The Trophy Generation Revisited

Consider that the rise of the Trophy Generation mentality has coincided perfectly with the repression of conflict between children as evidenced by anti-bullying and the expansion of gender and racial equality campaigns.

Maybe you have to use trophies the way the Romans used bread and circuses.  The purpose of trophy giving is not to make everyone a winner. It’s to keep anyone from feeling like a loser.  This is important because resentment is the root of violence.

The healthy loser becomes motivated by admiration for excellence and is at best a booster for the establishment.  This move, however, requires a transcendental perspective which elevates interpersonal relationships beyond the present moment, such as religion.  Most less successful individuals historically resent other people, segregating into separate groups and classes and rejecting the values and cultural practices of others by developing preferences of their own – work with your hands instead of your mind (or vice-versa depending on your historical epoch), or become scholastic if sports aren’t your thing, mutatis-mutandis.

Affect research and theorists such as Jones (Affect as Process) and Lichtenberg (Motivational Systems Theory) have pointed out that the human motivation for hierarchy and competition occurs most powerfully in latency children (~5 years to puberty), at exactly that time period during which the trophy phenomenon is most pronounced.  Could it be that the discomfort adults feel with competition is causing them to disrupt a developmental milestone?

The best criticism of this factor, adult narcissism projected onto children, is of course made by the now dormant thelastpsychiatrist.com.  His critiques, however, often result in blaming baby-boomers for the problems  they themselves blame “kids-today” for.

I think a deeper perspective can be gleaned by considering that the other-hatred and powerful identifications of the latency period go underground if not allowed to develop naturally, turning into the narcissism of adults who either deny (and project) or symptomatically over-express (and deny) those most natural of human emotions – interpersonal present-moment hatred, jealousy and resentment.

The only rejoinders to this position of accepting “crass” emotions I see are the religious one, for which gods get the credit, or the neo-liberal one – for which you get a trophy.

 

DePaul University Surrenders to the Decline of Western Civilization

Inspired perhaps by their eponymous Saint Vincent to lead a life of virtuous suffering, administrators at Chicago’s DePaul University rolled over to Black Lives Matter at a recent speaking engagement by Milo Yiannopoulos.

via Huffinton Post.

Administrators had fought against hosting the conservative event for over three months. As they watched the event unravel, they seemed almost relieved to see the radical protesters fulfill their wishes. The rights implications were utterly lost on them. All they wanted was a nice, quiet, homogeneously-thinking campus.

Only days before the event, administrators had demanded that DePaul College Republicans, the club that hosted the event, pay hundreds of extra dollars in security costs. This was a clear breach of contract, but the organizers paid the fee under threat of cancellation. Yet, after ordering a dozen security officers, the administrators prevented them from restoring order, forcing them to stand down.

I talked to a few of the dozen Chicago police officers eventually called into the building, and they were irate. They were well-trained, and well-equipped to handle scenarios such as this. They wanted to do their job, and remove the protesters, but administrators demanded they stand passively and watch. Once again, violence prevailed over free speech on a liberal college campus, and the administration was 100% complicit.

This is an incredibly serious issue. Students who go through US universities will lead our country through a challenging future. If they are not exposed to a variety of viewpoints, they are at a serious disadvantage in meeting those challenges. This is the rare issue where leaders from both parties, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Donald Trump all agree; yet university administrators at DePaul, and across the country refused to confront the issue, afraid to take a stand against militant activism.

In the face of their declining enrollment, De Paul university has decided to give in.  Ironic that St. Vincent DePaul who was captured by Islamic pirates and sold into white slavery in 1605 completed his education and returned to volunteer and help those less fortunate than him on his own.  He did not forever rally popular support against his erstwhile Muslim captors or demand special compensation.

If DePaul University hadn’t been cuckolded into selling western civilization down the river they could have perhaps had a dialogue about whether St. Vincent’s vows of chastity and obedience would benefit the black community more than Blacklivesmatter.

After all, they have already taken the vow of poverty.

Project Include is Yet Another Reason to Short Sell Tech Stocks

Compare these pictures. Three more years of economic non-recovery have allowed for more apple products and beverages, but non profits can’t afford a food stylist or cleaning service.

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(Image via The Last Psychiatrist)

These images could both be titlted “An Isometric Study of Women Pretending to Work at Conference Table…with snacks.”  The difference is Sandberg is the subject in the latter, while “tech” is the subject in the former (notice the fascination with whatever is on the screen in the first image.)  Again, Sandberg’s picture could be called “Women admire and listen to Sandberg” while the former could be called “Women love technology and each other.”  And just for fun – here are more happy multicultural people enjoying bounty.  (The subject of the third image is religious ecstasy.)

Image result for you can live forever in paradise on earth
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ religious pamphlet

TLP’s 2013 essay concluded among other things that the popularity of Sandberg was explained by the aspirational nature of women wanting something desirable (a seat at the table) instead of simply wanting more money.  You only knew about Sadberg so that labor costs can go down.

From Fortune Magazine:

Female Tech Leaders Create New Group To Fix Silicon Valley’s Diversity Problem

The initiative aims to provide meanings(sic) results, not just empty talk about diversity.

Silicon Valley executives have talked a lot of about the lack of diversity in their ranks. But as the annual workplace demographic reports from their companies show, not much is changing.

So a group of prominent women in the tech industry has taken matters into their own hand, and on Tuesday unveiled a new initiative called Project Include. The project’s aim is to collect and share data to help increase diversity among tech company employees as a way to encourage change. (emphasis mine)

Ellen Pao (who lost a discrimination lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins before being ridden-outta-reddit-on-a-rail) and Erika Baker (who published Google salaries) along with a gaggle of other less notorious SJW’s have decided to increase their harassment of tech companies.

I infer their plan includes advancing diversity hiring agendas through publishing statistics on employment data from private companies which I claim is a vehicle to generate popular resentment and consumer activism against the firms from those who are neither shareholders, VC’s nor customers.  (They do however have twitter accounts.)

They are doing this on their own time, of course, because their target demographic is unwilling to pay for it – which means they don’t want it – which means it isn’t important to them – which means they don’t have a diversity problem.  So the headline of the key assumption of the article should be changed to notorious activists still have a problem with silicon valley.   Is it any wonder they can’t sell this?

Any consumer of course has the right to vote with their wallet, and the same extends to the investor community.  However, spending money on products that aren’t worth it used to only happen on public radio pledge drives and investing in unprofitable businesses used to happen on Sunday mornings in a collection plate.  You can confuse an economy with a religion more easily than you think.

    Pao et. al.’s misunderstanding (read: motivated distortion) of business is underscored by their rhetorical question on the front page of projectinclude.org:  “Ultimately, does your company give everyone a fair shot at success?”

I hope the answer is a resounding “NO!”  Companies are not in the business of giving people shots at success.  They are in the business of paying people for their help.  Thanks to affirmative action and movements like Project Include, they are also now in the business of using employee presumptive disadvantaged status as a human shield between the legal system and identitarian consumerism.  In this sense at least the chickens are coming home to roost since marketing has incubated inchoate niche identities in the first place.

So I would submit that the basic hiring scenario is that in which candidates try to convey their ability to help based on their skills and attitude while a firm assesses them for the same.

image via reddit

Chairman Pao, in her anti-capitalist assumptions, believes rightly that this basic scenarios is skewed and people are often indeed biased by a number of factors.  However she does not understand what bias is and as a result overestimates its impact.

In a Derridian sense, bias is part of a dyad of preference/bias.  Emotions are always a trajectory.  Bias is the trace of preference.  A preference for A entails a bias against B.  Toward is away – and as Sartre noted every act of loyalty entails one of disloyalty (Consumerism is a Humanism, after all).  The degree to which bias is unconscious correlates to the degree to which preferences are well integrated by the ego (i.e. uncolored by shame and resentment, attributed to self rather than other via admiration and identification).

She is likely right that white men demonstrate a preference for free association (which I must point out is after all a protected American right) with other white men based on factors such as cultural similarity.  However, the full picture is not grasped without appreciating the corollary bias of all identitarian groups – a bias which is unacknowledged by Pao, et. al. (See the initial gender split on Pao’s jury trial, for instance).

Where Pao and other diversity trumpeters miss the mark is by assuming that bias/preference is so much stronger than other preferences – such as the desire to make money – so as to deserve inordinate attention.  

Pao also does not understand what culture is.  Her cohort expounds on the importance of envisioning, planning, implementing and controlling a company culture.  This cultural revolution of course is an Orwellian inversion.  Culture is what an organization has organically.  Cultural programs are designed to suppress reality.  To channel Derrida again, culture is exclusive, always to be defined in part by that which does not fit in, and expert cultures are no exception.  Pao has decided that her culture, multiculturalism, is the only acceptable culture (with the probable exception for gentrification and cultural appropriation).  Her culture’s primary definitive characteristic is their anathema toward any form of white male homogeneity.  Her culture is defined in part by opposition to white male culture.

Here consider the work of Mary Douglas (Purity and Danger) defining the spectrum of the sacred, the clean and the unclean.  Victimary minorities, of course, are sacred (Girard).  White men, vessels for projected uncleanness qua unconscious bias (racism/sexism) cannot be trusted to make decisions because they don’t like you as much as you’d like them to.  The high priestesses of diversity must first cleanse the temple to have a perfectly represented spectrum of holy-ones present.  Only then can it be pronounced clean.

 

Jehovah's Witness Watchtower magazine

For the absurdity of this position to be fully appreciated consider Julia Kristeva’s Powers of Horror where she argues for abjection as a pre-verbal response to the breakdown of threatened meaning (Read:  Bias ain’t goin’ nowhere, never, no-how).  I would also offer Silvin Tomkin’s and later affect theorists research that aversion is part of us and is never going away.  It can only be adjusted towards new targets.  Planned company cultures like planned national cultures and planned national economies cannot possibly succeed without enormous repression.   Said differently:  You can make your theory fit reality or try to make reality fit your theory.

Pao and Project Include’s most egregiously self defeating anti-woman position is revealed in her opposition to competition.  At Reddit, she instituted a policy prohibiting negotiation. Ellen Pao believes women are just as good as men, except for the fact that they can’t compete.  

Competition can’t be eliminated because people want to compete.  They want to win, part of which means beating other people.  Erika Baker’s salary disclosure fiasco had it not been a failure would have made people miserable, lead to pay compression, and increased the quit rate.

Tech stocks are a bubble about to pop and Project Include is a needle.  Don’t listen to them:  Everything about diversity is awful except the food.  If you have invested in a company which thinks you should hire based on any criteria but the ad-hoc mix of best qualifications and lowest negotiated salary, sell them short while you can.  After the worst year in history for tech, it’s reassuring to remember Cyril Northcote Parkinson’s observation that London banks built the biggest and most beautiful lobbies only just before precipitous decline.  Similarly I predict an increased focus on issues of marginal concern to reach its zenith just before the unicorns go to zero. #callingthetechbubble

 

 

The obvious rejoinder to my position is that my antipathy for diversity hiring initiatives is attributable to my biases.  I would offer that it is a reflection of my preferences – more important than biases – which include my values and my own desire to win at competition, weariness with victimary harassment, and admiration of excellence.

A secondary rebuttal is that I’m worried about losing my priviledged position, being threatened by these programs.  My rejoinder here would be that I think one can rightly fear losing the right to pursue what they want – the right to compete, out work, out negotiate and out politic others who want the same thing.

The victimary perspective mobilized to justify unilateral diversity is a toxic con. The first and best thing anyone who wants more out of life should always be told is to work harder and be more disciplined.  With this veil stripped away we see a transparent culture war among interest groups for influence and prestige in society through its institutions.  There is nothing wrong with this desire.  It is quite ordinary and admirable.  However, the ethical way to get something you want from someone else who has it is to offer them something of value for it.  

The sooner we admit our situation is one of disparate interest groups instead of entitled victims the sooner we can turn a covert disingenuous and undignified conflict into a direct negotiation about how we want society to function.  We can exchange things besides blame and resentment.

This is not simply a turning of the tables like the androsphere’s tale of 21st century male victimhood.  I challenge everyone at the negotiating table to act with the dignity of not claiming special handicaps and entitlements.  You shouldn’t want them unless you need them, and to need them is different than to be owed them.  To think otherwise is to espouse the ethics of a looser.

Unless, of course, you agree with Ellen Pao who thinks women can’t negotiate.  I think you can do better than that.

 

Sexual Envy and Hopeless Self Help: A Brief Response to The Hotel Concierge

Image result for jealousy vs envy

Tumblerite The Hotel Concierge has written a strident and broad advice piece/ social science observational on attraction.  I greatly enjoyed the piece but I think he misses the centrality of shame and resentment in what he calls narcissism.  One true achievement of the march of history, much like the hallmark of psychosexual maturation into adulthood, is the ability to freely choose ones role models.  It is quite easy to be attractive:  Emulate the motivations, ethics and behavior of those you admire. What prevents people from doing this is the idolatry of their rivavlrous gods.

THC’s rangy exposition involves the following train of logic as far as I can tell – which I don’t mean as a dig.  I obviously love a good tangential aside as much as the next:

  1.  America, as modern market democracy par excellence is competitive and obsessed with a statistical mindset of interpersonal comparisons including physical beauty or attractiveness.
  2. Not to be soothed by accepting ones lot in life, you can after all get better and improve yourself.  He states that beauty is an mutable truth, by which he means it is adaptable, or more adaptable than people tend to think when using feelings of unattractiveness to justify their weeping and gnashing of teeth.
  3. He proceeds to rebut the popular equation of (#evopsych+FMRI+TED talks =buy my ebook) which propelled folks like David D’Angleo to financial success and which leads to ascribing beauty and attraction to health traits and Skinnerian behavioral triggers.  He concludes his point with noting that the emergence of sexual differences during puberty either become conditioned to a hormonal response or perhaps are simply socially learned.
  4. He contrasts loneliness with love, and posits that people want two things – power and love.
  5. The desire for power signal-boosts social hierarchies into the stratosphere of the Big Men and Rubbish Men (and then chicks).  Behold – the birth of prototypes.
  6. Embrace a type in contrast to the desire to shop around eclectically, statistics and sanity are on your side.

Prototypes are a relic of capitalism which has given us infinitely reproducible goods.  You don’t covet your neighbors Ox as much as you covet the wife of the guy in the Ox commercial you both watched before buying Oxen.  This helps you avoid conflict with your neighbor since you don’t care about the Ox or the wife.  You just envy the guy in the commercial, his desire, his pride, his magesterium of being as embodied by the Ox and the wife.  Before prototypes there were actually types:  Born a peasant, die a peasant, enjoy a peasants pleasures and resentments along the way.  Prototypes are transcendental and keep peasants from rioting thanks to metaphysics and Freud’s primary process (the substitution of an objects representation for the thing itself).

The unfortunate advice to aspiring Don Juan’s and successful businessmen alike has always been to act like you’re already successful.  The unstated presumption behind this advice is that it means acting like someone else.  Before markets this meant someone specific. Here we see the truth of desire: It is always mediated by the existence of some Other.  The inability to sincerely imitate (mimetic admiration) other people without falling into humiliation or rivalry is the hallmark of what people call “narcissism.”  This condition is also learned from someone who is too insecure to be idolized and forsaken by a child.

To the obsessed, the wretch who is convinced he has to have had sex with many women, it is not the women he wants, but the being of the mediator of his desire. He wants to be his role model, in this case the alpha male, or for women the girl who has it all.  These of course are no longer individuals, but metaphysical media golem’s.  Amalgams of fantasy and fiction have been ever more grafted onto ordinary identification.

The literary characters worth noting here of course include Don Juan himself.  But one must turn to Dostoevsky to understand the role of the man who idolizes a Don Juan archetype.  No story captures this wretchedness better than The Eternal Husband.   (Readers may also enjoy Rene Girard’s comparison to Don Quixote’s vignette, “The Ill-Advised Curiosity,” for an older tale of cuckoldry).  Cuckoldry upholds the desire for the woman above the bonds of resentment, and enshrines the role of Other as an idol.  The narcissist makes gods of his tormentors. It is them he wants to be.

(The corollary for women of course is Emma Bovary, who watched too many feminist videos on youtube…err…I mean read too many shitty Parisian novels.)

This is why these people, much like the consumer of real estate seminars, are rarely successful. They are hiding their actual desire from themselves, the desire to appropriate and embody the je ne sais quoi of their hidden role model. The reason one would avoid this is the conscious experience of self-loathing, the shame of interpersonal envy, and the inchoate danger of humiliation – failure and debasement in the face of your god. So instead, you must prove your worth before your idols.  Addictions and compulsions become a propitiatory sacrifice which never quite takes.

Being a nerd is to model your desire transcendentally.  It’s a fine way to avoid conflict, but is also a way to avoid contact.  And as such, it makes you traditionally unrelatable to some cohorts.  Much like postmodernism movies are increasingly complicated mystery boxes and bloggers such as THC and I are at risk of obfuscation.  We must after all not be accused of being typical.  As an aside, Pixar makes the best movies because the characters have clear motivations.

The self is first and foremost being-toward-others.  To be is to only ever be-like and a style is to be styled after.  Fashion is the blatant copying of other peoples appearance, which is why it must always change to hide this fact in an illusion of novel originality. These paradoxes of individuality and impersonation, vanity and authenticity are the snares of modernity and have lead to a century of escalating obsession with the psycho-mythology of narcissism.

Narcissism can never truly be self-apsorption.   Narcissus’ curse, after all, was that he thought he was staring at someone else.  The modern version of this is people who think they are trying to find themselves.  Look no further than your fellow man.

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird Sucks – Also, why Black Artists Don’t Win More Awards

Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, Murillo

 

With Harper Lee’s passing the web has been a buzz about her work.  I consider To Kill a Mockingbird (TKMB hereafter) to be symptomatic of the endemic monotonous narrative of victimology, and the megalomaniacal righteousness which accompanies it.

One should expect some psychosubterfuge because as Flannery O’Conner once noted

“It’s interesting that all the folks that are buying it don’t know they are buying a children’s book.”

The con of TKMB is that which the existence of the story conceals, not that which is revealed through the narration.  A story is first and foremost a justification.   The narration proposes that young Scout, Atticus the plastic saint, and a small cohort of scooby-doo-gooders are the only ones who witness a travesty of scapegoating qua racism.  Their valiant efforts to see justice done fail under the overwhelming caprice and indifference of the masses.

This on the surface is quite intoxicating, until you consider that the masses love the story, as evidenced by the 30 million book sales and rating of the book as second to the Bible in moral influence in American lives.  The perspective which is portrayed as rare is actually the norm, feeding the narcissism of the reader.  Which is fine for children, but adults?

The true victims of scapegoating by TKMB as opposed to in it are working class white people.  The narration contrasts the educated Finch and his precious family as the ones virtuous enough to face the truth.  The likes of the Ewell Family, Mayella and Bob – a lying slut and the town drunk, are the fictional scapegoats of the narrative.  The reader thinks these people exist, everywhere, and most importantly that the reader doesn’t do the same thing.   The fact that the reader does the very same thing all the time is what is concealed by the narrative, which is why TKMB remains so immensely reassuring as a children’s story.  It reminds you of your comparative innocence and your right to judge.

Affluent white liberals use racism like a dog-whistle to conceal their contemptuous bigotry toward working class whites. (Archdruidreport).

The myth of innocent childhood has always been in service of the vanity of adults who in this case can’t differentiate the ponderous “empathy” of Atticus finch from the turgid ecstasy of embracing  the projective identifications of an underclass.

As defense for my position, I suggest the question:  What does it take to convince a child that someone deserves to die?  It takes a saccharin moral fable. Bob Ewell, after all, perishes in the conflict against Boo Radley and the children.  It is not he who we feel sorry for.  After all, he had it coming.  Nobody really killed Bob Ewell – that’s the lie which hides the fact that ultimately the narrator (as narrator, not character) killed Bob Ewell, and you liked it.  This intrusion of the author into the story parallels the often criticized narrative of the story – Lee couldn’t keep straight whether scout was an innocent and naive child or a wise and reflecting adult voice.  Innocence is a work, fabricated by the creation of a monster.  It is belief in the reality of such caricatures, the exaggeration of their prevalence, and the complete dismissal of balanced or redeeming qualities which make them fit for sacrifice.  It is their death which ends a cycle of blame and violence and restores peace.

Consider that the role of the scapegoat serves to symbolically relieve tension within a community.  It is not the death of Tom Robinson which relieves the tension of the community, but Bob Ewell.  The reason Tom Robinson has to die is to cover the crime of the author.  If after all, Tom Robinson was released and said “I’m glad that lying bastard Bob Ewell is dead.  He had it coming.”  We suddenly would not be left with much of a moral tale because we would be at risk of identifying with these sentiments, those which the story is designed to conceal.  The story would now be:  Everybody scapegoats and disparages other peoples character as a justification, the Ewells were just bad at it because #RACIST.  It is more effective to conceal your motives with claims to virtue

This kind of hypothetical conclusion of direct or mediated vengeance was much more common of the classical period and lasted (as identified both by Nietzsche and Girard) until the ubiquitous expansion of Christian morality and the accompanying identification with the victim.  As an example when Potiphar’s Wife was shamed by Joseph’s rejection she transferred it back on him.  The moral of that story was that Joseph’s shame was undone by later being lifted above and exonerated by a powerful Other.  We don’t bother with that anymore.  Now we just kill the accusers.  Also, in TKMB and to modern SJW’s, it is educated white people who get to play the role of the powerful Other.  Thus, moral megalomania.

(As an aside, the irony of the Christian turn, and the pox of resentment culture, is that one major impact of Christianity and later Islam has been the scapegoating of the Jews – mutatis mutandis – the creation of a victim to justify resentment and violence.)

The best that can be said of TKMB is that it reveals to us James Gilligan’s compelling thesis:  Shame is the root of all violence.  Shame is an inevitable byproduct of being part of an underclass, and the resentments born of the desire to rise above leads to a denial of the vulnerable need to fit in and be safe in the community, subsumed as it is in by the role of victim – one who has been made low.  Always, this perspective of entitlement to moral vengeance makes each crime a solipsistic restitution. 

What is restored in and by TKMB is an uneasy truce between blacks and a certain class of whites – all it takes is the sacrifice of a certain kind of white people.

This childish story remains popular based on its reassuring banality, but another kind remains decidedly unpopular:  The corollary story told by black artists of how hard it is to be black.  This will never rise to the same level of popularity because if there is one thing black artists will not accept is white folks identifying with their characters.  “That is so like me!”  If you’re telling a story in which this feeling is not possible for your audience then you may not be telling a story, but rather covering one up.

This applies in the same way to art which explores sex and gender issues.  Angels In America won the Pullitzer and the Tony, after all.  It can be done if you’re willing to step beyond resentment to vulnerability.  Despite my criticisms, Jenner has done a decent job of this, despite an inability to speak the language of desire vs materiality.  To some large extent this is one challenge of the trans community.  It is after all one’s desires that allow people to understand you.  For artists it amounts to an admission that it’s hard, but not that hard to be me.  Like not so hard that nobody else can relate.  And for stories of the hard knock life it means being a minority may not be as hard as being poor or living in a bad neighborhood.  But it’s hard to tell a story about that because the knee jerk rejoinder to “work harder and move” seems an awful lot like the horror movie shtick of “don’t go into the basement.”

The lesson for artists is that resentment can be viewed as refused identification. The stigma, the sign of the scapegoat, is a symbol of refused identification.   And the author of a victim tale always refuses first…

Motivation and Desire: A Critical Review of The Force Awakens

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“Always two there are; no more, no less.  A master and an apprentice.”  Yoda perjures himself with an air of metaphysical mystery.  However, this lie conceals an important story telling secret known by all the greats:  The often triangular nature of desire.  It seems dyadic as Yoda says – The Master has power, the apprentice wants it – thus desire is born from the lack.  However, the object – in this case power, conceals the true motivational fountainhead of desire:  The relationship itself, qua model, of the master and the apprentice.  The apprentice wants power as an extension of his relationship with the master, not for its own sake as object of desire.  The inevitable result is rivalry – competition itself concealed by the cloak of the object of desire.  Always three there are:  A model, a subject and an object of desire.

In episode IV Luke was propelled down the path of the Jedi by Obi-Wan’s sacrifice.  Obi-Wan’s power grew because Luke could safely use him as a role model (thus the glowie mythology) without being in direct competition with him, which in the case of Anakin lead to rivalry, envy, the dark side.  Proximity and desire together inevitably lead to hatred.  This is the chivalric quest of Don Quixote – in imitation of the knight Amadis – who at a safe distance could hide at least partially from the character himself the illusion of autonomous desire (Girard, 1961).  Luke’s childish initial interactions with Obi-Wan later transferred to Yoda.  Luke replays the same pattern of getting into rivalry with Yoda, and again the conclusion obtains with his death:  Yoda becomes a safe model for Luke’s imitation when he is ferried safely away beyond the haze of rivalry.  Finally, in Jedi, the transformation of Vader takes place in the triangle between him, the Emperor and Luke.

This is all to say that character is a distraction – a defensive myth to ignore the trace of desire.  It only appears frozen in time for narrative effect.  Han solo is presented as an incorrigible scoundrel  in IV with no explanation of why he cares about his pirate life other than petty debts and rivalries.  However, this is only to tee him up all the more so for the transformation of his character into the world of the hero and the lover.  This transformation takes place on account of his immediate relationships with Luke, Leia and their interactions.  Han’s protestations and attempts to maintain the illusion of his autonomous character serve to conceal from him his complete dependence on others for his motivation.

Enter The Force Awakens.  The first and most egregiously written character is Finn – who, despite a lifetime of programming and indoctrination, spontaneously undergoes a character transformation before our eyes.  It is unconvincing because there is no explanation for this move.  Rather, it has been written under the romantic delusion of character.  What would have saved Finn’s conversion is an obvious reference to his own experience as a child of being dragged off by storm troopers.  He should have been shown participating in the slaughter at Jakku until he himself was asked to drag a child away from his family.  The obvious point is that it is the child which strikes in Finn a change of heart.  Instead, Finn is branded as a true character – Narcissus as a cardboard cutout of autonomous desire.  Oddly enough, his fast attachment to Rey is not authentic by any means.  It is sparked through the role of his model – Poe Dameron, and the obsessive interest by all parties on the droid.

The B88 droid for the first part of the movie stands as the object of desire around which all rivalries and relationships develop.  But B88 is nothing in itself, it is only a sign which points to Skywalker – Skywalker who serves to motivate and rally all these forces not by his charismatic presence, but by his absence and his role in the persistence of idealizing memory.  Skywalker’s return, if it happens, will mark the return to direct unmediated rivalry.  Identity, the illusion of character and a true self, is a defense against the primacy of envy and in Star Wars, the dark side.  The setting aside of the self and its attachments to rivalry is a precursor of the transition to mastery.  Coincidentally, the illusory value of the droid is dropped in substitution for Rey in the same way that Rey herself now becomes the sign that points, and soon the mirror which reflects, back to Skywalker.

In a similar vein Kylo Ren self-consciously imitates Darth Vader as a role model.  What he doesn’t realize is that he got this from his parents.  In other words, he was raised to be everything Vader was not, and out of rivalry and disillusionment differentiated himself from being an object of his parents rivalry by his imitation of Vader in a dark transcendence of family ties.  What renders him impotent is the psychic master/slave relationship which expresses a position of inferiority in having an imaginary idol instead of a real life flesh-and-blood rival or role model.  This reflects his ambivalence and hidden fear of actual conflict and approaching his idolatrous god.  He resolves this through the murder of his father.  What they should have done was make him more powerful after this happened.  Rey and crew should have escaped by the skin of their teeth to salvage any sense of threat from the enemies.  Ren is a disappointment to the audience because we wanted him to be stronger so that the passion of rivalry may grow between him and Rey, instead of making her a priss who swats a naughty boys hand.

That brings me to Rey, a decently developed character.  Rey is looking backward in melancholy, attached without knowing to model objects long past.  As such, she is impotent by virtue of being passionless.  She hungers for new objects of attachment – new models, first in Han as a father figure (note the dark side knows our objects will disappoint us, and it is the eternal struggle itself which constitutes motivation) and then to Luke.  It is the bar owner as model for meaning which gives Rey her first taste of the transcendence of the force – escape from the endless tyranny of object rivalry.  This frees Rey from her attachment to past objects and allows her to awaken her power in terms of her new role model, the Jedi way.  The light side of the force is characterized by a conscious commitment to a transcendental value system of the memory of distant intermediary mentors to channel desire and passion safely without slipping into ever present competition, rivalry, envy and destruction.  The true nature of the darkside is that it is this dark passion itself, not any victory, which is at the heart of the matter.  The nature of the light side is learning how to care without envy (or attachment if you will).

What would really save Star Wars is this:

Leia, as figure head of the new Republic, has become convinced the Empire and First Order have created too many superweapons.  As a prophylactic measure  the new Republic becomes convinced that they themselves should create a superweapon, for purely defensive purposes.  Of course you would find that in the efforts of mopping up the remnants of the Empire that they have gone to ground on planets throughout the solar system.  After the devastation of the preceding war it only makes sense to spare casualties and use the new super weapon as part of the mopping up effort.  This process of course causes great unrest among some factions in the new republic and stricter measures have to be imposed.  Leia falls to the dark side, banishes Han and Luke, and proceeds to raise their son as a new dark apprentice.   This all happens behind the scenes until the child ultimately kills Leia who is weak in the force but full of hatred for the destruction of Alderan, and takes control for himself.  The search for a new apprentice leads to seizing children throughout the galaxy, with the new Jedi order founded by Luke-on-the-run set to battle against the new dark dyad and their former allies.

Or you should have just made the Thrawn series.

Star Wars has become pornography:  All of the action, none of the feeling.  The difference between a sexy movie and a sex movie is that in the former you are watching a story with characters you can identify with, the latter is that you are consuming a product which defines your character.

One reason people can’t write stories anymore is because the culture of individuality and authenticity has clouded their understanding of motivation and ruined many peoples ability to understand let alone tell a good story.  You want what you want based on the emotional impact of significant figures in your life, not because of who you really are.  Then again, that lie keeps you from turning to the dark side.

This is all to say that the proliferation of media combined with the closeness via social media to creators of content means that there are still authors and an audience, but no more characters.  The criticism of *Awakens* as trite fan fiction misses the *in situ* character of this phenomenon:  The movie is now about relationships to real life people, including the creators and the actors – not about relationships to the imaginary characters within the movie.

Revlon Wants You to Choose Love: Criticism and Appreciation

 

Revlon recently sponsored a study to demonstrate the positive impact a daily ritual involving fragrance, makeup and self-care activities can have on ones mood and relationships. I found the video so unobjectionable that I almost think the response to it as an object of projection is more interesting than the content. So I have the following thoughts, both for and against the video:

  • Rebranding sex, not makeup:  Makeup is still about sex, but sex is about love (as opposed to power, transgression, liberation, pleasure or passion).  And being “open to love” is of course a function of how you feel about yourself, not how you feel about your partner.  Notice most of the partner objections in the first half of the commercial are about how their partner feels about themselves.  It’s easy to call this inversion narcissism, which it is, but the problem is you think that means its bad.
  • Affective triggers:  The affects displayed and idealized are affection, vulnerability, joy.  If these trigger aversive contempt, disgust or cynicism you now know why you’re depressed.  Your postmodern justifications for this immediate experience are retroactive (to justify the feeling) not primary (initiating it).  In other words you don’t hate women who like makeup because you’re a feminist.  You’re a feminist in order to hate women who like makeup.  Again – don’t forget that I am not saying you shouldn’t hate women who like makeup.  If you think I’m implying judgement, you’re doing it to yourself, so that you can hate me for saying it.
  • Most likely aversion reactions (devaluation) are a defense against envy (Kernberg, 1979).  The positive affects above can easily strike envy if they make you feel ashamed of not being happy (only in America) or taking better care of yourself.  The lifestyle posture of slovenliness and poor self care is correlated with most mental health issues.
  • I would assert this is extremely “cool” media in the terms of Marsall McLuhan.  This would mean it is banal and vanilla partially in order to be a canvas of participation.  Nothing in the video is as important as the fact that it is released in a social online format.  Indeed, the video itself is a fictionalized enactment of a participatory experience – of a study which itself is a participatory experience, designed to simulate results (self care makes you feel better) which everyone already knew they would find.  Finally, self care in this sense is modeling yourself after others.  This would be Baudrillard’s procession of simulacra, or Rene Girard’s mimetic desire (modeling desires, not only actions, on esteemed others). Perhaps this all conceals the anxiety producing possibility that there is no enduring self to take care of, rather it is constituted by the ritual itself, like the urge to comment upon it as a demonstration or act of self creation – an extension of the self to return to McLuhan.

It’s hard for your comments to be less about you than they are about the-thing-itself.

Criticism of Microagression Theory

Recently The Atlantic, content sweat-shop of the neo-liberal ego ideal , ran an online piece by Conor Friedsrdorf on microagressions. His article was a response to a journal publication which claimed a cultural change is happening of which microagressions and victim culture are a part.  I found the specific article unconvincing but this general issue is closely associated with the notion of cultural appropriation, so I wanted to elaborate on some points I made in that previous post.

My contention would be that belief in microagressions is a psychological defense which serves to hide the reality of actual aggession – an inescapable part of everyday life. I’ll save you the mystery: We can’t escape aggression because we don’t want to.

The social justice crowd could loosely define microaggressions as “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership.” (Emphasis mine)*

This sounds an awful lot like what we used to call slights:  An insult caused by a failure to show someone proper respect or attention.

The noteworthy difference between a slight and a microagression is the concept of group affiliation as justification for offense.  People slight eachother all the time.  You can’t do otherwise.  Even in analysis where you pay a highly trained professional to listen to you for hours at a time to help explore yourself they will inevitably misunderstand you.  You will also learn that you often misunderstand your analyst, and even yourself!

The assumption that race and gender are significant important categories upon which to view yourself and others masks the macroaggression taking place – that of the person using the concept of microagressions as reactive entitlement to escalating aggression.

If you can take on this perspective (microagressions as slights) what becomes noteworthy is considering the question: “Given that experiencing slights is a part of being human, what is it that enables some people to be resilient to their effect?”

Some people would answer structural inequality. My answer would be shame proneness as a legacy of structural inequality. The belief in structural inequality as the product of present agency, not past circumstance, is a defense against experiencing conscious shame.

Microagressions are illustrative of a very human problem which shows up in analysis and all our relationships.

Consider a woman who tells her therapist excitedly that she had a great date the night before.  This is what she consciously wants her therapist to know.  Call this the “haystack.”  A traditional approach would be to look for the “needle.”  This could be one of several things:

  • Conscious avoidance:  She doesn’t want her therapist to know she drank too much and slept with the guy.
  • Unconscious message:  She wants to convince herself and her therapist that she wants this relationship to work out, and isn’t at fault for sabotaging it.
  • Unconscious avoidance:  She doesn’t want herself or her therapist to know how inadequate she feels and the resentment she has toward men which motivates her to set herself up as a victim to sadistic men who “only want sex.”

Any and all of these things may be happening, or none of them – it depends.  Usually we fill in “the needle” with our own unconscious fantasies projected into others “haystacks.”  This doesn’t mean it isn’t there, it just means it’s difficult to discover.  Sometimes discovering is inventing.  For the world to continue spinning, in our day to day relationships, it is important to pretend that the haystack is all there is.  Go with the haystack – or keep the needle to your blog.

If you don’t want to feel slighted all the time it pays to note that you are being motivated by competitive, aggressive emotions.  What will solve this for you is developing the ability to return quickly to pro-social motivations of affection, affiliation and equality.  Social justice is fast becoming an excuse to indulge controlling behavior and aggression under the pretense of activism to preserve race and gender as issues of importance.  .

You can’t solve the problem with society.  There is no problem with society, there is only your problem with it.  Better yet – society is the sum total of our problems with each other.  Microagressions are the solution to actual aggression.

The needle haystack dilemma of the SJW’s is:

  • Conscious message:  “I’m offended by your disrespect for my race/gender.”
  • Conscious avoidance:  “I resent you for your race/gender.”
  • Unconscious message:  “I am morally superior to you – shame on you.”
  • Unconscious avoidance:  “I feel inferior to you.”

Nobody respects each other as much as our ideals would imply. We’ve always known this and and it is one reason we create manners and etiquette to begin with – it is very easy to offend one another without agreed upon (false) pleasantries.  You need manners and etiquette to show people you respect them when it isn’t obvious that you respect them – like when you don’t respect them.

The most optimistic way to view microagressions is as a morphing sense of modern etiquette.  If you aren’t full of shame, you could see a microagressor as a coward or a fool – one who is too afraid to be direct or too uncouth to keep it together.  You can’t see this because it’s how you think they see you.  Microagressions are a belief about a relationship.

*As an aside – the definition of microagressions conspicuously leaves out the notion of whose group membership creates the perceived slight – the offender or the offended.

Miley Cyrus and a Criticism of Pansexuality

Miley Cyrus recently “came out” as pansexual.  I’d like to believe her position represents enjoyment of the freedoms of postmodern liberation, but unfortunately this may be too optimistic.

My suspicion is that Miley Cyrus’ pansexuality, gender fluidity, and hyperbolic sexual exhibitionism cover an equally massive sense of emptiness.

What this all means to you has a great deal to do with what you think motivates sexual activity and gendered behavior.  What do you think we’re doing when we’re having what we like to call relationships?

She says she is driven by das Es, I say she is driven by das Über-Ich.

You don’t have to care who is driving, but I sometimes wonder where the car is going.

After The Orgy

There is a joke that goes like this:  A man finds himself waiting at a glory hole until a stranger enters the stall next to him.  Excitedly he asks the stranger “So, what are you into?”  The stranger replies “Anything.  Everything.”  Horrified and filled with disgust the first man flees from the bathroom.  After all, he thinks, a discriminating taste is something all decent people share.

“I am literally open to every single thing that is consenting and doesn’t involve an animal and everyone is of age. Everything that’s legal, I’m down with. Yo, I’m down with any adult — anyone over the age of 18 who is down to love me. I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl,” Miley Cyrus in Paper Magazine

Sounds like someone who isn’t a person except by virtue of her odd preoccupation with the only two powers she acknowledges –  love and the law.  Perhaps there is something there about love for the law…or what the law might symbolize…

Clearly I have some issues I am projecting here.  However, I maintain that what comes across from Miley as countertransference has nothing to do with her sense of enjoying herself and everything to do with her needing others to know there is nothing to be ashamed of. Enjoy thyself!   It’s not encouragement, it’s an injunction.

Miley doesn’t enjoy sex.  She’s an activist for other peoples freedom from oppression.  If she enjoyed sex that much she’d be at the bottom of a naked pile of writhing lubed up genderqueers.  It’s about being right and good as an activist in flight from guilt and shame.  She’s still the good girl Disney and her father wanted her to be, she just has squirrelier friends.  After all, those who can, do – those who can’t, advertise.

What actually relieve shame is empathy.  To empathize with shame requires that you realize shame is natural, as is the injunction that you shouldn’t be ashamed.  Empathy requires identification and sympathy and you can’t sympathize with shame if you have to be right that there is nothing to be ashamed about.  In the long run it is intepretation which cures – the understanding of subjective process.  Not just the intellectual understanding, but the experience of the feelings along with an identification of their meaning.  My interpretation is that Miley tries to rid herself of shame and guilt by relieving it in others.

She spent too long being an object for other peoples use, and is now trying to solve that problem by being a better object, you know, the right kind.

It probably sounds like I’m saying she shouldn’t do this.  It’s all quite ordinary at 22.  Rather I’m saying she can’t enjoy doing it on purpose.  After all, then she’d realize she got it from her mother.

Before the Ceremony

“I’m very open about it — I’m pansexual. But I’m not in a relationship. I’m 22, I’m going on dates, but I change my style every two weeks, let alone who I’m with,” Cyrus, Elle UK.

This doesn’t sound like someone motivated by love, or even possessive erotic drives.  It sounds like finding a look you can live with.  Again, all too ordinary at 22 – but how one resolves the ordinariness (or not wanting it to be ordinary) is the telling part.

Freud’s most sinister insight is that the conscious pursuit of pleasure baits the superego.  As Adam Phillips notes, “There is no one more moralistic, more coercive, than a hedonist.”  Miley is pursuing righteousness, not pleasure, and as such should be understood as a temple prostitute. 

“Coming out” can be an attempt to eliminate an uncomfortable secret which closes the distance between you and those you care about.  It can also be an attempt to forestall anxiety about future criticism – trying to control peoples future response to your actions by controlling the narrative.  Think Brother Rabbit telling Brother Fox not to throw him into the Briar patch – anything but that.  Which of course the rabbit only said after getting caught in the tar.

Conclusion

All that being said, I hope you realize I am writing this because I have a crush on her.

Mary Douglas in Purity and Danger showed us how to some extent all cultures have an obsession with some form of moral, hygienic or aesthetic purity.  One way this used to show up was gender and sexual purity.  The new religion is being free of prejudice, judgement, and privilege.    Who then are the new heretics, and what parts of oneself must be denied to achieve this new purity?

As the purity project of neo-liberal identity politics nears the final solution, new targets of blame and projection of disgust, hatred and bigotry will be sought and needed as the internal awareness of having these (impure) feelings becomes increasingly intolerable.

You know, male cross dressers are still viewed as perverts if they admit they do it because they enjoy it.  But if you’re authentically transgendered, you’re a fucking hero.