nuts, and then journalism wasn’t much better. Hey have you ever read my blog? (Don’t worry about it. No one reads it. Who could? It’s a ridiculous expression of complete confusion. But…) Something I’ve been writing about speaks to what you wrote. The blog is called “Not Left To Chance” and it gets its name from a line about education being socialization that isn’t left to chance. I liked that, not the cynicism of it, but the reality. When you write that “we’re changing the system” like by some sort of chance one day the system will be something other than it is. But the system is reproduced by command and control. Our socialization hasn’t been left to chance. We’re conditioned by the system to reproduce it. Have you ever seen A Clockwork Orange? After Alex has been reconditioned, the thought of violence incapacitates him.

Rodger Levesque at 7:01pm February 1

What thought incapacitates you? That’s the thought you need to put into action if you want to change the system.

John Barth Beresford at 10:33pm February 2

You express such optimism to began and then complete resignation to finish. If you can’t see a positve result, why pitch it happening at all? You’ve already decided you won’t make a difference. That’s alright, that way you won’t be disappointed by hope and perhaps might even be pleasantly surprised by a change you never expected to make.That’s some pretty serious resocialization you’re talking about and besides Alex at the end pulls off another fast one, it’s suggested with raised eyebrows. He’s all about ego-based will, anarchism. I’m saying the more anonymous your approach and the more random per-chance your focus, as opposed to your obessed ‘incapaciting thought,’ the more effective your result for a greater number of people in a freer self-empowering way.

Finally, yes, I was saying if you think more that way, if you observe and follow, ironically you’ll be defining yourself as an individual.

Ramblings of a possible lunatic

October 16, 2007

This just might be my last post to this blog. As an experiment Bread & Sanity [an earlier blog] has come to an end, or become redundant, recently I’ve been focusing on writing and reading on education, so I’ve been posting, when I do here (dead link). Recently I’ve also been reading a lot more than I’m writing, which doesn’t give any clue to the amount of time I’ve spent reading, because I’ve written nothing.

There is some writing on education on this blog, which will be moved, but much of the other writing will be moved as well. With labels finding my notes won’t be a problem, and I’m also not worried about any kind of focus. Education is always just one system/concept in a very large world system/concept. With focus you lose perspective.

Yes, notes. I’m also using a blog as a collection of notes, or a collector of notes, obviously both private and public. Who am I writing to right now, you as much as myself, and more myself, as existing and hoping to make some use of these notes in the future.

Why theory? In a note on Dewey I wrote a little about perfect theory, or perfecting theory maybe learning theory, or evolving theory, but perfect is what I’m after. Does this idea fly in the academy? Perfect has been critiqued and found suspect. Now anyone who considered the project is considered ignorant of accepted wisdom. So again, Why Theory? Always non-perfectable, always partially inapplicable, so why? I’m not suggesting that there is a perfect theory, but that I should work toward one. The concept of perfect theory is playful, light-hearted. Saul Alinsky begins his Rules for Radicals with an over the shoulder nod to the very first radical, Lucifer. Power rejects all challengers, and with this understanding the meaning of rejection becomes a problem. If a theory has been rejected it can be a powerful theory for change as easily as the ravings of a lunatic. The problem is that if your ideas aren’t rejected by power, they’re useless, and if they are there’s a very good chance they’re still useless.