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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sunday Soapbox

I will continue posting on the twelve people I would like to interview on Monday. All my research is on the computer at school, and though its only a couple of blocks away and I could retrieve it I think I'll wait. Give me hours and hours of doing nothing but watching students take tests and it's either think deep philosophical thoughts or let your mind go blank. With all due respect to one of my interviewees, I'm not into nothingness.

Of all the posts I've written in some time the one that seems to have generated the most interest is the one on Freud's tripartite persnona (superego, ego, id). When I visited Micheal Prescott's blog this week he also had a post on egoism that generated well over 40 comments (nice to have that many readers who acutally leave comments), but then he's more of a mainstream author than this humble blogger.
I only mentioned the Freud's use of those three words in order to fully explain the definition of the IDIOT as that word is used as a synonym for stupid. The definition I used I learned from reading Thieves in High Places by Jim Hightower. An early victim of Karl Rove's scorched earth political policy.

Since the tripartite persona (a phrase mentioned by a commenter from my fair city) has generated such interest I have pondered it in my mind for the last few days. The following (if anyone is still reading my stilted prose) are my thoughts.

The power of three:
In the post on Buddha it mentioned that he lived a life of luxury, then of privation and he came to the conclusion that the middle path was the way to enlightenment (my summation). The stoics in Greco-Roman philosophy called it "The Golden Mean" Starting with Zeno and encompassing a slave Epictetus and the Emperor Marcus Aurelius the emphasis was on avoiding pleasure in order to reduce pain. Maybe they suffered from too many hangovers after all that wine drinking?
Christianity, by way of post exile Judaism developed the concept of Spirit, Soul and Flesh. So really in essence Freud just put in his psychological gobledygook what just about everyone else for thousands of years have already known. I've even read that psychologists are trying to digitize the concept of evil. At what point does a person get so caught up in his (pleasure, flesh, id, pick a term) and his or her actions become so damaging to others that it becomes evil. Maybe that's the weakness of the dual concept of Zoroastrianism and Judaic-Christian-Muslam thought. There's only Good and Evil, without a ballancing word or thought. There Ahura-Mazda or Ahriman, God or Satan. Would Christ as intercessor and forgiveness act as the ballancing agent? I think as Christian perhaps Jews and Muslims would find a similar ballancing agent as well (food for further thought) Are there any Zoroastrians left alive or has Der Decider's Crusade in Iraq wiped them all out?

Leaving Philosophy -- More of Bruce's specialty than mine. I turn to history for an explanation.
At the rood of the tripartive persona is culture and civilization. A hermit living alone in a cave can't be either good or bad, righteous or evil, civilized or barbarian. He is by necessity living only for himself, but harming no one else. The above mentioned concepts only apply once there is a grouping of people. Humans as a whole don't do well as solitary individuals, we are by nature social animals and we view as good or bad what one persons actions have on the others around him (it's stilted to be politically correct here, I'm a man and am going to refer to the generic person in the masculine pronoun to fuss over this is to miss the point of the discussion).
Hunter gatherers live by one set of natural laws. Their existence depended on taking what they could find, and by protecting their territory from other groups of people as strongly as we would protect our refrigerator from a stranger that wonders in and starts grabbing the food in it. If you look at the taboos or laws developed in nomadic and semi-nomadic cultures placed in the context of their existence the laws make sense. Most of the early law givers like Hammurabi and Moses had very harsh penalties for the least littl infraction. Being lazy and drunk -- death, Playing around with another man's wife -- death, murder -- death. Nomadic people have a bare existence style of living -- anyone not pulling their weight, but eating more than they were contributing could make everyone starve to death. Starting a blood feud over a woman or a brawl that got out of hand could result in killings for generations (the Jews and Arabs are still at it). What is amazing though in looking at different nomadic societies each tribe faced with the same circumstance still behave differently. In exploring the Pacific Europeans found some islanders friendly and open to trade and others fierce and deadly. What makes one group of people open to outsiders and others become cannibals and head hunters? Did the cannibals think of themselves and evil?
The Spanish pat themselves on the back for stopping the indigenous population of Mexico and Peru from human sacrifice while killing off millions with disease and enslavement. But in their mind the Aztecs and Incas got the better bargain -- eternal life by becoming Christian.

What is the Middle Path, the Golden Mean, the soul? What defines the difference between altruism and hedonism?
Every culture or society defines their own, yet there is still within all of us regardless of culture, society or history a concept of light and dark, right and wrong, good and evil. I think of that line being the suffering of others.
Is it right for the CEO of a corporation that just lost 70 million dollars in the last year to pocket 25 million dollars in salary while laying off thousands of workers?
Is it right for the people of this country to pay three Trillion dollars over the next one hundred or more years, and ruining or costing the lives of millions of people to win a war, when the leaders haven't defined the word win?
Has our country fallen into the deepest darkest pit of depravity when the Attorney General refuses to admit that torture is torture, and the President vetoes a bill making the military and CIA abide by their own manuals?
Where is the SOUL that should be ballancing (remember our concept of checks and ballances) these behaviors?

I see America's soul being fought out in this election.
John McCain sold his soul to evil when he advised Bush to veto the anti-torture bill. How bankrupt has the man become who was himself once a victim of torture to now embrace it. Stockholm syndrome does not apply. It is his overwhelming desire to become President and that the only way he thinks he can do it is to embrace the barbarians in the Republican Party's ultraconservative thinktanks. I see no Spirit or altruism in the Republicans -- their Bible has become Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, an oath that all her disciples should take: "I swear by my life and my love of it -- that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for the sake of mine."
Hedonism and anarchy defined in a nutshell. "I've got mine baby because I've got the biggest gun, or lawyer, or judge --you're on your own don't bother me."
And how can those that want to plaster John 3:16 all over the airwaves support this anti-sacrificial philosophy by pointing to the person who made the ultimate sacrifice?
They can't even get the oath fully realized because how can you fight a war to enrich Daddy Warbucks without asking others to sacrifice and die for it? How can those CEO's make their millions without putting half their labor force out of work?
They don't see themselves as evil any more than the Pacific Island Head Hunters, but the world is no longer isolated and has the luxury of allowing cultures or political parties to prove thier virilty by the suffering of others.

With all the fighting between Obama and Clinton they represent the path out of the anarchy and destruction caused when Der Decider let slip the dogs of war. (my apologies to Shakespear), but that won't be enough. Congress needs 60 seats to be filibuster proof. When I see the long lines of voters and read that in a recent poll Dubbya's approval rating is down to 17% I see the SOUL of America reassurting itself. We The People are coming around, but it will have to be in such great numbers to offset the Thieves who stop at nothing to steal elections.


Unknown said...

p m: A very interesting post. I earned my BA in Psychology in 1999 and disliked Freud. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs was a favorite of a classmate of mine. Alfred Adler was interesting. But Laura Schlesinger, Rush Limbaugh and Dennis Praeger I would certify as "idiots"! I do look for humor in the presidential race. So far, all I could find was a press conference when Ron Paul walked out on stage and had to be told where the podium was! :D

P M Prescott said...

When the politics of fear takes over there's not much left to laugh at.

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