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.

True Detective Season Two Finale

The only question of interest the show left me with was “Why did Ani Bezzerides get to live?”

In movies, as in real life, people die for no reason to prove that there is no reason to live.  Usually, people die (or are killed) for a reason.  Some meaning must be made of the death.

Ray and Frank had to die because their strident blow at the heart of darkness created a debt against the system.  They could not escape and leave the scales unbalanced.  They had both shown pride or entitlement and had to be punished.

Ani did kill a bouncer in relative excess, but this was her own balancing of the scales as revenge for her childhood sexual abuse.  This may seem odd since the two had no connection except Ani’s unconscious.  This relates to the infinite substitution of objects.  Freud’s theory goes that the Id is only over “soldered” or loosely connected to the objects it attaches to.  So killing any man unsoldered this connection and everything it had been holding in place for Ani.  Ani was already feeling shame so her guilt in killing an innocent man balanced the scales between self and other.  The system owed her a mulligan.

Ani’s father in a previous episode had called her “the most innocent person” he had ever met.  Shame and innocence go together like guilt and pride in a double sea-saw.  To punish is to increase shame and innocence and reduce pride and guilt.  To seek revenge is to reverse punishment – to increase guilt/pride and reduce shame/innocence.

The final nail in the coffin would be that both Jordan and Ani suffered the loss of their love objects (Ray and Frank respectively).  As they pass on the story to a news reporter and carry on alone with the immaculate child I am lead to imagine that they have set aside their revenge, mourned their loss and passed the torch on to the journalist.  Their love can be reinvested in the child they now share together, which thus serves as the remembrance of their loss and completes the cycle.

30 is the Old 20: A Criticism of Dr. Meg Jay’s Defining Decade

 

Dr. Meg Jay, a psychotherapist and author of The Defining Decade, tells us 30 is not the new 20.  I agree – it’s the old 20.  By this I mean that despite the freedoms and liberation of postmodernity we are still human, all too human.

In my response to her work I will engage post-structuralism, gender theory and the history of psychotherapy – hitting on my main point that Dr. Meg, Judith Butler and most people miss the function of the superego and wind up motivating themselves and others through negativity, often not realizing they are doing this or that there is another way.

Her popular book and TED talk (and a healthy dose of click bait) brand her as an expert at dealing with the problem of “twenty-somethings.”  What is the problem of these Twixters?  Their problem is that they don’t take their 20’s seriously – by which Meg means they aren’t being productive (This means immature, which means bad).

To Dr. Meg’s credit she does soften the blow through a parental instilled fear of future loss, though most people still hear it as “they should grow up already” because explaining the uncomfortable presence of this judgmental thought is why they looked for the book in the first place.  Meg helps other people feel less bad about judging 20somethings.

I will return to this key point because what Meg is avoiding is the knowledge that you can’t be motivated by future loss if you haven’t grieved the past.  You will instead remain motivated by past loss – which usually means not motivated, the problem in question.  Meg is well aware of this, as evidenced from her doctoral work on melancholy, specifically as related to identity formation.  I will form a speculative case for why this apparent irregularity may exist.

 

Image result for doctor j

Slam dunk?

 

Docteh-Jeh’s message is that kidults need a swift kick in the abject-horror to counteract a societal zeitgesit which states or implies “your 20’s don’t matter.”  This is where I start my critique.  The question, as always:  “Is this true, or does she wan’t it to be true?”

Meg wants it to be true that 20fuckthings are being told by society that their lot in life is inconsequential, that these same people are incorporating this message, and that they should reject it in favor of leaning into life because your 20’s are a golden opportunity (to work and prepare for the future).

Unfortunately I polled the collective unconscious of history about this subject and discovered what I already knew:  nobody is telling them this.  Do a google search for “your twenties aren’t important” or “your twenties don’t matter” and ask yourself how a psychotherapist could conclude that this is a rampant problem?  The majority of the links are either (1) to Dohktuh Jaighs book, or (2) other articles about how critically important your 20’s are, usually with a product to sell about how to solve the problem.

Twenty somethings are telling themselves their 20’s don’t matter, like a child leaving a carnival with no iced cream who can’t really believe there will be a next time.

There are at least two ways for your life to matter:  to yourself and to others.  The reason young adults can’t tell the difference is because old adults can’t tell the difference.  Neither can most therapists.

The Ambivalence of Crossing the Street

They can’t understand because they don’t want to understand.  Understanding is horrifying.

How do you think children learn to cross the street (or not)?

You can remember not to cross the street because you are afraid of father and his punishment. You could also remember because you love mother and want to show her.  Or, you can cross the street and look both ways, remembering that mother and father love you no matter what.

All of these are easier than being alone in the yard thinking about death and realizing that mother and father are gone.

Harder yet may be to know that they fear death, too, and can’t tell the truth about it. Perhaps your fear used to be their fear.  If you show them you aren’t afraid… even this connection you will have to lose.

Nevertheless, on the other side of the street lies another yard full of happy children to play with.  If you cross the street will you be happy, too?

How this turns out for you depends on how much you already enjoy playing in your yard right now.

Crossing the street is scary, but do you have faith it is worthwhile?  Will it be good enough?  Is it worth looking both ways – all the way down the street and to the end of time?

Perhaps you had better check with mother, or wait quietly until father returns.

The Brief-Therapy of Dr. Meg Jay

The best way to sell people a solution is to create a problem bigger than the one they say they have, but smaller than the one they fear they have.  Begin with a narrative that shocks them and accounts for the presence of disavowed fear, inferiority, guilt and shame.  Then reify the narrative into a thing, spun anew.  The narrative about the problem makes people feel bad and the narrative about the solution makes them feel excited.  Kind of like church, only you can’t deduct it on your taxes.

Then they buy the product to feel good about trying, relieving their anxiety about the underlying issues and enjoying the catharsis of participating in the ceremony.

The best way to do brief therapy is to offer a solution to a problem you created which is bigger than the one the client says they have, but smaller than the one they fear they have. Begin with a narrative that shocks them…

Dr. Jay presents the vignettes of  two women: Alex and Emma, who are dating two “knuckleheads” – men who aren’t good enough for Dr. Meg’s father…er for Dr. Meg…I mean for her clients… Meg’s talk is also peppered with the fear of not being able to have a baby when you get old.  Wait a minute, I thought this is about psychotherapy and 20 somethings (presumably persons of both genders, errr, sexes, I mean…oh fuck it…) not “Lean In 2:  Return of the Killer Superego.

  • Alex:  Alex dresses like a flouncy slob (according to Meg, who is disgusted with women who don’t act like it because of her disavowed attachment issues) and baits Dr. Jay with jokes about her boyfriend.  “Oh well, 30’s the new 20…”  What distracted Meg is the joke, what it distracted her from was the self-hatred behind the humor.  “What does it feel like to not take your life seriously?”
  • Emma:  Same story, the difference is Dr. Jay told Emma to sack up and Emma took it like a man.
  • The Man:  Oh, wait, Meg doesn’t talk about male clients because their 20’s don’t matter since they don’t have ovaries.  If a man was dating a woman who isn’t good enough for him it means he’s an ass – all women are equivalent because, according to the melancholy Dr. Meg and her customers, they don’t matter or only matter in comparison to men or women with children.

The Depth-Therapy of Dr. Meg Jay

Judith Butler’s seminal article on gender identification called Melancholy Gender:  Refused Identification, is a real classic.  But Butler misses why.

Butler identifies that Freud changed his concept of grief between Mourning and Melancholia and The Ego and the IDIn the former, grief was resolvable through the remaking of broken attachments.  In the latter, he notes that melancholic attachment is required to let an object relationship go.  You have to mourn the loss.

As Butler notes, he also changed what he meant by letting an object go.  In MM he meant the Id detached from it (you stopped giving a shit, and could therefore give a shit about other things).

By the Ego and the Id Freud means detachment of the drive qua incorporation of the object.  You never let it go.  It becomes part of you.  You can’t have what you never wanted, and you couldn’t want it because you couldn’t have it.  Tag – you are it.  Enter the super-ego (punitive ego, negative self talk, inner critic, stinking thinking, deep negativity, critical inner parent, damaged sub-selves, persecutory objects, original sin, demon posession and so forth).

This means that to be able to give a shit about your life now you need to remember you gave a shit about it in the first place, which means dealing with the loss of what you first gave a shit about and your feelings about why you had to give it up.

If you don’t do this what you get instead is melancholy – incomplete grief and the apathy which hides it from you.  You hide it because you can’t take it seriously because you are ashamed of it.  You are ashamed of it because nobody else took it seriously either.

In Butlers terms female gender is only not being a man and the sorrow of the lost love of women (and the feelings you have(and can’t have) about it)).  Melancholy gender is the unknown and unknowable grief of having to give up the same-sex relationship.  You can’t mourn it because you can’t know you have it because it’s existence threatens you, since all you are is not-it.  (Men and homosexuals work the same mutatis mutandis).

Dr. Meg wrote an award winning article engaging with Butler in 2005.   (Meg Jay Ph.D. (2007) Melancholy Femininity and Obsessive—Compulsive Masculinity: Sex Differences in Melancholy Gender, Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 8:2, 115-135)

She proposed that this melancholy gender is worse for women since their primary relationship with the mother is same sexed vs. opposite sexed for men.  In short – why more women are depressed than men (Which isn’t true, by the way.  When you include aggression, substance abuse and risk taking behavior in the diagnostic categories.  By the way, the belief that women are more depressed might be evidence of masochistic drives of the superego.)

She also notes men (knuckleheads) are more likely to become obsessively compulsively masculine than to experience melancholy gender.

Men can avow the love (libidinal or embodied cathex) of the mother to some minor extent, and its loss, but cannot avow the love of the father and instead obsessively try to be like him.  They cannot mourn the loss of the love-for because they are forever acting it out, the energy or drive of this same love having become invested into the ego.  In laymens terms, they put the energy of love-for into being-like.

Women cannot avow the love (libidinal or embodied cathex) of the mother and thus cannot grieve its loss.

What Butler and Meg miss is the profound difference between Freud’s two books in that Freud was working with two radically different models of the Psyche.  In MM Freud was operating under the assumptions of Id Analysis, the Drive Model.  In Ego, Freud introduced the Structural Model.  The key difference between the two is the existence of the super-ego and the nature of repression.

  • ID Analysis, Drive Theory:  Primitive drives come in conflict with societal standards and must be repressed.  Keeping them from awareness causes symptoms.  Bringing awareness to them and channeling them in a new direction causes relief.
  • Ego Analysis*, The Structural Model:  Ordinary drives come in conflict with primary caregivers and subsequently the superego, “the precipitate of abandoned object cathexes.”  This is fancy Freud babble for the lasting impression of significant past relationships.

*Freud never used the term ego analysis.  After 1923 and the publication of Ego and the Id he spent most of the rest of his life dying of cancer and running from Nazis, so he was a little too busy to elaborate.  This distinction was first noted by Otto Fenichel in Principles of Psychoanalytic Technique, and was then mostly forgotten outside of some obscure circles, never to fully return.  People preferred the drive model and it lives on in public understanding because it lets them explain, express, and avoid awareness of the superego by blaming people.

The reason this matters is that Butler and Jay draw most heavily upon MM, missing the distinctions offered by the superego in the later work.  This is all very obtuse, thought I suggest you read the linked articles for a real roller coaster.

What you need to know is that the Psyche does not have the character of drives and conflicts but of relationships between wishes and ideas about other people.  The fact that these relationships seem like reality is the hiddenness of the superego. It hides in plain sight.

What lead Freud to this realization after decades of analysis was his attempt to explain the negative therapeutic reaction – why psychoanalysis didn’t work for most people and made lots of them worse.

If love goes unavowed and unavowable it means you are ashamed of yourself with respect to caring.  The experience of the broken attachment, the withdrawal of a libido cathex (giving a shit), is often one of shame and guilt or the defense against it.  The way you can remember you once loved at all, if you had to stop, is by internalizing guilt you can’t explain and shame you can’t admit.

Consider Derrida on The Secret:  To have a secret you must always remember it, so as not to tell it.  To hide it from yourself, you must put it somewhere else.

The place you put it is into explanations for why you can’t enjoy yourself, the labyrinthian and myriad justifications for disavowed agency.

There are only two sexes, which is a shame, since we want them to mean so very much more than they do.

Why then the kick in the pants?

Maybe what helps Meg’s clients is the fact that she shows them it is OK to act like a man and not be a lesbian.  (Ok, to be nicer: how to just model a well-integrated female psyche.) Hell, I didn’t say this, Meg did in 2005.  Much like Lacan thought the way to cure impotence was to make women wear strap-on dildos under their dress.  (Shit-you-not: Ecrits, 825).

Wait, it’s OK to be a Lesbian, too, right? Sure, but why all this talk about babies?  Well, according to her publishers, lesbians, gays and men aren’t really in the target demographic for self help books authored by professional women.

But we’re all still talking about 20somethings, right?

So why write the book?

If you humor me by agreeing that the book is not for 20somethings, but for 20something women then consider why Meg needs to hide this fact from her clients and possibly herself.

One possibility is that Dr. Meg went through these issues herself, resolved them, and has learned a lot from her practice.  This fits the narrative of her story.  I’ll leave you to speculate on her motives for going into therapy and gender studies as a career, then subsequently turning away from deep gender issues to promote brief therapy and self help.

Another possibility is that Meg herself has unresolved melancholy gender issues.  Listen to her voice and watch her gestures in her TED talk:  Can you hear the echo of the sadness and see the uncertain-but-carefully-polished lack of comfort in her own skin?

Her motivation in writing the book and pretending it is about 20somethings (as opposed to women) is that she is still struggling with her shame and doubt about doing what she is doing in life and is trying not to.  It’s an attempt to quiet anxiety by becoming a public expert – a demonstration of her benign narcissism about having worked through these issues herself.  Much like starting a cult, religion or self-help group (if there was ever a difference between the three). Or a blog….fuck me!

She knows that young women wouldn’t buy the book if it was about the psychological problems of young women so she pretends it’s about something else.

They wouldn’t buy the book because of a defense against shame, which is largely their problem to begin with.  And they can’t see their shame because people like Meg can’t see it either.

They keep the secret for each other, from each other.

Conclusion

Being a 20something man rules unless your father was a pussy and your mom was a hysteric- which unfortunately is most men.  Your dad was afraid he’s gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that), which is why you’re afraid to be masculine (isn’t there supposed to be something wrong with that?).

To Meg, starting a career and family of your own is a behavioral strategy, a way to foreclose the unresolved grief beneath the melancholy of identification and ambivalence.  In being like your parents and other adults you can in that way be an adult and perhaps bypass the super-ego. This makes entry into adulthood the world of being like. 

What Meg cannot convey in her book or brief therapy is the difference between being and being like.  According to Dr. Jay it is identity capital – object relationships which prove who you are.  I say that whether this works or feels phony depends on whether  you can enjoy yourself and can give a shit about anything (Whether your ego is contaminated by super-ego effects).

The problem with her approach is that it will work decently with those who struggle with guilt but less so with those who struggle with shame.  In the case of the former it will reinforce negativity as a way of motivating the self and others.  For the latter it will become grist for the mill of self hatred and striving, yet another book in the heap of self-help. This is so because they are already telling themselves and the Dr. Meg’s of the world that 30 is the new 20.

What you miss is the experience that being an adult can be a lighthearted game big kids play.

The Ego-Analytic Alternative

If you want to improve your sense of what works vs. what doesn’t in psychotherapy study sex and violence.  Two of my favorite and most often cited sources are Bernard Apfelbaum, a sex therapist in the Masters & Johnson lineage, and James Gilligan, a therapist and violence scholar who spent his career in criminal justice.  To understand their work in a nutshell see the links above.

Apfelbaum & Gilligan show us the shame and guilt underneath the problems that bring people to therapy or worse.  Shame and Guilt tend to disappear into the unconscious.  They are hard to realize we have because they are hard to express and have accepted in the public discourse or empathized with (mirrored) by others.  This is because everybody else is trying to avoid guilt and shame in themselves and as a result tries to avoid it in us.  If they see ours, they feel theirs, so they avoid ours.

This pattern reinforces shame and guilt about shame and guilt.  To a large extent this is the problem with life.

The old twenty meant being an adult.  It meant being accepted into an ordinary world of normal adult satisfactions and entitlements.  Thirty, the new (old) twenty, means adults hate you for an additional ten years before they take you seriously.

Don’t blame them for this, it’s the economy.

They don’t take you seriously without an education and they don’t take your education seriously (Because they don’t take themselves seriously, and are threatened by you.)

This leaves me at the fundamental question:  If others don’t take you seriously how can you take yourself seriously?  For the first time in history neo-liberal youth have a protracted period of relative freedom.  Asking why 20somethings can’t grow up is the wrong question.  Why can’t twenty somethings enjoy what everyone has always been fighting for?  Maybe they believe (or can’t consciously believe) that adults are spiteful and jealous and still want (can’t consciously want) our approval?

Some conclude the problem is we have too much freedom, which I think is unfortunate.  I say we can be more than dogs who sleep in open cages.

To return to the illustration of crossing the street:  Your 30’s are the other yard across the street.  You will get there eventually, even if father has to make you.  Whether you enjoy yourself when you get there or not, all things being equal, can be well predicted by whether or not you are enjoying yourself now.  What is it that makes you not enjoy yourself now?

Why isn’t your life good enough?  If you think the answer is that you’re not working hard enough to plan for the future you might be in trouble.

Dr. Meg Jay’s moral lesson is reminiscent of the Ant and the Grasshopper, so I’ll leave you with Apfelbaum’s analysis of it:

  Like the ant and the grasshopper. The ant constantly works, all summer long, storing up food for the winter. Now the grasshopper, he just sings all summer long. He makes no provision for winter. So winter comes and the ant does fine, but the grasshopper starves to death. Do we feel sorry for him? Is that the point of the fable? That the poor grasshopper has this slow agonizing death from starvation? Of course not. It’s his own fault! We don’t waste sympathy [note: sympathy can be wasted] on him; he has forfeited his right to it. No one says. “Pity the poor grasshopper.” Because he asked for it.

That’s blame logic. Outside of blame logic we should be able to see that if you are responsible for your own suffering, you are even more in need of sympathy. If you have only yourself to blame that’s a much worse punishment than if you can blame someone else. And the reason for that is that we relate to ourselves according to the logic of blame.

The poor grasshopper not only has to starve to death in the snow, he has to blame himself for it. He has to beat himself up for not being practical and responsible like the ant. “Why, Oh why did I have to be such a jerk? What is the matter with me? What is such a big deal about singing that I couldn’t at least take a little time to put aside a little food?”

In other words, negative self-talk is the same as negative other-talk.

Not only does the grasshopper have to starve to death, he has the added misery of having to blame himself. It could even be that he was pretty depressed all summer so he had to keep singing to keep up his spirits. And every day he thought he would put aside some food, but he just never got around to it, and before he knew it, it was winter. It just got away from him.

But he wouldn’t be able to spare himself with that explanation. He’d be just as self-condemning, telling himself: “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that after summer comes winter, for Chrissake!” How stupid can you be?” That’s negative self-talk. There are no extenuating circumstances. Just like negative other-talk.

So we don’t even have any way of knowing how much we are suffering from living in this world of blame, and forfeiting our right to suffer[sic]—no way of knowing how stressed out we are, living in the courtroom, and how much our thinking is limited by having to work up a case for ourselves.

From <http://www.bapfelbaumphd.com/Negative_Self_Talk.html>

Dr. Meg Jay might help you store up for winter.  I say the ant and the grasshopper can both learn to whistle while they work.

For the apathetic, here is a  bit of original fill-in-the-blank poetry:

Apathy, my weapon!

Apathy, my crutch!

Apathy is all I have

For I have so very much _____!

 

The Virginia TV Shooting Is About Shame

There is no need to inquire why this happened, but the public will make this about guns, race and sex and nothing will change.

Vester Flanagan told us why he did it. The answer is shame – having been disrespected or the perception there of. Violence is the inevitable result. We have always known this, according to James Gilligan, and are simply uninterested in solving the problem. We’re more interested in how reality should work than how it does.

Violence is one result of narcissistic rage, which is about shame, and can be understood as a defense against the need to be loved and belong. Disrespect causes violence, always has, always will. We knew it since Cain and Abel and beyond.

Problem is, Vester – like a broken record – found and created disrespect everywhere he went. The way he did this was, in many ways, by expecting special treatment – projecting his self-loathing onto others as a persecution complex. Unfortunately our response to people who expect special treatment is often to shame them – to disrespect them for their bad behavior. The reason we do this is our own narcissism.

It just seems to make so much sense – the way to get people to change is to tell them they should change.  We know this doesn’t work – yet it remains the way we treat others, have been treated and treat ourselves.

Seems like quite a pickle, really. Maybe gun control will help, or maybe forcing people to be more polite with laws and regulations. I think these will just make people feel more disrespected and controlled – more wrapped up in a power struggle, which is exactly why guns, race and gender are issues to begin with.

Perhaps we should go the other way. Maybe death is worth it. Maybe we should just work on feeling more entitled to our grief, hatred, fear and revenge? If we’re not going to solve the drama, we may as well enjoy the show.  Hell, bring back dueling.  If your perceived persecutors back down from your challenge, at least you can have the dignity of having stood up for yourself and brag to everyone about it, relieving your shame.

Is there some other way for us to relieve shame as a culture – to find a place for those who truly can’t compete, who have been made low by birth, family, fate and folly? Or are we too vulnerable to feeling slighted and deprived, too quick to punish and blame?

To understand how hard it is, see what it would take to respect the opposition. What would it take to say, and even mean the following:

• If you oppose gun ownership: “You know gun owners, I’ve been awfully paranoid about you. I trust you with the guns you have and think you should get more. I want to know that if the shit hits the fan I can count on you.”
• If you are for gun ownership: “You know gun controllers, I’ve been awfully paranoid about you. I don’t need my guns. I’m sure if the shit hits the fan I can count on you.”
• If you think racism exists: “You know, I have been making an awfully big deal about this. I’m ready to hear you out about why you think I’m being excessive.”
• If you think racism isn’t a problem: “You know, I have been awfully dismissive about what you’re saying, I’m ready to hear you out about how you’ve been wronged.”

Would you rather die than lower yourself? The shooters would – to be any lower would mean the death of the self, to have never lived at all in a sense. To sacrifice these kinds of positions gives you a glimpse of the challenge they are facing – to really mean the above.

If mental health is a medical problem, why won’t we pay for its treatment? You don’t respect people. You don’t think they deserve it.  You think adults should just be able to take care of themselves, after all you have to.

It may be true that in the end you can only respect yourself, but you can’t do that without learning how.  You learn how by having someone in your life at a critical time who takes you seriously.  If you don’t, you can’t, not without the help of other people.

From the ego-analytical point of view in psychoanalysis a solution exists in how you view respect. As I’ve said about empathy, respect is not something you do – it is a response. You can be polite (as customs, rules and regulations about race and gender) but respect is something more. The question to ask is: What is standing between me and the other which prevents respect?

The path out of hating narcissists is to see that their need for your recognition is ruined, forever ruined, by their shame and self-hatred about it.  It’s hard to see it because their infuriating behavior is designed to hide it from you, and by extension from themselves.

Do you want to punish them for being the way they are as an expression of your disgust and moral outrage or do you want to help relieve their shame? What do you risk losing if you do?

The first question we have to answer is whether you’d rather reduce violence or express your judgement that people just shouldn’t be violent.  I say people are violent and we’ve always known why.

The Passion of Cecil the Lion: A Tinfoil Top-hat Piece.

Lion T-shirt via pricerator.com

In thinking about a possible worthwhile angle to take on this story I took a bakers dozen and whittled it down to a hat trick.

  • You don’t give a shit about Cecil the lion, or animals in general.  You spend most of your time eating and wearing them and have some lingering anxiety about how you manage to sleep at night, on your feather pillow.
  • You don’t give a shit about Cecil the lion, or Zimbabwe.  You don’t know who Robert Mugabe (who eats exotic animals, by the way) is, or what Rhodesia was.  You do infer there is something about this story and western/African relationships at stake.  What’s the deal with sanctions anyway?  You infer that since America is imperialist and imperialism means bad then there is an opportunity for a chuckle-fuck of righteousness to be had in decrying anything that rhymes with “sploitation.” 
  • You don’t give a shit about Cecil the lion, or white privilege.  How about that white minority population in Zimbabwe?  You forgot, if you ever knew, that black slavery was wrong because slavery was wrong – not because it over-represented black people in the slave population.

I’d be tempted to simply say “Let’s just leave it at that.”  But there is at least one other devil in the dark. (…puts on tinfoil top-hat and twirls mustachio…)

Cecil is no victim, he is an animal sacrifice, the story jumped upon with a hunger, sought out for it’s role as anxiety-reducing catharsis, a juicy bit of hatred and grist for a personal mill.

The neo-liberal, this paleo-flunky, this wretched mongrel, lives on a leash and longs for a whip, traversing a chains-length of trodden earth .  All things are permitted save acting without permission – then the cronies will turn on you in the belly of the ship and the dark of the night.  The masses have decided everyone is and should be equal with neither shame nor aspersion cast.  As I’ve said elsewhere, this means you can hate (1) haters, and (2) yourself.  Thanks to projection, this still means everybody.

The hatred this story has unleashed, the delightful lust for punishment is…unsurprising.  Beware the shameful pining for control, the turgid rage of un-entitled footmen, and the righteous asceticism of the celebrities, the nobles!

You must understand that the masters have offered you Barabbas in the guise of Walter Palmer.  But he is also Christ in the same man.  You are offered the choice to crucify him or set him free.

Choose not! Tell them you don’t give a shit about Cecil the lion, and let us begin the trial of the masters.

(…removes tinfoil hat…)

Now, let’s just leave it at that!

 

 

 

Ego Analysis of Confidence and Courage

The mistake people make about confidence, and life in general, is about shame.  They are living from an orientation that they can’t be afraid.  

The ego analysis of this condition is so shallow that it is deep.  If you don’t want to be afraid it means you think it is bad to be so.  So to be afraid means that you are bad.  They are ashamed of being afraid.  They don’t want others to know they are afraid because they think it is weak, bad or crazy to be afraid about whatever it is they are dealing with.  (As an aside, there may be little difference between excitement and anxiety other than how you relate to them.)

Your fear is ego-dystonic if you don’t want it to be true about yourself.  You are trapped in this sense invisibly by the language signification of the problem:

  • You don’t want it to be true about yourself
  • Therefore it is true
  • You identify with the disavowal

You also don’t want others to know it about you.  This is just as bad since this again carries the presupposition that it is true.  It can seem like there is no way out.  There are three solutions, as I see it: Accepting the truth, fighting the truth, or desiring the truth.

The depressive solution here is to accept the spoiled identity of lacking confidence and believe that you are inferior.  This leads to resentiment.  You can blame and look down on people who are phony, or blame and resent people who have undermined your confidence.  You can appeal to medical and evolutionary explanations.

The narcissistic solution is to deny the shame as noted above and try to get by on convincing others you aren’t afraid.  The unspoken logic goes that if you convince other people you are not afraid then somehow their reaction will eventually transform the fear itself.  This is the “fake it ’till you make it” perspective.

You wind up fighting reality, and by extension yourself and others, living a series of superficial behaviors and manipulations to try and prove that it isn’t true.  If you can successfully fake it, you may relieve your anxiety about it to the point it doesn’t matter.  But you are still always at risk of feeling bad about yourself, or feeling like a phony.

There is a way out of all this that can leave you born again.  The mistake is fundamental and it exists in the belief that you just can’t be afraid.  This belief hides shame.  The resistance to feelings of inferiority can spawn endless searching and striving.

What if you wanted other people to know you are afraid so that they would know you are being courageous?  What if you yourself were not threatened by fear, but indeed wanted to be afraid, too, because you wanted others to know you were courageous?  Isn’t that confidence?

The way out is pride.  You can’t see it because of shame, and you can’t experience your shame directly because much of what we all do is designed to hide it from each other.

We do this from a superstition so deep that we have built the world around it.  That superstition is identity – part of which means that if you feel something, you are something.  If you feel inferior, you are inferior.  That is why shame becomes invisible.  Again this is a trap of language, the infinite regress of signified concepts.

To want to be better means that you really are worse.  

The desire to be know as you are can help you live the experience that you really aren’t anything but desire and experience.  And what you’ll experience is the freedom and pride of being, living your experienced feelings, not a relationship to a concept.

So repeat after me:  The truth is I’m afraid. I’m ashamed of being afraid and I worry you won’t take me seriously if you know that I have doubts and insecurities about what I’m saying.  This matters to me because I care about you, and I care about what I’m doing.  So, now that you know this, let’s get on with things, shall we?

The key is that you can learn to want to be afraid.  Once you can want to be afraid the sting is gone.  Your challenge in life is to find something worth being afraid of, something worth being ashamed about.

The reason you would want to feel ashamed is so you can have pride and self respect.  If you’re looking for the trace of your shame I’ll give you a hint, it’s grief.

Of your fear say, I will it thus!  You may discover all along that the only thing you were ashamed of was living a lie, which can stop at any moment.

Taylor Swift Thinks Prenups aren’t Romantic

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Jezebel reported that Taylor won’t sign a prenup because it’s unromantic.  Whether her marriage (if it happens) will last or not depends upon what she means by romantic.

If she means romantic as an ideal love bubble, she’s in trouble. However, I am reminded of my favorite quote by Alfred Adler: “The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions.”

In one sense a prenuptial agreement can be viewed as a lack of trust in the partner. In another, it can imply a lack of commitment, hedging your bets.

A prenuptial agreement can  reflect a lack of trust in yourself. In the boxing world, Bernard Hopkins famously bet $100,000 on himself in a fight against Felix Trinidad. What would it take for you to bet everything on yourself? How much would it be worth to you to actually believe in yourself? I dare say it can be worth everything, even if you lose, to know you really fought.

If someone asks you for a prenuptial agreement, tell them they can have everything you own right now, and if they don’t apologize, leave and don’t turn back. This is neither practical nor sober, but it might be worth it in a world where very little else is.

I’m not saying marriage should be this serious for you, or even that it is good.  However, it can be this way.  And if it isn’t, then I hope you find something else that is.  If you do have something else that is this important to you, then that is a very good reason for a prenuptial agreement.

Being able to talk about the possibility of a future separation can be a good demonstration of maturity – akin to being able to talk about money, sex, family and other adult responsibilities.  However, what people ultimately feel is fair cannot be decided in advance.  Moral feelings supervene on actions, what others actually do.  The prenup is an effort to preempt this, ironically, to commit to something that may not feel fair in the future.  The value of this I suppose depends on how much you trust yourself and how you think your emotions represent the reality of your experience.

The possibility for the romance of marriage in the 21st century is to acknowledge that dreams aren’t real, but that awake, you can dream nonetheless. No commitment, no promise, no obligation exists without your living into them. Marriage is not and never was sacred, but the good news is that you already always are.

 

Home Ownership at an All Time Low

Chart via Businessweek

Taken straight out-of-the-box, the authors at Time want this study from Harvard University to mean that home ownership is at an all-time low.  I’ll get to that in a minute, but first it’s worth noting that they mean this is bad, or at least morally unfortunate.  This is implied in the conclusion if you at least scan the executive summary whereby the outlook focuses on what could be done to improve participation in home ownership.

The issue, as always, gets worse in the secondary sources which take one or more angles on the data from the study.  This includes Gen-X loosing homes in the 2008 economic crisis (Time demo?), millennials saddled with student loan payments and reduced job prospects, or urban poor facing increased rental costs with stagnant wages.

To avoid crapping yourself when you read these kinds of articles, ascertain with me what home ownership means to you.  Then ask yourself why the title of the article is not that mortgage debt is at an all time low?  For one, it isn’t (it’s a ten year low), and for two – stop asking questions!  (On a related noted, consumer debt and college debt are at all time highs)

Nobody owns a home anymore.  My next door neighbor Kafka is a perfect example.  He knows home ownership is a 30 year commitment to sleep and eat there, paying taxes and keeping the lawn neat when he isn’t working his second job.

We don’t have a finance economy, we have a debt economy.  And in a debt economy growth is made possible by the expansion of credit.

First, most of the data displayed in the Harvard report only goes back to 1980.  Second, the U.S. census data upon which it is based only goes back to 1964.  This temporal snap-chat is about as historically relevant as saying Caitlyn Jenner is feeling fat today.

The executive summary concludes with two tentative recommendations:  Ease lending and build more public housing.  So, goes the logic, this will also help millennials since a rising tide lifts all ships and surely continued economic growth will help undo the stagnant wages that keep them from participating more fully in the market.

The Joint Center is funded primarily by the Ford foundation.  This may mean they think the government can help the poor by encouraging participation in the markets through reduced lending requirements, or that we are responsible for using public money to pay private companies to build market rate housing.  If you can’t tell which political party is involved I’ll give you a hint:  It doesn’t matter, the same company caters the inaugural ball either way.

The last recession taught two possible lessons both of which have vanished:  (1)  The role of the government should not be to encourage market participation through the expansion of credit, but to protect the citizens from it, or (2) Maybe the government should not be involved the markets to begin with.

An even more radical lesson may be that we collectively get to create what we mean by ownership and the responsibilities we have towards each other in this regard.  I wonder if we’ll talk about that before, like has always happened in the past, people stop asking for you to let them have more debt and start demanding that you cancel it all and redistribute the land.

Regardless of whether you believe any of the above three lessons I’d suggest at the least that you as an individual consider that since your debt is a corporate revenue stream, you may not actually own your home qua capital.

Bonus question:  If mortgage debt has decreased by 22% what has become of it?

*Final bonus:  Free blog topic pick for the person who comes up with the best Jesus joke about the Resurrection of the Debt.

 

You’re Angry: A Basic Ego Analysis Example

Photo by lvl Laturla via Flickr
Photo by lvl Laturla via Flickr

Therapists, couples and people in general often have the experience of being in the presence of someone who seems angry but isn’t expressing it.  This can produce feelings of anxiety, since most people are not comfortable with their own anger or, ipso facto, that of others.

Is this person angry at me?  Did I do something?  Will they blow up at any minute?  What’s with them anyway?  This can lead to counter-blame or counter anger.  You can become angry at this person for making you anxious, for creating tension or making you doubt yourself.  You then might even feel guilty about having these feelings and so forth.  You usually end up doing nothing or blurting something out due to anxiety.

Another common response is to try and indirectly check in with the person by enquiring how things are going or to test the waters in some way.  Therapists may point out that this is codependent, trying to take care of someone else’s feelings.  They may offer the insight that this is how, from a position of real inferiority, you once tried to deal with the feelings of your parents.

Another interpretation is that you are trying to avoid your feelings by avoiding theirs, trying to smooth things over.  This makes sense based on the behavior alone in that what you are indeed saying and doing is actually not addressing either their feelings or yours.  Perhaps you are trying to imply concern in the hopes of soothing the underlying conflict.  It may reflect a worry on your part that you can’t handle their anger, that you feel embarrassed about how easily their anger is already effecting you.

In psychoanalysis and some other forms of therapy and even the recommendations of some self help authors they may make or recommend a naming interpretation that could be as simple as “You’re angry.”  This could be well intentioned, in that the speaker thinks they are being helpful and may not have any normalizing beliefs about anger (“…and you’re an asshole for being angry with me!”) which are being sub-communicated.

However, this often produces a negative reaction.  The person denies being angry or erupts into rage and blaming.  Traditionally, this would be viewed as confirmation of the therapists interpretation in the case of the former, or evidence of a weak ego and narcissistic rage in the latter.  In ego-analysis, these would be weak ego = strong super ego and narcissistic rage would be shame about shame.

The ego-analysis approach, what I’d like to call reality psychology or the psychology of innocence, would say this interpretation is wrong.  By this I mean that the person isn’t really angry.  By which I mean they cannot feel entitled to / experience / express / enhabit the ontological experience of being angry.  You can tell this because the angry person often hears the received message that “You’re wrong to be angry!” 

The actual experience of the person is that they cannot be angry.  They are held back from being angry by super ego effects such as shame, guilt and fear.  And, in reality, the anxious partner often does indeed believe, and thus communicate, that they think the other person is indeed wrong to be angry, no matter how they say it.

An ego-analysis would look something like:  “It would be natural to have feelings of anger right now and if you did you might feel like you shouldn’t, or that I wouldn’t respect that or be concerned that I can’t handle hearing them.”  This of course may still just drive the feelings underground or cause explosive reactions.

This is because the opposite could be true since ego-analysis is amoral and non-normative.  The person may feel like they should be angry and are unable to express it.  They may feel like they are weak, immature or broken for not being able to stand up for themselves like other people seem able to do.

The point is that simply saying “You’re angry” is unlikely to produce relief but may be a key to the reality (causal relationship) of their problem, which is how they relate to their anger.  Not knowing this problem exists is part of the problem.

One thing that could help is being vulnerable and respectful about your response.  Perhaps something like “I’ve been feeling like I’m walking on eggshells lately, like maybe you’re angry with me.  I keep telling myself that I shouldn’t be so sensitive.  If you were angry with me it would probably be hard to tell me since I’m being oversensitive already.  If you are angry, I probably should already know why and that’s gotta be frustrating.”  The reason you would say this is that it is actually how you are feeling.

Some people will read this and conclude it is codependent.  They may recommend bypassing all thoughts and feelings about your conversational partner’s experience,  to just focus on yourself and your feelings and let them deal with theirs.  Sadly, it may take you years of personal therapy to be able to address someones anger without having any of your own insecurities about doing so – if this is possible at all.  Your life is happening now.  Pretending not to have these insecurities by covering it up with neutral looking self help is part of the problem.  Showing your actual feelings about what you are saying let’s the relationship have the chance of itself being therapeutic.

To think you ought to deal with you and let them deal with them is idealistic naiveté based on the normalizing belief that we all just should be more mature (read: better) and differentiated than we actually are.  It relies on an idealization of psychological health (which refers to theoretical moralized perfection, not the cause of mental processes) and denies the reality of life and itself serves as a moral justification for ignoring the way we actually effect each other.

Besides, the person may be pissed at you because you already are avoiding their feelings, which is exactly why you sought out the self-help advice to bypass your thoughts and feelings about them in the first place.  Perhaps they know that your therapist is just an ally you have enlisted to justify your position.  It’s also why you can’t see their shame.  Because you are both engaged in a process of helping each other hide your mutual vulnerabilities.  If this process goes on unconsciously you wind up fighting over respect under the pretense of issues rather than disagreeing about issues from a place of respect.

The final defense of the codependency crowd may be that ultimately you can only respect yourself.  This is an appealing belief, and it may even be true in that other people help or hinder our ability to learn how to respect ourselves.  Were it not for the fact that it seems to deny the lived experience of almost everyone throughout time I may be inclined to believe it.

If the angry person actually had self-respect she would freely enjoy expressing her anger.  If the anxious conversational partner actually had self-respect she would not be so threatened by another’s anger, and would have no insecurities to bypass and would not experience vulnerability as subordination.

It may indeed be wise for therapists to not disclose their feelings or the counter-transference.  But it can be immensely helpful for their clients understand why this is:  Differentiation is an ideal which may be impossible for some of us all the time or all of us some of the time.  If you doubt this, consider how many therapists obsess about whether or not to shake your hand, accept a gift, give a hug, take notes, negotiate fees, say hello in public, etc.  It seems to me like there is some evidence of a resignation about the limitations of human potential which is repressed by a systemic moral appeal to professional responsibility.

This appeal to the responsibility ethic is itself a moral position, not a causal analysis.  To not realize it is a problem is the problem. To try to solve the problem by assigning responsibility is an attempt at an ethical solution, to feel alright about not solving the problem.

Perhaps the admonition to avoid thinking about how enmeshed we all are is an aspirational denial of reality.  You know, we just don’t talk about that around here.

A Fast and Loose Marxist Critique of Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation is a buzzword which caught my attention recently and is a fine demonstration of some of the issues I discuss on this blog.  Loosely defined, cultural appropriation is the adoption of elements of one culture by members of a different cultural group, especially if the adoption is of an oppressed people’s cultural elements by members of the dominant culture.

To put that in my language, it’s the masters playing as slaves.  I do specifically mean this in the Nietzschean sense.  One thesis of this blog is that the dominant phenomenological perception of social organization is that of the master/slave dynamic due to people perceiving hierarchies everywhere.  This presents in ethical systems of rights/duties, entitlements/obligations and debtor/creditor dynamics.  The question people are constantly in search of answering is justifying their experience in these terms because this runs so deep that I dare say this entitlement dyad (superior/inferior) is the fundamental ontological relationship between people.  Note, I am not saying that this is the only relationship.  Hierarchy, economic exchange and communal exchange all exist at one level or another in every society.  (Graeber, 2011)  But economic exchange is easier because of the neatness and finality of the obligations created while communal exchange exists as a safe and relaxing contrast to status relations and always implies an other (See Derrida on The Guest)

Of course, everybody hates a tourist, as best expressed for this aging punk rocker by Pulp (Common People, 1995).  I like the William Shatner version for the irony of using a cover song:

It’s clear that people feel a sense of loss when imitation violates the meaning of their practices.  This is because the practices are objectively meaningless and the subjective illusion has been punctured by the violation of sybmolism.  This is where I want to problematize the issue.

Return to the definition above:  To experience this sense of loss and the ensuing resentment, the imitated person has to believe they are not part of the dominant culture.  If your peers imitate you, it’s a roast.  If your inferiors do it, it’s flattery.  True or false, identifying as an outsider is a powerful self focused belief.  My problem with this is that those who feel marginalized are fighting for the right to remain separate and avoid contact rather than fighting for some material advantage such as to better their lot in life, take care of their community, or hell – take power.    Power exists in the lived experience of the ontological system of entitlements.  This means fit in with the dominant culture or enjoy your resentment.

This issue is obfuscated in understanding by linguistics and psychodynamics.  A signifier (the phrase “cultural appropriation”) has been created to refer to a signified concept (oppression = master/slave relationship = resentment = they are bad and we are righteous victims).  This prevents change because it substitutes the content (any cultural symbol in question) with the underlying struggle (comparative desire).

As an example, today Kylie Jenner was accused of cultural appropriation for styling her hair in corn rows by the likes of Amandla Stenberg

Amandla had this to say:

“While white women are praised for altering their bodies, plumping their lips, and tanning their skin, black women are shamed although the same features exist on them naturally,”

There is some evidence of projection at work in her attitude. (Praised by whom?  Shamed by whom?)  I would ask Amandla whether she wishes she could have access to these supposed privileges and whether she feels ashamed of her black features.  If she isn’t jealous of white women, then maybe these aren’t privileges after all.  If she isn’t ashamed of being black then whoever is supposedly shaming her isn’t doing such a thorough job that it needs to be taken seriously.  In Ego Analytic terms She is ashamed of being ashamed.  Or, in an Id Analytic framework you could say there is evidence of denial of feelings of inadequacy about her appearance.

Even if I make no comment on the reality content of the praise/shame claims made by Amandla I must point out that for those who have endured long term feelings of inadequacy (economic or otherwise) it becomes impossible to differentiate between oppression (active/other) and shame (passive/self). 

Of your gods you will make horrible idols.

The main point you need to take home is that if you are going to be mad you should be mad at Kylie because her family is rich and contributes nothing of importance to society.  Hell, they even make money off of your criticism!  Even better, you should be mad at the media corporations she is making money for.

Social justice warriors and those concerned with cultural appropriation are tilting at windmills.  You are fighting for the victory of maintaining exclusive rights to symbolic identity, an identity that traps you, for the purpose of retaining a separateness as a shamed underclass.  (You prove you are not ashamed by defensively maintaining your position).  You are defending against shame and not against tyranny.

To get others to agree that you have the exclusive right to cultural symbols and they have the duty to acknowledge that is to admit that they have power and you do not because it is your separateness which establishes your identity.

The actual powers that be don’t give a shit about assimilating your culture.  If anything, they want you to keep it because they can continue to sell it to you and profit from it.

*Note:  As an update I thought I’d deal with the obvious rebuttal from minorities, feminists, gender theorists and others to this position.  It’s easy to hear what I’m saying as “Don’t worry about the issues which are important to you, we’ll take care of those after we make important changes.”  It’s obvious that this received message would feel even more infuriating and marginalizing.  You are who you are and what matters to you matters to you.  How I’d like people to hear this message is that focusing on symbolic issues may produce satisfaction which, while important and worthwhile, does not address the causal relationship at play.  

**Note:  An expanded ego-analytic perspective on Kylie/Amandla could look like:

  • Amandla felt ashamed due to the narcissistic injury endured by Kylie’s perceived slight.
  • She responded with counter-blaming and a benign narcissistic anger (being offended).
  • This may be successful in counter shaming but is not effective in producing compassionate change because she was not vulnerable.  What comes through her message is not how much pain and grief she has experienced but how bad she thinks white people are.  That is obviously a hard message for someone else to hear who isn’t already prone to feeling bad about themselves.  Notice too that the net amount of suffering has not been reduced, but increased.
  • What makes it impossible for Amandla to be vulnerable is that she is ashamed about being ashamed.  This is evidenced in narratives about pride about cultural emblems.  As if black women just should be proud of their hair.  It’s natural to feel bad about oneself and admire the physical traits of others.  But instead of vulnerability, contact, compassion and growth we are left with defensive entitlement, counter-blame and a reinforcement of the existing difference.  A similar issue arises in education among the poor where trying to be bookish produces shame in others and there is blame cast about siding with the enemy.
  • What could help those who feel ashamed by immitation would be to greive the pain and suffering they feel as a result of shame.  Unfortunately, most of their peers would just tell them there is nothing to be ashamed about, you should be proud and thus invalidating their feelings and driving them further underground.  One who actually is authentically proud is not easily vulnerable to shame.

***Note:  A market criticism would point out that Kylie and others are imitating a culture that is being sold to them by the very people who are complaining.  Hip-hop culture, for instance, like all music culture, represents a whole aesthetic gestalt to the consumer.  You don’t just buy the album, you buy the t-shirt, too.  A recommended solution if this bothers you could be for black people to refuse to support commercial hip hop musicians. In a very libertarian way  If you can’t keep the market out of your life, keep your life out of the market.  This solution is much less relevant to other forms of asserted cultural appropriation like native american head dress, but it is very relevant to pop culture like anime. My house is full of hand made ethnic art.  I like to buy it in my travels.  It seems to me like second and third world cultures I’ve visited have always been thrilled and proud to have outsiders participate in their cultural events and eager to have outsiders buy their crafts.  The sensitivity to this in first world nations among the privileged bourgeoisie (the Kylie dreads example was an argument between two wealthy young women neither of whom are members of the working class) makes me again suspicious that it is a sign that points to a problem, and is a symbolic struggle that relieves tension rather than relieves the underlying structural issue the sign refers to.

****Thanks to the respondent who pointed out that Amandla is a common ethnic name, not a neologism.  I edited out the following aside, reprinted here in full:  “…as an aside, is the refusal to accept standard names an attempt to master or perpetuate a stigma.? Why not “Amanda?”  While I fully retract this point in the case of Amandla, I think the rhetorical question is still worth considering for new name creation in stigmatized communities.  I do, however, disagree with the statement that “saying there are standard names is a pretty big claim.”  My rejoinder is that smaller communities tend to anthropologically have more duplication of similar names.  A teleological attempt to name outside the bounds of existing names in the community, I dare say, means something.  I offer two possibilities above, but am by no means saying these are the only ones.  It could, for instance, be an attempt to merge one cultural pronunciation and phrasing with another as synthesis – or something else.  But it is on purpose.