“Walter Benjamin knew that the break in tradition and loss of authority which occurred in his lifetime were irreparable, and he concluded that he had to discover new ways of dealing with the past. In this he became a master when he discovered that the transmissibility of the past had been replaced by the citability and that in place of its authority there had arisen a strange power to settle down, piecemeal, in the present and to deprive it of ‘peace of mind,’ the mindless peace of complacency.”
–Hannah Arendt, “Introduction” to Walter Benjamin’s Illuminations
Quoted in “Walter Benjamin and ‘Drilling’ for Pearls” by Laurie Naranch
“Arendt observes that quotations are the center of every work that Benjamin produced. She writes: ‘The main work consisted of tearing fragments out of their context and arranging them afresh in such a way that they illustrated one another and were able to prove their raison d’etre in a free-floating state, as it were. It definitely was a sort of surrealistic montage.’ While it might seem ‘whimsical in the extreme and self-destructive to boot’, it wasn’t any more so than other like-minded surrealistic experiments. This ‘drilling’ method differs from ‘excavating’ since the interpretation doesn’t lay waste to the context, nor does it ‘ruin everything with explanations that seek to provide a causal or systematic connection.’ Benjamin would have rejected our world of big data, for as Arendt presents him, he had the rare gift of ‘thinking poetically.’ This method of drilling for ‘pearls’ and ‘coral’ – metaphors for crystallizations of thinking – is a destructive practice, tearing out certain passages for something new.”
—Laurie Naranch, “Walter Benjamin and ‘Drilling’ for Pearls”
hopefulandfree on July 15, 2011 at 10:28 am said:
“much later here, i realize the question itself ‘who am i?’ is off, not false, but not asked with enough context to ask–and the question is more relevant than any answer. ‘who is asking?’–that question is closer to this seeking. there is no single “i” as consciousness, and rather than revealing something broken or fragmented, the realization of the question shows a hidden strength, there all along, not denied so much as despised. and feared. we confuse power with domination, for we have no shared language to make the distinction clear or even evident. other ways of knowing are real. rational discourse, ‘reasoned discourse,’ has value but not in a context that insists on an end, a ‘right answer decided right now’ an artificial arrival at a false consciousness for the sake of representational harmony.”
Posted on July 19, 2011 by hopefulandfree
you know the one–
Ma stays in little house alone to make pies, finds scary red affliction on her leg, creepy knife blade–
jack walks into the light at the end and has been dead all along?
sam says have a good life–
beaver’s buddy, overly polite–
john boy, good night–
radar knows choppers in flight,
little monkey buddy chooses life in movies, turns (with music swelling) for last good-bye with human friend,
dan’s dead and it was all a work of fiction from the mother of all mother’s pen,
entire hospital and people, snow globe vision of a child,
alien is born already old and grows younger,
doc’s hand chopped off by you-know-what, which (much) later lands on him, explodes,
arnold is a pig,
sister’s nose gets broken by a flying ball, ’cause pride goeth before a fall,
creepy, kooky (altogether spooky) snap snap,
shoe phone and pretty 99,
uncharted island ginger’s home,
her navel always not-quite-bared,
sherriff pa w/ fishin’ pole,
side kick w/limp and mule, miss kitty is no pet,
leprechauns ‘n hoss,
pa turned angel, different shows, same gruff-guy friend,
mafia boss pov, screen blank,
twirls, tosses hat (group hug),
i gotta stop now (no clue) but could go on and on–
we give our lives away
our shared reality, our brave new world of hope
the bits we use to build our common trance, reassurance
sad thought, perhaps, but then again
at least not like reality t.v.–or does it even matter
when you grinned above, at least once,
you know you did while feeling in the know,
right? in fact,
you didn’t even need all the words–
what i want to know:
what meanings do we give for
hopefulandfree on February 1, 2012 at 11:03 am said:
“to hopefulandfree: god i love you. as in: i love you, not-god, as in: i am not-god. blissfully, thankfully, not-god. (there. i identified that socially fragmented concept of narcissism, whereby all my actions and writings are analyzed like a horoscope, to fit categories, boxes that are socially dangerous for good reasons); the medical and legal and political and corporate establishments of control need people to need the professionals/ceo’s for their *expertise*–we turn to them like priests or holy soothsayers of old, and we forget the common everyday salvation dialogs of neighbors and ordinary selflessness that does not oppress. i watched a program about communes and saw the reproduction of power–the valid fears of becoming oppressors in the name of liberation. that is worthy of caution: using emancipatory theory (or liberation theology) as a kind of tactic to predict and control other people’s actions. what can’t be escaped, it seems, is the reading *into* texts (such as blog posts), the assignment of meaning to other words, in ways that feel offensive to one’s own interpretation of reality–
or, if not offensive, then reading in ways that use assumptions to place oneself (as in: me) “over” all that, or “above” all that, because IRONY has for some of us (me) become second nature; like the irony of Seinfeld…a whole world constructed from interpretation turning back on itself in an ironic self reflexive way that’s nevertheless unconscious. i’ve learned and i’m still learning to read not for *meaning* or intended message or literary references (including scientism) but for affective responses arising as a result. another’s words may *make* me feel a certain way, result as if there is a cause and effect reality happening, like a magic spell (deification or reification of functionalist reason, that is, *thinking*), when the transformation is not happening out there, between two brains for instance, but internally within the dialog that never ends, the unconscious and conscious contact with–so to speak–god. oh, i’m gonna catch hell for this. :)
window on mind
Posted on December 30, 2011 by hopefulandfree
go away go away go away
no threatening sounds come forth from lips
only noise like babbling beneath ocean waves
he screams through glass and pounds his fists
presses fleshy face enraged against the window pane of mind
pain i’m in pain
insomnia whispers promises while helplessness threatens every edge between no place of peace and hell that will not wait
a clearing i seek
fragmented shards of icy flame rain down on blessed sanctuary
machine like sounds of toy soldiers marching in madness virulent
my screams at last awaken gentle one who holds me close
carelessly i collect each piece of dream
return in stealth to waking life
sleep–now a far off memory.
strands apart, frayed edges joined
Posted on February 28, 2012 by hopefulandfree
collecting bits of string, clay, dirt, pieces of my life,
gathering as if a storm approaches and i’m a bird securing her nest–
the sense of foreboding never leaves me now,
the need to redirect my energy, create a space,
literally, to claim as my way, my possibility for change,
externalization of deeply held pain,
beyond words, words are inadequate, much of the horrors i experienced
before i had language–
i saw a photograph of me as a baby, yesterday, i allowed myself to see
my hands in the image, tiny hands with fingernails ripped away,
below the cuticles,
i wasn’t even two, and already i was tearing off the tiny nails from my finger
tips, gnawing at my hands as if to escape some unbearable daily reality,
showing the world that i was suffering–and no one made the connection,
or if they did,
were powerless to help.
no one can save me,
no one will help–
these were my thoughts after i found words, my earliest memories,
pleading with god to take me away to a another world,
but surely i had feelings before i had language,
surely an infant / child / human being
experiences terror and dread
at the sight of her tormentors–
at the smell of predators –
the care takers / systems
with whom she has had to bond,
the monsters who become part of her, part of me,
the monsters ones who now threaten
each night with images of death and final moments in agony,
such spectral movies running in my head, made just for me,
i need to get them out, release them much like demons in the world,
through art, painting perhaps, drawing, it doesn’t matter yet, i suppose,
even clay or bits of string glued to colored paper,
i need to honor me, to honor my existence, i survived, i live here
still. i will prevail,
all of me,
it was never a battle to lose weight, never just a battle against the danger of the
stigma, those were symbolic of the
struggle, much broader and more generalized, the struggle to exist
intact, with all my parts collected in one whole–
i wish i could proclaim the victory is mine, in a way it is already won,
but some of the most terrible parts
are waiting for a voice,
reds, yellows, blues, browns, chaos in black and grey,
all of these with texture will
find their way through, we are coming out now, all of us, all of me,
surfacing, peering around, wondering what the hell this means,
some of us are ugly and mean, some of us are precious and caring and
sweet, we are a metaphor for a lack of some firmer state of being,
these fragments that are me, the lover of literature, history, poetry,
philosophy, art, communication,
and more stories, my life now must be for one thing:
to share experiences with others, to find a way to meld our souls in
common yearning for understanding
of the lives from which we ran, the lives from which we hid,
revealed now in our shared art,
admitted we were powerless
Posted on June 30, 2012 by hopefulandfree
….our social systems in which our consciousness as individuals is embedded provide us with lenses to see some things and to keep others hidden or suppressed from observation–and repressed from consciousness. we live with horrible injustices and bizarre forms of inequality that have become accepted as the way things are because to consider alternatives creates almost instant fear and powerlessness. we accept our illusions of control, as individuals, because to admit our powerlessness feels terrifying. we go about our lives accepting the illusion of having control over our future standards of living, for example, because we feel sick and horrified inside when we consider the reality. most of us can do little or nothing to prevent the inevitable day when we become dependent on strangers for our meals and baths and other essentials of daily living, and so we imagine our future caregivers as kind and gentle and caring and helpful. we believe there are investments we can make, or choices that will increase the likelihood of an easier, softer journey to the void (or to heaven). or we buy books by guys like tolle, for instance, and practice focusing on the NOW. essentially we perfect a kind of perpetuated dissociated consciousness that lulls us gently into a sense of false security and allows us to accept horrifying social injustices without exerting much actual effort to change anything. perpetual distractions, in the form of entertainment, nonstop media access, technological innovations that give us instant connection with other people, places, and things–in a more or less virtual realm that has come to seem virtually real and virtually good–all of these socially constructed realisms help us remain within our day-to-day focus on Self, on planning ways to meet our current and future needs of self (and needs of loved ones), on trying to predict and control outcomes of processes that have thousands of unknown variables beyond any individual’s control (plus a few variables we can hope to manage, in spite of those pesky thousands).
and many of us live with these fragmented forms of consciousness, these pesky brains and minds that refuse to remain in one realm, that switch instantly into alarm mode at the slightest stimuli or remain in alarm mode when in the presence of strangers, with accompanying autonomic nervous systems functioning as if attack is always imminent–a kind of consciousness that is not merely a conceptual or cognitive based form of action but is physiologically (neurologically) constructed, arranged and perfected by brain (neural) pathways repeatedly exposed to profound shock, chronic terror, unpredictable pain, and other ongoing and very real traumatic threats–and we walk around, often in public places, looking like any other form of person….
the expropriation of health
Posted on March 14, 2012 by hopefulandfree
….so many seem to NEED social applause and approval for “working hard to stay healthy” when, in fact, most of the world’s people walk to work or spend hours each day attempting to earn enough just to stay alive, yeah, that’s their exercise (picking rags from heaps of cast-offs sent over like gifts from the great Empires, breathing coal dust, picking the sweet lettuce and berries for strangers to gulp down in consumption of holy god-like salad-eating efforts to
remain alive longer than the next guy, longer than one’s neighbor,
yeah, the neighbor we love as ourselves, or the ones we judge for becoming fat, old, shy, afraid, ill, dependent, needy,
for becoming those dumb asses in the nursing homes
who are in fact not dumb animals, but merely hearing impaired human beings who grew old, who never dreamed
someday they would be shunned for becoming wrinkled, tired, sick, and terrified of humanity, for good reason, perhaps,
(i offer here my example of one elderly naked man clothed only in a hospital “gown”–so thin of cloth that bones show through–waiting for his CAT scan, oh marvel of marvels, waiting to be told that YES, INDEED, he had a right to be feeling excruciating back pain on account of the bone fragments scattered along his shrinking spine, to the tune of several thousand dollars, money that could have been spent, coincidentally, to fly his daughter up from California for a nice long stay, but that would be a NON-MEDICAL expense, oh, god, give me patience…)
Nemesis (ivan illich reminds us) was the name of the greek goddess of revenge who “represented nature’s response to hubris: to the individual’s presumption in seeking to acquire the attributes of a god”, namely, the notion that we humans should aspire to immortality, or at least the idea that we should want to live as long as possible, and to do whatever that goal requires–even at the loss of our very humanity,
to remain living
and breathing, paying for health “care”, particularly,
paying for the greatest rituals known to humankind, such as bariatric surgery with its sterile pristine suites of reverent worship where our masked medicine men perform magical functions, removal of organs, application of mind-altering drugs in mists we breathe silently, like ancient sacrifices to appease the gods,
here, take this section of stomach, o lord, that the patient may be cleansed of gluttony, perform the desired unburdening of sins, for the good of the Body, the holy body of medical knowledge,
okay, slower now, dear writer, temperance please, show us where this path is leading–
nice, deep breaths,
we are now paying–all of us–for the illusion of control, medicine is the new goddess of revenge, “medical nemesis” in the form of modern “health care”–you see,
i can’t forget him, that first real patient, that 90-something gentleman with white hair and transparent skin, i can’t forget the thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars billed (and spent) on medical tests (CT, MRI, blood, etc) and a solitary hospital bed with wires and equipment to test the level of oxygen in his blood, rate of pulse, and other so-called imperatives
when all the man really wanted most desperately was to spend some last days with his children, all of whom were working working working working to pay for their own future care in a similar hospital room,
and i can’t forget the other man whose daughter was brought from the prison that day, on compassionate leave, his watery eyes, shaky hands, the way his voice faltered when he said,
i just want to die, i’m ready, why won’t they just leave me be?
but could anyone listen? no. all were too busy “providing care” to these fine people, and to many others,
doing their jobs, performing with the greatest efficiency,
offering highly effective medical treatments,
none of which honored the deepest needs of these
who haunt me. i smell them. their skin is rotted now, or burnt and scattered into new forms of dust, universal stuff i know not how to understand, i only know i can’t do that work, called modern nursing, i can’t participate in the charade of money-changing, that form of domination that denies a human being the company of loved ones while insisting on more tests, always more evidence of sickness–for the proper billing codes, you see,
yes, we sacrifice the actual human being for proper procedural motions to prove there was no “unethical” treatment, no inaccurate documentation, no miscalculation of fees.
i will come if you call, i will listen, i will care, but i can’t be part of that whole masquerade, the expropriation of human dignity, in the name of our newest god, “health care,” not for dollars or social status, or promises of future security;
let me sit with you, we will sing, tell stories, howl at the night, hold our bodies next to each other, rub feet, laugh until we cry, scream with abandon, and i will wash your hair, i will feed you,
i will feel honored to know you have lived. i will sit with your lifeless body until your people come. i wish i had been allowed to do all those things, those simple
i’m sorry. all of you “patients” deserved more, more than an edifice
filled with efficient providers–following and giving efficient orders,
all of you deserved…to be loved.
Posted on July 19, 2011 by hopefulandfree
didn’t Socrates or some old dude long passed disuss
to know, one must forget,
to know one must forget, to know one must forget one is for getting,
but for getting, a process we assume makes
sense, where was i going? oh yes,
i’m for getting, all for getting,
here, the thing about communication is the assumption of meaning,
meaning we assume is shared as if the Other has one idea of her construction,
a clear vision of the building in progress, a blueprint of the whole
when only part completed includes no foundation,
only whispers of a soul–
more to be revealed, like prophecy, but not mystical,
real and unreal,
we assume a meaning intended, and even that approach takes too much for
granted, intention would demand consciousness of everything
below the surface, in between, over, around the edges, down the well,
in the darkest most hellish parts of every soul, and forward into the light,
brightest of the bright, we don’t pretend or play so much as work
at learning to never play, never spontaneously be, must re-act to be seen
as social sanitary being, like a fucking clean eater–
or pristine clear thinking —
just had to bring that up, it’s been bugging me so much, the way we play
with clean as a concept in our approach to eating and even THINKING
like these are forms of sex, and we wouldn’t
want the dirty kind, the slutty style, the naughty girl behind the curtain
with her girlfriend kind of bad, no, strike that, as
dysfunctional, yeah, improperly working equipment,
unclean thinkers are so brazenly lacking in
social awareness, apparently, so completely unwilling to toe the line, to
submit to our lord’s approval, like stealing communion that hasn’t been
blessed, oh my!, so destructive of SELF, well, what does this MEAN,
fuck, do you see the problems there?
to be clean means Self aware,
(the implication is too much, too perfect and complete, a perfectly
efficient, beautifully effective killing machine, a nicely contained
gas chamber in the back of mobile trucks–no need to send the victims,
when the machine will come to us)–
Self aware does not mean what you think it does
when framing self and life as objects of consumption and production,
doing something with food, with my brain, like a lover? oh please,
objects moving on conveyers with objects,
headed to a final destination, proof of your existence–
you’ve already devoured the machine parts and pieces and links, swallowed
and digested, then gobbled more–but that’s not really the point,
right? the meaning must be clear, we think, because no other way to keep
believing we are in control, no other route to staying in the zone, the
sweet sweet zone where we float with sanctified and officially endorsed,
permitted, emotions–the safe place where big bad enforcers of truth can’t
shove their fists through the roof of your head, crack open skull, pull
forth meaning, the one we all need to believe in,
or we’re sunk–
we’re fucked, except we see that as a bad thing, ’cause language without
context, or absence the whole, assumes more than too much,
assumes everything, including evil, when evil may be beautiful and loving,
and goodness may be heartlessness we learn to abide with,
like a white owl that flies to you and hovers before your face without a sound,
seeing eye to eye, pleading to be recognized,
not possible, you have no way to see or hear the owl,
however lovely and unique,
you don’t even bother to slink, just keep on sauntering,
alone with your holy sanctified all authority approved
your consolation for conning as a way of life,
for some of us i fear that has to be enough–
this is not a program
Posted on January 14, 2012 by hopefulandfree
….we are not dead. we merely function as if we are alive or sometimes never to have lived at all, still born, merely noticed images passing, as if the things that matter most are pointless and unreachable, as if we are not screaming from our graves to change before it is too late–not screaming, no. the absence of sound emerges. no peep. no pat-a-cake, no lullaby sweet baby. sweet fragrant cheeks of youth, warm faces, bright eyes, innocence. breath.
these fragmented souls wander forth–laughing, screaming, crying, roaring–the noise of indignation overwhelms, before the spinning toddler stops to stop the ruthless moving round and round into overdrive, the righteousness ordained as if by gods who whisper in our silent minds, always gods of right, we’re certain. we are certain of our certainty.
unwrapping tissue thin deception proves immutable, the fluid veil through which we gulp at life rushes down, fills our throats before our first cry for help. for understanding never granted, for god’s mercy long abandoned.
this is not a program. there is no remote. no viewer. no dialog. no action. no act.
we are alone, as one, enchanted by our dreadful power to summon all as if at will. we have the words. the magic stories of good and evil. we have our dances, repeated, rituals unbroken. each utterance, each thought, all imbued with magic we call meaning. we translate each experience as if it has the power to tell us something real about ourselves, our world, like chicken entrails left on street corners next to burning candles and sweets….
critical emancipatory process: part one
Posted on July 1, 2011 by hopefulandfree
we are told by the professionals, the experts: certain things, processes, research results,
and phenomena are facts,
solid evidence like bones, or
fragments of stars as seen through telescopes,
clear detailed beautiful focus–
the way things are
or–at the very least–the way things are supposed to work
when people see accurately (bodies, chemicals, the wind, gravity, physics, the human heart)–
they, being professionals, are like gods in our modern or postmodern mythology, better than gods if we’re being honest here…
we are supposed to conclude:
wrong. very very wrong.
something is wrong with me.
because they all say the same things.
they know. they are experts. they know. they hold knowledge like
cans of soup with red and white labels, the good stuff,
the brand name, not some generic!
(does your doctor, with a straight face,
still use a little hammer to tap on your knee?)
or, much more horrible to imagine,
something is wrong with this entire scientific point of view, theory,
NO! OMG perish that thought. strike it from consciousness this instant.
that’s just not possible.
in other words, for one reason or another,
we now have grounds to feel upset because,
dammit, something is wrong
they don’t actually KNOW what they are talking about
(in terms of any 1/1 relationship to reality)
because their so-called factual data and impeccable research
and adored theories do not fit
can’t go there. too scary.
how can virtually all of these highly educated, highly esteemed,
extremely intelligent experts…be wrong? that is not a comforting concept to consider,
no no no,
not an acceptable thought.
be my body.
my body doesn’t work.
my body doesn’t work right. that’s much more reassuring.
still. not completely.
makes me nervous. makes me worry. makes my endocrine system
get all worked up into a flurry of activity, a threat is at hand,
i am not safe. something is wrong with me. oh. hell.
my body that ‘s the problem. I don’t have to do anything
to dominate it, or whip it into submission, or force it, or control it,
or fear it–
it is perfect as it is, right now, and the only thing that is a problem
is the way i am taught to experience
if I experience reality that way, the so-called RIGHT way,
i will always be alarmed.
i learned to live with the alarms going off.
but. there are other ways to live.
i can let go.
it might not be FUN! it might not feel GOOD!
it might not happen
right away, and if i ‘m anything like me,
i can’t control
i will be surprised.
it cannot be described.
it seldom seems to occur to any one of us, of course,
that we are simply living within hegemony. sigh.
one by one, as individuals, we cannot drop the grand illusions
woven carefully from infancy. we need each other
something like solidarity. but more.
and some kind of unique communion,
not communication as we now conceive it, of course, but
a process that really does happen, a process that allows
you to be as the little child who (matter-of-factly)
oh, the king is naked, isn’t that interesting.
it isn’t scary, after all,
just very new and quite wonderful to see.
and for an instant you realize it’s okay–
the experts are full of shit, they can’t help it,
it’s just the way it all must be right now,
given everything historical, and it arrives at last
as a kind of relief, momentarily:
theory, like everything else–like all forms of knowledge–
inevitably must depend on a certain constructedness–
social and language impositions
to begin with–
and notions of power,
(these attractive charismatic classy professionals so full of their
sturdy dependable neuronal pathways)
really and truly believe their own complex and intricate stories,
much more than any prophecy!,
so it isn’t as if
there’s some vast conspiracy of any kind,
or bad people walking around lying to each other and to us.
in fact, that explanation is constructed
using their paradigm, so of course it appears to be the
that IS their alternative explanation,
and once you get past the belief system embedded in your
brain’s beautiful map,
conspiracy doesn’t fit.
it is so much more elegant than that.
perhaps unpleasant, at first, to swallow. i admit.
because we must trust the experts, right? who else is there?
if so many super-amazing people with advanced degrees
and cool hair cuts and stylish eyeglasses can be
living day after day with a transparent device of domination,
using it and depending on it to function and advance their lives
(not to mention their livelihoods) and employing a world view
that legitimizes power over people by people,
umm, power by doctors, scientists, professors, politicians, parents,
priests, lawyers, judges,
chiefs, and other sundry authorities,
and so on and so forth,
what else is there? who can we trust?
apparently we are screwed,
or maybe it’s just me. i know. i must be crazy. that’s it.
thank god. thank god. thank god.
thank god i’m crazy. big sigh of relief. i’m ready to be certified,
by experts. yes, that is so much more reassuring.
to be crazy.
ah, sweet surrender.
yes? yes? yes?
yeah. like that.
exactly like that.
we give it away for free, without ever looking back.
once we’re past the crap we’ve been swallowing since
language constructed our own individual brain pathways,
once we let words become routes to
new places, dead ends, tree tops, stars, multi-verses,
empty space, poetry,
you can see through the myths.
enjoy their sweet innocence.
is it premature to celebrate?
more on “symbolic violence” and domination—
constructed as “caring”
Posted on January 25, 2012 by hopefulandfree
“…The structures of consciousness we develop as active beings–existing within cultures and institutionalized structures of (largely invisible) domination–may perhaps be compared to holograms of the socially fragmented “lifeworlds” with and within which we participate, both before we learn language and later when we come to understand language as rhetoric, or as a means to an end (in Habermas, as “oriented to success”), or as a way to manipulate or persuade other people to adopt specific meanings and beliefs and behaviors, for example, to fulfill our individual pursuits of “free will,” or, simply, to meet our need for survival as individuals (or as groups).
Max Weber describes our ultimate experiences of reality (as a consequence of modern “disenchanted” thinking, or rationalization) as an “iron cage”–while others have described lives of “alienation” (Marx) and “anomie” (Durkheim circa 1897, or Merton in 1949).
These are the sorts of observations which when shared with others, say, in blogland or everyday life (as opposed to academic settings) typically provoke fast reactions of denial, such as “Oh, not me! My life is satisfying. I feel fulfilled.”
Often, following that sort of proud proclamation, there is a kind of underlying or unvoiced accusation (“What’s wrong with you?”–aka “you are not normal“), and then there follows an attempt to strategically use language (as rhetoric) to convince and explain (to share) their own “how to” method of becoming happy or well-adjusted people.
(Again, note the unconscious cognitive “orientation toward successful outcome”, or the internalized means to achieving control over one’s moods, thinking, outlook, sense of well being, “positive” attitude, etc.)
Symbolic violence (which, recall from my previous post, is largely invisible) tells us that our emotional pain is not “normal” or it is caused by our own false perceptions about reality–our own narcissistic wishes or self-destructive actions or unhealthy behaviors. Thus, according to cultural mythologies or schema(s), we are not stigmatized and unhappy because we are hated and abused for being fat; instead, the consensus reality tells us, we are miserable because we are fat and we refuse to “take control.”
We suffer for our sins (in the old language of religion). Or, our suffering is evidence of our misalignment between our self and our soul (in new age parlance.)
Social determinants of pain and suffering (or sickness and ill health) are almost taboo topics for discussion unless one is suffering from a cause that has been legitimated by one’s social group of identification, a source of prejudice or discrimination against one’s race, or size, or class, for example. Then, it’s as if we have been granted permission to feel pain, to acknowledge our suffering; we have a validated reason to acknowledge anguish-as-injustice–even if other groups or individuals (from their standpoints of privilege, for instance) do not understand our experiences of (socially constructed) suffering.
Fat children who feel tormented by media campaigns (in the form of highway posters with sarcastic and abusive commentary approved by the state and sanctioned by health care professionals, for example)–or fat children who have been specially selected to wear “fitness” monitoring devices–are expected to feel grateful and appreciative for the “concern, help, and caring” being demonstrated on their behalf. They are supposed to experience the symbolic violence as evidence of compassion.
[likewise public outcry for cures and effective treatments for so called ptsd, for autism, and for other final traces of our humanity]
If there are no rational and loving adults who are capable of providing critical social analysis (and who are standing by to explain the mental schisms and internalized torment that such symbolic violence is likely to produce) then, of course, targeted children will likely fall prey to these insidious strategies of domination and control–and the children will likely (being humans, not robots) internalize the hate (self loathing) and deeply painful shame that arises from violence and from powerlessness in the face of violence, a shame that emerges when one feels convinced that one should be able to control parts of one being which in truth are beyond one’s control—conscious or otherwise—including one’s feelings and thoughts and socially constructed behaviors–all of which develop in social contexts that are highly individualized and complex.
Even in the presence of loving and wise adults, children cannot simply will-power their way out of experiencing trauma (from symbolic violence) when their own peers and the social structures on which they depend for survival continue to practice and embolden symbolic violence as a socially-preferred way of life. Symbolic violence is, we quickly learn, what everyone else says is “normal.”
Or “helpful and caring.” Or, indeed, a form of “health promotion.”
In nursing school I often witnessed “health promotion” as domination, as subtle manipulation strategically planned by professionals to change other people’s behaviors in the so-called “evidence-based” belief that individual choices–rather than socially constructed conditions–are the primary cause of “physical” illnesses and ailments (such as heart disease, diabetes, and even “mental” illness).
(Through the use “motivational interviewing”, for instance, professionals attempt to “help” you recognize the self harming behaviors that cause your diseases and help you be ready to change your “unhealthy” ways. Or, through the use of “positive psychology”, nowadays, we can all self-help our way out of anguish and emotional suffering.)
As a nursing student I wasn’t supposed to notice the self satisfied, self righteous and Other-condemning moral judgments about “non-compliant” patients who “refused to follow simple dietary instructions!” or “rebelled against” admonishments to “perform the appropriate self care.”
I wasn’t supposed to note the irony, either, I suppose.
Again and again, as nursing students, we were lectured on the important role of critical thinking. Without critical thinking, we were repeatedly warned, as nurses we were likely to end up harming patients without even realizing it. Seriously. Yet my own attempts to apply critical analysis to socially constructed health problems (resulting from chronic oppression or long-term trauma, for example) resulted in disengaging silence–or was met with derisive lectures or “open” debates during which dominant cultural ideology prevailed (the unquestioned medicalization of our lifeworlds, for example).
As a nursing student, I believed good intentions, virtue-based ethics, codes of conduct, evidence-based practices, membership in professional organizations, knowledge, wisdom, and well-honed skills would (somehow) allow nurses and other health professionals to provide “care” and compassion to our fellow human beings. That was then.
Where–behind these professional organizations (APA, AMA, ANA, ADA, etc)–are the powerful forces advocating for moral behavior when symbolic violence arises and is (re)constructed, again and again, in the name of health care and health promotion? Where are their voices of virtuous intentions? (“Do no harm.”)
Health care professions, I have come to realize, are founded on strategic means-ends orientations to efficiency and to successful prediction and control measures. The social construction of suffering and anguish holds no meaning in such a worldview. Analysis of human illness and disease (by medical “science”) largely remains at the level of individual organisms (bodies), in spite of the appropriated language of epidemiology, as if we can understand individual human disease processes like separating individual microbes, in isolation, from all the rest in a petri dish.
I’m tired. I’m grieving.
I fought my way through years of health care education (and hype) with the hope that–as a result of careful study and ethical practices–I could be of greater service to human beings in need, and in the hope that I could earn my living in an ethical way–without sacrificing my deepest values and without reproducing the structures of domination and the culturally approved forms of harm (in the name of efficiency, or progress, or “caring”) that engulfs our daily lives.
I was deluded. Deranged. Demented.
I tried to blame myself. I tried to tell myself that I was too weak or damaged to tolerate the necessary practices involved in contemporary health “care.” I tried very hard to believe that where there was a will (through the proper application of my actions and conscience), there would be a way (to help other people by providing them with health care “services”).
I have come to believe otherwise.
I’m going to be okay. This painful process, however, is like recovering from a long, serious, and very costly disease. It takes time. It requires gentle self care and the kind, loving support of others. It demands the realignment, restructuring, revision, and (re)creation of my internal/external lifeworlds, processes that–as the names imply–happen over a lifetime. Any thorough process of enlightenment takes place in a social–rather than individual–realm of existence. I cannot change myself. I cannot sustain myself. I need others.
I need to live with–to be in communication with–powers greater than any I can construct or envision with my own Self or with my own thinking.
Otherwise, symbolic violence defeats me.
My past escape from physical violence holds little meaning when I fall prey, repeatedly, to symbolic violence–to socially constructed forms of domination and control which feed on my life’s beauty and vitality–and on yours–and which empty us of meaningful communion, compassion, art as experience, and love.
Thank you for being part of a process I can barely begin to articulate in language. Thank you for witnessing–and for sharing your own experiences of vulnerability and hope.
Posted on March 10, 2012 by hopefulandfree
i hope i can mostly stop trying to figure things out or think problems through to arrive at an answer, which is a form of rationalization, putting a moral spin on decisions to make myself or another believe the choice i’ve made is better than an alternative–
instead, this feels like a long experiment, a suspension of both belief and disbelief, a let’s-see-what-happens-now kind of approach, a continuation of a neverending
maybe this is insanity, so-called mental illness, that state of existing with pained uncertainty and hope, undifferentiated,
it doesn’t really matter what this is labelled, though, this strange experience of not knowing and fear and abandonment sorrow,
a separation inside from the unnamed
this ache for reunion of hearts,
the sense that my body is my mind,
mind is as much in my extremities, in my lymph and blood and hot tissues all around my skin, both air and liquid pulse, inside throughout is mind, knowing, sensing, memories, these ideas cannot live in a head as thing we imagine is
our powerhouse, our brain function, we are–
both common and uncommon, not some strange animal cut off from direction and guidance, not a stumbling creature of the night struggling for a single gentle touch,
but like a wild goose in her flock, a soaring image striving as if forward, she does not need to know the flock’s destination, does not need to
see the vast plain below, at once, and does not need to see the wingtips of her fellow travelers to live as part of a whole, inseparable, not a body apart from
a mind, not a dichotomy–
a pure spirit of freely woven space and time, blackness in light, enfolded over feathers and soft down of sturdy delicate nests where eggs settle in warm abundance, tap tapping before
the soft crack of creamy shell, the wet earth,
pungent as ancient moss, small wet being
blinking forth first breath—of
Posted on March 7, 2012 by hopefulandfree
here is the space i bring my unreason, my clump of former me, the fetal tissue of a growing being not yet seen,
here is how i leave the deadly terror of daily life to rest then expire, the way i abandon control, allow stillness to enter my soul,
this other realm is mystery, a cloud of clear light guiding the threads of my spirit set free to float,
like dangling fragments of neural anatomical flagella,
alighting from the whole, drifting as oceanic man o’ war clustering about the dusk of humankind,
observe, child, the rate at which the people race from each task, ever faster, more effective as equipped with servitude to unseen force,
jump, now, take the racing ferry leaving dock–the next you sense, unseen, take it to the place in the river of time, dream time, the images surrounding
just before you wake, the people singing grouped as one, voices raised in hope, it’s here, you’ve seen the invisible, heard without listening, the sounds
like music from inner worlds,
imaginary stops along the way
on our shared