Posts Tagged ‘imagination’

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?

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To the kids of the future…

December 25, 2008

I see this shit all over the internet. Stuff like this has been coming across my inbox for as long as I’ve had one, and I’m old enough to remember this kind of thing being faxed around. Who writes this shit? And why the fuck does it continue to circulate? What kind of zombie would agree with this? It’s the type of thing that anyone with any critical sense automatically ignores, but this type of reactionary thinking, the “get used to it” response to critical awareness, can’t be something that anyone would seriously defend. Would any parent consciously squash their children’s dreams of a better world? And when made aware of the dampening effect their pessimism is having on their children, could anyone passionately defend the destructive effect of their unconscious attitude? Who could proudly proclaim the motto “Accept your lot, do as you are told.”?

I feel the need on this snowy day before The Big Day Off, to suggest some possibilities. It doesn’t have to be this way. Here are the suggested possibilities, following the given rules:

Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it!

Possibility 1: Life’s not conscious – you be the judge!

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Possibility 2: Do what makes you feel good. AND Don’t ever let anyone tell your children they’re not worth it. Esteem your children over and above their own self-esteem, build them up, develop their creative powers. Why don’t we support our children in their imagination? If we can imagine a better world we can create a better world.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Possibility 3: Make your own goals. How do you want to live? Use your imagination.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Possibility 4: If your teacher is tough, tell him to fuck off. QUIT SCHOOL and follow your dreams.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

Possibility 5: Find work with friends and people who are passionate about what they are doing. Do the work you want. AND Not all our grandparents called wage-slavery an opportunity. Some fought for shorter work weeks, safer working conditions, and worker control. Those who fought, fought physically. They were beaten by police, jailed, killed for trying to make the world more fair. Why don’t we tell our kids about these grandparents?

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Possibility 6: If you mess up, your parents will be there for you. Mess up, mess around. Finding your way in the world is near impossible if you want to change things. Your parents understand this and will always be there for you.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Possibility 7: If your parents are boring, find some that aren’t. Seriously cool parents will always take on the responsibility of another seriously cool kid. Don’t accept the given. Never accept your lot.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Possibility 8: Who’s making the rules? Who has the right answer? If you can live your out your imagination in your everyday life, who cares what anyone else thinks?

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Possibility 9: There is no time that is not for you. Why use it making someone who isn’t interested in you money? Life is how you and your friends make it.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Possibility 10: Imagine life as a creative possibility, where real life is what you want to do, not what you have to do.

This was a difficult mental exercise. There are many traps to fall into when dealing with the given or established consciousness. The given categories need to be completely rejected, and alternatives need be created in their place. Then the word count needed to convey alternative conceptions far exceeds the pithy clichés needed for conventional reactions. Plus many of the propositions in the rule list are true, but their extension into the acceptance of “real life” makes the truisms into more than true, maybe fixed, and reality is not fixed. How do you unfix dominant ideas? How do you found an alternative on an unfixed reality?

Some of my possibilities are pretty lame, do you have better suggestions?