Is Loyalty A Type Of Private Prejudice?

I believe in human rights, which is to say that I value righteousness and the utmost importance of moral accountability. I believe that we have the moral responsibility to care for universally acknowledged and shared values such as dignity and to be treated fairly and respectfully, to have equal opportunity and access to employment and education no matter one’s age, gender, sexual orientation, religion or culture and to have the freedom to enable independence – particularly the freedom of thought – which returns back to access to education. I remember when I was in secondary school, I was the person protecting “nerds” from the “jocks” because I was popular as well as smart, the one known to fight against authoritarian teachers and was frequently punished with suspensions and detentions. I reflect how Aristotle’s The Golden Mean and Confucianism were both incredibly appealing to me at a very young age because I naturally desired respect and equality as though instinctually aligned with that type of regularity and balance. I understood the relevance of self-cultivation, appreciated concepts of honour and integrity, and held the ideas of goldin (loyalty) in high esteem as they nurture relationships that promote social harmony.

Loyalty plays a significant role in moral agency as it enables cooperation in order to shape and apply ethical values, and we often approach the subject under the common understanding that it is an ethical principle held in esteem as a favourable moral condition. Indeed, loyalty to your wife or husband and commitment to a promise illustrates moral behaviour and accountability especially through difficult times either during a marriage or when experiencing personal affliction, sharing the burden and helping the other now a part of your life to find relief because you desire both you and your partner to be happy. While the inherent nature of our motivations remains problematic, it returns back to that regularity and balance, this pride in upholding morally worthy behaviour and this is only achieved in mutual recognition based on trust. But is that loyalty? Or is that commitment defined by an underlying friendship or a bond enjoined by empathy, this moral consciousness that I refer to as ‘love’ where one identifies the deeper need to see their beloved happy and desirous to share a life with them? That is, an effortless outcome caused by a will mediated by empathy that stands as a mechanism of reason to mediate the relationship between our private motivations and social patterns? There have been instances where women who are conscious of their husbands cheating turn a blind eye, men who tolerate unbearable circumstances because of their obligation to their religion rather than their will leading to all sorts of hidden depravities as visible with the Catholic Church and the crimes against children some priests have committed. Can one not say that a Nazi was loyal, that criminals who have killed and murdered show loyalty, that ethnocentric behaviour or Othering is a type of loyalty: “By the process of Othering, the colonizers treat the colonized as ‘not fully human’ and as a result, it dehumanizes natives. Othering codifies and fixes the self as the true human and the other as other than human. The Colonizers consider themselves as the embodiment of “proper self” while label the colonized as ‘savages.'”[1] Can we call criminals loyal?

At a social and political level, such unity can be empowering as it enables solidarity that functions as a conduit to communicate order, where numerous people identify with the same ideas and form a sense of belonging and comradeship. Foucault speaks of this power being as much a positive network then negative that shapes society into a coherent whole, indeed the very framework that enables emotional feelings of belonging and give one an identity and purpose. Loyalty nurtures cooperation and social harmony, but it additionally shapes distinctions and differences, that while it characterises ideas of social inclusion and connectedness also promotes exclusivity that loses the essential traits of a community. Therein forms a phenomenological reduction where prejudicial preconceptions are mistaken as the truth and where no other cognitive activity or individual volition is left. Injustice and highly immoral behaviour suddenly becomes “fact” because the group or power structure has reinforced the provision and motivation to believe automatically that it is fact and so prejudice becomes the enabler that destroys the ethical purpose of loyalty.

A man who is automaton in his sexist or misogynistic behaviour removes the individual and turns women into an object, unconsciously or immediately assessing her qualities comparative to this archetype shared to him by his environment. He would defend any man, even the most wretched of men, over a woman (rapists are suddenly given compassion over the victim who appears to be ‘asking for it’ and her behaviour is questionable despite the fact that he is the violent rapist) and without reason or logic involuntarily assumes that his faux ‘knowledge’ is a circumstance of reality. It just is, despite logic, despite evidence on the contrary, therein remains a deeply embedded benevolent sexism that is immovable because the power of this ‘knowledge’ has solidified into the unconscious iceberg where it is frozen into ‘fact’ and therefore no longer requires further thought. His loyalty to men is prejudicial, despite assuming that it is positive and even more disturbingly a moral attribute. Do the men of Sudan and other parts of Africa and the Middle East really find genital mutilation attractive?

Kant purports that the Categorical Imperative is that very maxim where the moral agent is tested, confirming whether they are enabled to rationalise and reason the just and appropriate way and motivated to act accordingly. Loyalty seems to me to not be defined as a standalone moral or ethical attribute but rather the product of one’s private motivations, illustrating the difference between someone who has conformed in blind submission leaving their behaviour to chance with someone who can rationalise and distinguish morally appropriate behaviour independently, to understand moral worthiness without religious or social approval and the need to belong as their primary motivator. They have transcended toward independent thinking and have overcome the fear of any potential aggression or isolation it may initiate. Loyalty is indeed a virtue, but it remains relative and regulated by something much more important. Reason.

It is clear that a distinction needs to be made, one such already touched upon by Josiah Royce and while, albeit, there certainly requires more depth that he has offered, has attempted to explain that loyalty is a commitment and the conditions for genuine loyalty is choice, much the same way he establishes a distinction between a crowd and a community. “A crowd, whether it be a dangerous mob, or an amiably joyous gathering at a picnic is not a community. It has a mind, but no institutions, no organizations, no coherent unity, no history, no traditions.”[2] A community is an emotional extension of ourselves and a materialisation of our subjective individuality through something concrete that society enables and loyalty is that commitment to the choice of serving it ethically. Loyalty is the right word to describe the unity and connectedness that forms through freedom of choice just like a ‘mistake’ materialises only when one feels remorse after becoming conscious of making a mistake, otherwise it would not be a ‘mistake’ and in much the same way ‘loyalty’ only materialises when one becomes conscious of and decides to approach her values willingly. Criminals who are committed are not loyal but predatory because it lacks any cognitive ‘scrutiny’ that enables him to question right or wrong behaviour.[3] What makes something truly moral is the authenticity of the motivations; am I saying this and am I agreeing with that only so that other people will accept me or because I want something or I am afraid of being disliked, or am I saying this because I have a gut feeling it is the right thing to do and I am not afraid of trusting that despite potentially aggravating people or being disconnected or dislocated.

This leads me to the following. I have just left staying in the refugee camp for almost a month and the circumstances were rather dire. As I meet new people and hear their personal and sometimes shattering stories, I see how living under occupation in the extremely dense conditions where everyone is in close proximity to one another, rubbish piling on the streets that is sporadically collected by local garbage collectors paid a measly amount by UNRWA, unemployment at almost 50% where youth roam hopelessly despite many with high academic credentials but who are unable to afford the costs of further study, who are exposed to violence and prison that has almost become normalised, it is hard not to feel a sense of righteousness and to desire improvement. I am loyal to human rights and that all people deserve to be treated fairly and with dignity, the military occupation being predatory by imposing such discriminatory restrictions that it led to the very violence it was seeking to control.

However, the atmosphere of hostility that compelled Israel was also initiated by the aggression and opposition it experienced particularly from the Arab world that led to today’s oppressive military occupation and political groups such as Hamas continue to weaken the prospect of peaceful relations through continued hostility. They are justified. They seek to protect their own and the Palestinian social and political landscape has a great deal of improvements that need to be made. While conditions of the occupied territories can be improved as must the political regime of Palestine, the occupation itself must and needs to end in order to enable that domestic transition and further changes, which again returns to the problem of Israel building settlements and provoking further aggression. It is undignified having Palestinians leave the bus on their way to Jerusalem to be checked at gunpoint while the rest of us remained on the bus.

I care for people and unfortunately the majority of Palestinian people are innocent, they are truly suffering but remain hospitable and kind. Removing the intensity of the security and sometimes the bad behaviour of security personnel, so are the Israelis. Yet, when I say that I support the Palestinian people, I am immediately opposed to Israel. When I say I support Israel, I am immediately opposed to Palestine. I am forced to make a choice and I absolutely refuse to. Therein lies the fear that I will lose favour from either side. My political and legal criticisms will remain impartial and I am determined to be vociferousness against any clear legal, humanitarian and human rights breaches from both sides. I will liberally criticise racism present in Zionism without being called an anti-Semite and I will liberally criticise terrorists labelled ‘martyrs’ without feeling threatened. I believe absolutely in the inherent freedom to criticize governments. Silencing the Palestinian voice and having the military commit gross human rights abuses is unacceptable and I will fight that. It does not imply that I am against the existence of Israel.

I feel like I am a mother with two sons who both don’t seem to get along but both of whom I love very much and both as guilty as they are innocent, the cycle of distrust and violence in continuity because they are too stubborn to accept their misdeeds. I listen to both and hear the same narratives being repeated and I worry that heightened in-group/out-group hostility – the whole “I am right and you are wrong” behaviour – may create the conditions to enable underlying prejudices guide discourse that will eventually solidify into “fact” without thought. I am afraid it has but I refuse to implicit favoritism on either side.

I sit in transit on my way out of Israel, a tear rolls down my cheek.

 

[1] S. R. Moosavinia, N. Niazi, Ahmad Ghaforian, Edward Said’s Orientalism and the Study of the Self and the Other in Orwell’s Burmese Days, Studies In Literature and Language, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2011, pp. 103-113
[2] Josiah Royce, John Edwin Smith (1988). “Josiah Royce: Selected Writings”, p.272, Paulist Press
[3] https://www.iep.utm.edu/roycejos/#SH2b

Freakonomics

Some actually believe that they are entitled to more than others, that somehow the colour of their skin and how popular they are determines this privilege. They grow up being served and like a spoilt child who with a cry or with a scream can ensure he gets what he wants, he grows up to believe that despite doing nothing for this world, despite having nothing interesting about him, everyone will still adore him as he did growing up. He then continues by injecting steroids into his system to physically appear masculine and finding a stupid, attractive girlfriend and there you have it, the image of perfection and happiness, just like the millions of others doing the exact same thing because they think the exact same thing. These young men then interact with virtual reality by playing violent video games to give them artificial feelings of strength and power to compensate for the powerlessness they feel to be themselves. I think this quote perfectly epitomises the biggest problem in our society today: “It means that mummy and daddy have been spoiling you, and now you think that the world owes you something, but it doesn’t. And if you don’t learn how to work hard now, then you’re going to just grow up to be like another entitled little white dude who thinks he’s awesome for no reason. And then you’ll start a Ska Band and it’ll be awful and you’ll be mean to girls, and you’ll grow this ironic moustache to look interesting but you won’t actually be interesting, and I’m not okay with that.” [1]

And yet, if so many millions think that happiness is attainable by these superficial means, suddenly this imagined ideal requires ugly people to go, the elderly need to be hidden away, where rape, terrible violence, poverty are somehow swept under the carpet so that life becomes perfectly singular. If you deviate from this norm you are damaged and need to be removed, just like a divorced child is outcast in a society that regulates marriage. It is a social pathology of being ‘normal’ and that suddenly – despite being superficial in order to achieve this normalcy – you are safe and secure from the terror of being different and the isolation of being disliked. A pathology explains a mental state engaged in constant maladaptive behaviour and actual reality becomes a shadow, an imagined state and like a neurological disease it has somehow become broadly acceptable because it blinds our fear to recognise the absolute futility and vanity of our behaviour. “Let them eat cake!”

Has a parasite infected the minds of the masses or am I unable to recognise that such mindlessness is a necessary component for a functioning economy, that despite the absence of a moral compass, capitalism requires men to believe that the drudgery of their existence, the deep and incredibly profound boredom that they feel is nevertheless worthy, that they are important and that they are the best human that they can be? The amount of money that women spend on cosmetics is reprehensible – the average woman in Australia spends up to $3,600 on beauty products each year – and the fact that millions upon millions of women are doing the same thing in this highly competitive space that makes all of them look and appear the same, starving themselves, changing their bodies, and acting or behaving ‘nice’ makes me wonder how terrible our spending priorities have become.

Capitalism needs people to imagine individuality. Benedict Anderson wrote of Imagined Communities that examines how nationalism emerges out of our creation of a community as it forms through the discourses that are generated by the capitalist marketplace where we start to construct likes and dislikes that enables people to think in masses. For Karl Marx, the competition forms a monopoly that perpetuates a great divide between the wealthy and the exploited and thus the incentive for wealth sows the seeds of its own destruction. For Foucault, the discourses strengthens the social network and can effectively enable positive relations despite there being no real ‘truth’ in what is broadly accepted as truth.

“I think that the word bored does not get the attention it deserves. We speak of all sorts of terrible things that happen to people, but we rarely speak about one of the most terrible things of all: that is, being bored, being bored alone and, worse than that, being bored together.”

I realised that I lack sympathy, that my disgust for those types of people who believe in the vanity of appearances and spend money on fashion and make-up and who follow an image of “good” behaviour despite the shallowness and emptiness of who they are, deserves more compassion. These people are trapped in that constant repetition, they are paralysed by a fear of confronting reality because if they do, if they become conscious that their existence as merely a tiny, irrelevant speck attached to a delusional mass, the system would collapse. Would that be a good thing?

In the book Freakonomics, there is the exploration of the immoral that is formed within this system, that ‘good behaviour’ is in fact a disguise rooted by incentives that compel people to act as long as they receive something that they want in return. Even with our relationships with one another, it is not about being honest or humane but whether or not there is an incentive, something that I can receive in return. In Japan, for instance, society ignored that match-fixing existed in the realm of Sumo wrestling and that the violence and abuse of this hierarchical and highly competitive system was impossible. The terrible truth was eclipsed by tradition and the image of something beautiful and perfect. Like the myth of Narcissus who viewed his own reflection and fell in love with his own image, he no longer lived neither as a man or a hunter and died staring at himself.

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I decided that while the system is there for a reason, it is morally broken. The supplementary book Think Like A Freak speaks of the “upside of quitting” and that by thinking like a ‘freak’ and therefore challenging the norm in an absence of fear can lead one to greater success and happiness.  As said by the authors: “Quitting is hard because it is equated with failure, and nobody likes to fail, or at least be seen failing. But is failure so terrible? We don’t think so.” If society functions under an imagined landscape where our moral compass is really just ignoring the bad things that are happening or pretending that there are no vulnerable that need our help, that there is happiness in the objects or things that we buy, it offers the opportunity for politicians and institutions to take advantage of this propensity to self-deceit. They begin to irrationally consume and forget the importance of our humanity.

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Translating our understanding of the world realistically based on economic terms may actually benefit us. The system won’t collapse. It will improve, no matter how terrible we think the outcome will be. “When failure is demonized, people will try to avoid it at all costs—even when it represents nothing more than a temporary setback.” Whatever the change is, whether it is job, partner or friends, what might appear to be the complete destruction of your life is just a temporary set back to something better. That way, our moral compass becomes real and impenetrable.

I have spent so long pointlessly trying to fight against the grain of social cliche and have decided to spend my time actually making a difference.

On Forgiveness: The Individual Represents The State

I seem to find myself saying that we need to give love and then having to explain what that means, so I may as well start with it. Love is moral consciousness, that being loving is having the awareness and the need to create what is both right and good to all. Each time I wanted to write about forgiveness, it felt inappropriate as though I were not allowed considering that I still felt resentment, still fought with people, or that people thought I was bad or weird and therefore I did not have the authority to discuss such a subject. To be angry is wrong or as the Stoics believe ungoverned anger begets madness, and while the idea that anger and love are mutually exclusive, is there no such thing as injustice? The term humanity explains our capacity for benevolence, propriety and loving-kindness, but there are crimes against humanity and gross injustice that demonstrates our capacity for evil, to look the other way, to hate or abuse those who are vulnerable. There are many layers to anger, one being the socially constructed character where ‘masculinity’ is defined by this permission to display aggression while ‘feminine’ is restraining such emotions, thus when a woman displays anger she becomes ‘crazy’ because of this contrast just as much as a quiet man is labelled cowardly. The other is anger as primitive, egotistic, an unauthored state of mind that rises like steam in the heat of the moment from the reservoir of our deepest emotions and fears especially when we lose control, giving us a false sense of empowerment. Does a person scream because they seek to display power and dominate the situation, or do they scream because they feel they are not being heard or acknowledged?

 

The Individual


Unrequited feelings of rejection is one thing, but having the person that you have feelings for mistreat you is another. The hurt is considerable. I felt incredibly small and worthless, shrinking into the shadows that it soon became clear that my life was withering away.  ‘Stop. Leave me alone,’ I would mutter in desperation when his taunting became unbearable. I could no longer fight against all the games he played and the pretending he did that quite simply broke my heart. I needed him gone so the hurt could go with him. He was another monster in a series of people who had let me down, including my father. My father was a very aggressive man and his aggression stemmed purposefully because he was raised in an environment that told him how he should treat women, his wife and children and his fellow men and my father was the type to do what he was told. It is unfortunate that in the Turkish culture that he grew up in, what he was told to do were all wrong and where masculinity and ‘being a man’ were defined by your capacity for violence. The survival of the fittest. He often ruminated, however, how much he wished to have been educated and you could see deep within him that longing to shatter the chains of the cultural repression that forced him to be a monster and normalised and accepted his bad behaviour.

My mother could never tell my father that he was a monster that she instead took her aggression out on me and she would always do this when no one was around to witness her behaviour. Words like ‘slut’ and ‘bitch’ were hurled in my direction, opinions like ‘you are worthless’ and ‘never come to my funeral when I die’ were consistently launched before she would go to my father and others and claim that I abused her. I was mistreated and then blamed as though I deserved the mistreatment. It was much worse from my siblings who constantly taunted and belittled me in much the same manner, my eldest brother violent and my sisters cruel. I was ugly, stupid and had no purpose in life other than to serve and as this occurred from such a young age being the youngest in my family, I came to believe it. Violence is both physical and psychological.

It is incredibly difficult finding dignity and self-respect when people directly or indirectly tell you that you are not good enough and it is especially worse when it comes from the people that you love or admire, from your parents or siblings, your lover and your friends. We are taught from a young age that receiving any love or approval is conditional, that we need to obey and do what we are told, that right and wrong behaviour is defined by others, to make decisions and appear a certain way that is approved of by society that our identity is determined by this approval. We build on that, our efforts become all about performing the best according to what our environment dictates, to appear popular and congratulated and so we work hard trying to receive the love from others. When others tell us we are good, that must mean that we are good. When others tell us we are bad, we must be bad. It is about quantity, the more people like us or agree with us then we become more right and more worthy.

But what happens to our identity within all of this, what happens when we realise that all our efforts are simply trying to get other people to tell us we are good and it does not matter how artificial we are in our attempt to attain this? Do we exist, or is our real identity a Jungian ‘shadow’ or the unknown part of our personality that even we don’t completely understand? To realise that we – who we really are – does not actually matter, we come to see that our efforts is vanity, our relationships artificial, and that we are in fact alone because you cannot satisfy something that is insatiable. That is, within that existential nightmare where hedonism and aggression are suddenly permitted, can people recognise who we really are, can love – moral consciousness – be possible? If so, if we create meaning consciously and if our humanity is dependent on our moral fibre, how do we reach out and find that capacity to work against the grain? How can we give, rather than try to receive, love?

The State


In Plato’s The Republic, Socrates explains the individual soul by dividing its purpose into a triptych of 1. rational, 2. emotional and 3. instinctual or the appetites that compel us to pursue our desires. The analogy of the soul is an attempt to demonstrate that while we have those three functions, an individual is capable of being just or moral when they can find an equilibrium or balance between all three. This psychological account of the subjective self is similar to the Freudian division of the psyche, that to repress or restrain our desires can lead to a tumorous pathology elsewhere. Socrates further explains that the soul of the individual or what makes the individual capable of being just is aligned in similar vein to the function of a city or a state. Thus the individual represents the state; murder and mass murder function in much the same way, but on a larger scale.

The Palestinian/Israeli conflict epitomises continuity of aggression and violence and with the diplomatic difficulties between both parties when attempting to find a solution, forgiveness at political level becomes all the more difficult. Following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the United Kingdom gained administrative control of Palestine under the 1922 mandate that formalised British rule in the region by the League of Nations. The violence between Jews and Palestinians occurred at this time as decisions of who will sovereign the region became announced as discussions on the subject ensued. Palestinians were ignored until the British finally announced that it will be a place for Jewish settlement at a time where the Jews themselves were – through Germany and the holocaust – required protection. It did not help that Palestinian leadership under al-Husseini decided to strengthen relations with Germany, a British enemy at the time. When World-War II was over and the United Nations forged, the General Assembly Resolution 181 (II) Future Government of Palestine was articulated as a way to divide the territories into what is known as the two-state solution, something that continues to be rejected by Palestinians. At the time, it was largely rejected by the Arab world that led to Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967, the former leading to ‘The Catastrophe’ or An-Nakba that resulted in what remains the longest refugees without a homeland in the world.

What happens to the identity of the Palestinians in all of this? The lack of acknowledgement, impoverished without proper leadership and guidance? The rise of the Palestinian Liberation Authority further perpetuated the anger and aggression, where the conditions within the occupied territories worsened to a point of leading to several ‘Intifida‘ or an attempt to remove the powerful grip that Israel had on the Palestinian people. In the context of international law, sovereignty is limited to a state with geographical boundaries, recognised by other states as having stable governance and a capacity for diplomatic relations defined by a permanent population or citizenship. Israel has successfully done this and have the right to be there, but symbolically they continue to struggle justifying – other than through a historical and religious context – their reason to be there. They have adequately and successfully developed a stable polity and society but borne out of aggression and violence such as building settlements in illegal territories. The victim – the Palestinians – are socially and politically in disarray and without adequate leadership and proper legislative boundaries that enable a ‘natural balance’ of the political soul to form a just society, factional differences such as that between Hamas and Fatah will continue to cause delays in reconciliation. They are left with the symbolic right to determination without any practical or organised capacity in our contemporary legal definition of statehood.

 

 

To Fight The Good Fight


 

How do you proceed when you have been hurt so much? How do you find forgiveness? When I experienced the violence both verbally and emotionally, that feeling of emptiness and heart-ache made it difficult for me to function adequately. I was sad and emotional. I lost a lot of weight and became very sick. I had to take care of myself through the difficulties and that resilience through the mental and physical difficulties is hard, because as the victim you should not be the one making the effort to improve. You took it from me and I want it back from you. Until I was able to find that inner voice and function with a healthy mindset, forgiveness within an unstable and unsettled subjectivity is impossible. As Tracy Chapman perfectly said, “unsettled hearts promise what they can’t deliver.” When I reflected on most of the hurt that I experienced from others, from those who were responsible to care for me and those who were irresponsible as people while my own personal life was in disarray, I was not able to see things objectively.

It was only after this, after having lost so much and building myself up again through all the hurt that I was able to understand why my parents and others mistreated me. They have the same pressure as everyone else, to work for and try and impress the people in their social environment or culture in order to gain their approval and recognition so as to form that meaning and identity. While they were making every effort to be recognised by their society, they were failing and became resentful themselves, attacking others in this highly competitive social dynamic thinking that by bringing other people down, they can climb up higher and feel greater worth. It is an artificial sense of empowerment where they feel some control because they feel they have no control. They become destructive and cannot articulate or explain their frustrations because they simply do not understand it.

Just like capitalism, aggression is as Rousseau claims, namely that people are good by nature but are corrupted by society. The Judeo-Christian concept of evil is this considering it opposes authenticity in moral consciousness and thus evil is our failure to think for ourselves and this is the root of our aggression and hatred. The narration by Jesus that “small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” is an explanation of just how difficult it is to recognise yourself and overcome the anxiety of letting go of social norms that stops you from ever finding the capacity to create meaning for yourself. It is in morality and creativity that meaning can be formed and why Kant concludes God as necessary (although I actually believe in the existence of God). It does not, however, suddenly mean those who have mistreated and wronged me are no longer responsible for their actions given the fact that they are ignorant.

I realised that I first needed to apologise to myself, to forgive myself for failing to find my own voice, my own identity through all that I had experienced. Despite the difficulties, when I reflect I see that most of the struggles that I endured were really my own self-defence mechanisms refusing to let go and move forward. Acknowledgement is something that is given and I needed to acknowledge myself through the echoes of all the hateful comments and attacks and transcend all that to appreciate myself and find that dignity and self-respect. To give love does not suddenly exclude you, you too are as much a part of humanity as anyone else and that enabled me to see me as a part of the world around me, to recognise and appreciate my consciousness and freedom to create what is beautiful; that is, what is good. I began to commit myself to helping people as I was taking care of myself at the same time, learning and increasing my knowledge or as said in Isaiah, “lengthen your cords, strengthen your stake.” I am still learning and I have indeed a great deal to learn, but it is a process that creates and improves, something aggression cannot do.

In doing so, I recognise all the suffering my mother went through, and I began to feel compassion for my mother and can see why she struggled, what she experienced and went through, all her hardship. It does not change that she wronged me, but I found forgiveness as though I could see a little girl in my mother and despite the tantrums, I wanted to hug her and kiss her. I saw in my father the intensity of the constructs of masculinity coerced by his environment that obstructed his genuine identity and a little boy afraid that he is not strong enough in a violent society that continuously threatened him and suddenly I wanted to embrace him and read him a book, to keep him safe from that harmful and toxic culture. Despite my father’s violence toward me and my mother, even he deserves the acknowledgement and by giving both of them that acknowledgement without giving up on me but that together we are a part of something bigger, the attitude of forgiveness is solutions-focused, forward or future-thinking to improve a situation and something aggression will never do.

Palestinians need to improve their government and themselves through the hostility and aggression, that despite the symbolic right to the land and a past laden with violence, they need to work through the reality that Israel is there and there to stay, to form a solid government toward the formation of a recognised state as accepted by international law. Palestinians need to acknowledge Israel and the Jewish people, however hard that may be. There is an absence of rationally defensible moral ideals that has made reconciliation and the effort to overcome the resentment in the region difficult. Working through the numerous issues takes time, but the primary effort relies on the Palestinians despite being the victims. They will then see with justice the reasons why Israel exists, why they needed to form a homeland, the history of the Jewish people and the reasons for their hostility. In the process, however, their conditions will improve and justice will be established. Love is something that we give and justice is something we create.

 

 

 

Mechanisms of Escape: The Occult and Nazism

“The more the drive toward life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive toward destruction; the more life is realized, the less is the strength of destructiveness. Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life.”[1] Society has created the conditions that frustrate the capacity for real individuality. The alienation that one feels unless they adhere to society leaves a person feeling obliged to conform and yet as their own freedom is suppressed become impregnated with agitation that grows into a type of pathology or destructiveness toward both their own humanity by being automaton or to others. Our will is always driven by the question or problem of human existence, to try and find the solution that will enable us to feel happiness. When we do not have the answers, we become insecure at the disassociation or that separateness we feel with ourselves, our past and our future because there is no concrete relatedness or meaning available. We recognise the futility and while feeling profoundly small and insignificant also realise the responsibility we have to create meaning for ourselves. It is at that point that we come to a decision. Do we completely annihilate the self through conformity or create false significance by enlarging our sense of worth by destroying the happiness of others? Or do we embrace our freedom by taking responsibility for our own happiness and thus instead destroy our place in society?

A number of years ago now, I experienced personal afflictions that left me feeling very vulnerable and without any answers as to how I could improve my situation. I found myself desperately wanting to change my environment but did not have the answers for how that could be achieved. In order to alleviate those distressing feelings, I tried to attach myself to something concrete to help save me from realising the abyss of an unlived life. It was as though my life was a painting that initially had symmetry until splatters of paint made it messy, all the mixture of colours blurred and blackened the outcome of what was the purpose of my existence. I had a choice; cover the messy canvas with an artificial layer by forming an attachment to something that will save me from having to take responsibility for creating meaning myself, or destroy the old canvas of my life and start all over again.

But what is this artificial ‘layer’ that covers the canvas? “The frightened individual seeks for somebody or something to tie his self to; he cannot bear to be his own individual self any longer, and he tries frantically to get rid of it and to feel security again by the elimination of this burden: the self.”[2] It is absorbing oneself into another, allowing something other than your own consciousness and rationality to think on your behalf whether it is people, dogma or at the pathological end occultism or new ageism. According to a paper by B. Rosenthal, the occult is a symptom of social and cultural stress. “The occult revival of late 19th and early 20th century Russia was a response to the fading credibility of the Russian Orthodox Church, the spiritual/psychological inadequacy of intelligentsia ideologies, the destabilizing effects of rapid industrialization, and continued political upheaval.”[3] There were many clandestine groups that existed in ancient Europe that were revived in the late 19th century as an answer to social stress as they contained symbols of unity and of special importance that membership enabled meaning. The esoteric or spiritual language established purpose and why the ‘secrets’ can only be revealed to special members to supplement authority and authenticity.

Madame Blavatsky started the Theosophical Society in the United States blending esoteric and the occult with Hindu mysticism and she strongly influenced the revival of occultism all across Europe, including Thule Gesselschaft that was instrumental in the development of the Nazi regime. Aryanism developed as an ideology off the backbone of Theosophy, where Blavatsky claimed that we ultimately evolved from “The Root Races” or ethereal beings from the island of Atlantis, referred to as the Chaya Race. Plato wrote of the lost city of Atlantis in Timaeus and Critias that was later taken by Ignatius Donnelly as an actual historical reality when he reignited the idea that there are descendants of a more advanced or sophisticated culture, all this furthered by Blavatsky in her book of pure nonsense The Secret Doctrine.[4] Despite the actuality of her garbage being eclipsed by the apologists that follow her teachings, the ‘universal brotherhood’ implies that we are single race of beings ‘rooted’ or attached to one another back in time.

But, not all.

The six root-races are the Astral, Hyperborean, Lemurian, Atlantean, Aryan, and the Coming Race, that complete the evolutionary tree. According to Blavatsky, there are sub-human “Semitic” people who are degenerate and ultimately responsible for miscegenation.  She claimed that these were off-shoots that were degenerating the roots of these so-called perfect beings. Despite the current denial that root-races refer to actual race as defined in contemporary intellectual circles, Blavatsky wrote: “The Aryan races, for instance, now varying from dark brown, almost black, red-brown-yellow, down to the whitest creamy colour, are yet all of one and the same stock – the Fifth Root-Race – and spring from one single progenitor.” This gave rise to the idea of purifying or evolving back to the Aryan race with blonde hair and blue eyes progenitors. This relationship between Nazism and Blavatsky is obvious with the Swastika – an ancient Hindu symbol that implies wellbeing or peacefulness – that was used counter-clockwise by the Nazi Germans who imagined a correlation or shared history with the Indian culture as per Blavatsky’ theory. “The Aryan race was born and developed in the far north, though after the sinking of the continent of Atlantis its tribes emigrated further south into Asia.”[5] The Fylfot or Thor’s Hammer is a similar example of Odinic symbolism in Norse and Germanic mythology adopted by the Thule Society, where the Nazi ideology emerged and they had close contacts with the Theosophical society that appropriated the ideas of Blavatsky.

Somotaform disorders is an example of how a person experiencing anxiety is capable of causing actual physical changes. These states communicate psychological distress as though a person understands there to be a problem but does not have the language or words to express this inner life, resulting in physical symptoms that symbolise this distress. The depths of our capacity to believe in unreal or imagined ideas are so powerful that it verifies insanity to be a preferable option over reason or rationality. Just like Somotaform disorders, Aryanism became a real concept that this collective pathology became the tool to justify the murder of so many innocent people as a way to reverse the miscegenation and racial impurity. If occultism is born following the destabilisation effects from the social and political upheaval of the time, it is clear that the social distress following World War One where Germany was pressured with exorbitant repatriation payments vis-a-vis the treaty of Versailles, combined with generations of European anti-Semitism with falsely attributed suspicions of world domination from the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and particularly with Martin Luther’s legacy of anti-Jewish literature, and a mixture of Theosophical, Rosicrucian and Roman history combined became the ingredients that enabled the Nazis to create such an ideology. By imagining the Other in the Jew, they generated the mobilisation required to envision pan-Germanic nationalism, enabling validity and ultimately meaning by enlarging the ego that – through the destruction of others – helped overcome the smallness and insignificance they felt. As said by Schopenhauer: “But every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud adopts, as a last resource, pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and glad to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.”[6]

Occultism or even fundamentalism – where people revert back to old religious traditions and practices since the past is viewed to be a time of ‘happiness’ – is fuelled during periods of social destabilisation, used to explain the problem of human existence by engaging in possibilities for a stable future. Twenty-first century capitalism has fashioned contemporary society to feel more and more alienated from one another that germinates the anxiety and thus the need to form superficial bonds where people become object-related. People attach themselves to the culture and operate en masse but this can only be achieved when everyone believes that they are independent in their decision making, that they are unique and different despite doing exactly what everyone else is doing. The pathology has changed and but still rooted in the same false or imagined idea of reality, leading people to the same destructive channels.  

It is as though destruction seems inevitable until we find the inner peace that comes with independent thinking. Everything else is simply a mechanism to escape from that ability, the fear we have to create meaning for ourselves. Some, such as the Occult, are dangerous for its highly imagined narratives that channel the insanity of this fear. For me, the castle made on sand collapsed – the mind that never thought for herself – and through morality and creativity as variables that confer meaning, I started anew.

 

[1] Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, Open Road Media (2013)
[2] Ibid
[3] Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, The Occult in Modern Russian and Soviet Culture (1993)
[4] Helena P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Penguin (2006)
[5] Ibid
[6] Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms (1970)

The Ethics of Nature

I remember as a child being completely overcome by the beauty of the Dandenong Ranges, the rain hitting the large ferns that danced to the ambience of the meditative bird sounds echoing from the colossal trees above, the smell of the moisture from the earth below that pirouetted with the scent of plants and wood of the forest and it kindled such joy within me that this emotional affinity continues today. I now often find myself retreating into the cool, forest enclaves across Victoria that ignite the same speechless feeling that I experienced many years ago. There are a number of sources that indicate that our time spent out in nature can improve our physical and mental health, from reducing blood pressure, stress, fatigue and even inflammation that lowers the risk of early death, as well as improvement of mood and even self-esteem that alleviates the symptoms of depression and anxiety and enables improved cognition and increased concentration. But, what is this therapeutic benefit, this strong bond or relationship humans have with nature? Like a person who smokes cigarettes, conscious that this is a major health risk but indifferent to the destructive nature of this pointless habit, humanity has become indifferent to the environment, and the ecosystem – like our body – is slowly being poisoned by the damaging effects of greenhouse gases. Do we have a moral obligation to ensure the preservation of our ecosystem and if so, what does the future of this discipline look like?

Several years ago, I went with friends to the Botanical Gardens to watch a movie at an outdoor ‘moonlight’ cinema they created and the noise from the fruit bats living in the surrounding trees brought to light the reasons for their controversial culling. The colonies of flying foxes are migratory and are both a pest as well as a risk to the plants and flowers of the gardens that make them a potential threat to the survival of many rare botanical species. In addition, the fruit bat – also known as the flying fox – carries the Hendra Virus that is transmitted to horses as it ingests food contaminated by bat droppings and other fluids, causing a number of severe symptoms leading to death. This virus can be transmitted to humans from the horse that causes influenza-like symptoms that potentially lead to death. The mortality rate is high and as a consequence fruit bats were ordered to be culled to reduce the growing numbers that reached crises levels. However, animal rights activists called out against the culling of the fruit-bats on account of their declining numbers and the reason for their migration being due to changes to their original habitat. This calls into question the actual problem that should encourage their protection. Indeed, the fruit bat was soon listed by the Federal Government as an endangered species that required an adequate approval process for culling.

When the Prickly Pear Cacti was introduced to Australia in the early twentieth century, the species quickly became an ecological pest that infested millions of hectares of land and devastated the Australian landscape that a radical method to destroy the outbreak was required in order to reduce the invasive botanical spread. Australia did not have the natural resources that could control the cacti and along with the warm climate and bird species that ate and ultimately distributed the seeds, the prickly pear wrought havoc on the land of the early settlers of New South Wales and Queensland. The tremendous effort required to manage the prickly pear cost more then it was worth that a prickly pear destruction committee was developed! It was until the introduction of the cactoblastis caterpillars that they found a solution to successfully control the outbreak and using this biological method – where the eggs and larvae extracted the plants moisture until the plant died – they were finally able to control the infestation of the weed.

It is clear that human behaviour can shape and control some aspects of our environment and our intellectual activity has enabled us to communicate and alter our decisions that allow us to ascertain our responsibility and forecast a sustainable or improved future scenario. To protect the integrity of our ecosystem, however, can sometimes appear to be bigger than us such as the consumption of natural resources including gas and oil that makes the average individual assume an abstract position in this ethical framework, that we can recycle our cans of drink and paper but still drive cars and use the gas stove. What is the difference in value between the prickly pear and the fruit bat? Why do we place more value on the fruit bat over the prickly pear?

Moral consciousness – what I call “love” or our ability to feel empathy and morally deliberate – originates from our understanding of value, where we give objects a moral status or as David Hume would suggest, that moral value is the value that I attach to the object and therefore relational and dependent on the agent. It is aligned with the theory that love is something that we give or entirely subjective and emotive and that what is value is simply what I believe is valuable and does not have an actual real, objective moral value. I clearly have an issue with this despite the logic behind such relational epistemology, because there is an absence of any value at all and thus if nothing has value then morality does not exist either. It also arouses questions on the exclusivity of moral actions – such as human life is intrinsically better than animal life for instance – or whether one outcome is more morally valuable over another. Intrinsic values are deemed to be valuable for itself or ‘in its own right’ whereas instrumental value are actions that are morally permissible based on a number of variables that leads to a moral outcome. If fruit bats were not an endangered species, would culling them be morally wrong?

Kant suggests that intrinsic moral value is the source of morality, that is, that since humanity exhibits as I suggested earlier the rational or cognitive capacity to deliberate moral agency, they thus contain moral value. Humanity contains intrinsic value and thus the agency to rationally will sufficient moral understanding, and while this may be anthropocentric, rights are also aligned with ethical responsibility or that our moral status is multi-faceted and thus we are enabled with the capacity to question and evaluate objects making values variable in nature. This is the nature of the ethical problem at hand, as human beings as moral agents have intrinsic value and with the criterion of rational cognition place value on objects that otherwise are instrumental in value that abandons the moral status to animals or our environment. What that means is that the effects of deforestation in order to power the economic engine of capitalism has more instrumental value than protecting forests, and those for or against deforestation will raise ethical pros and cons of both sides of the argument to try and justify the instrumental value of the environment.

quote-with-all-your-science-can-you-tell-how-it-is-and-whence-it-is-that-light-comes-into-the-soul-henry-david-thoreau-301249

Let’s take a look at McDonalds, with what I believe to be the most strategic and incredibly intelligent marketing campaign that attempts to justify the immorality behind their business by pretending that they are actually going to make a difference to what is their global impact on our environment. McDonalds had started adding “healthy options” to the menu to lure a continuity of customers, to try and be open and accountable about their ingredients to remove doubt as to the quality of their meat, and now are perpetrating a marketing campaign that claims that they are going to reduce their emission intensity by 2030 because of the sheer scale of the food chain’s impact on our environment. How is that possible when aligned with this is their global growth strategy that aims to increase consumer and ultimately business profitability? If the predominant item in the McDonalds menu is beef, let us take a look at cows for a moment. Agriculture is the primary reason for deforestation and not only is this destroying the habitats of thousands of species, but cows that make the meat in the burgers people eat contributes to global greenhouse gases since they produce more methane that has a greater impact on the environment than C02 emissions. What shifty bastards. People are now going to think that since McDonalds is being so-called open and accountable to global warming that eating McDonalds will no longer be immoral when any real attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be to completely stop eating McDonalds, which would contradict their profit goals. It is value-nihilism at best.

Like the gas stove or using the car, people believe their ethical position in this network of environmental change is abstract and that buying lunch at Maccas is really not going to change anything. It challenges the anthropocentrism of our moral position. Intrinsic value is not something exclusive to rational beings who symbolically project from their own mental reality, but rather as Henry David Thoreau states, “to be always on the alert to find God in nature,” and there is no symbolic or spiritual relationship but that moral realism is present in the physical world and can be directly perceived. That nature has intrinsic value and this biocentric angle moulds together the schism between good or bad qualities that we force on nature and thus rational thought and values become inseparable. Consciousness is no longer separate from nature. That like McDonalds, the primary cause of our problems with nature is the coercive projection of our irrational suggestion that only humans have intrinsic moral value; we become a part of nature, giving spirituality or that symbolic or metaphysical moral system a concrete reality (excuse the pun). While there may be a number of limitations to this since everything becomes almost morally impermissible, it certainly avoids that disillusioned or disembodied separateness, an us and them, the same disillusionment between a person who smokes cigarettes and their own body that they treat as an inanimate mechanism.

At the rate of global destruction that has reached a point of existential crises, civil disobedience and our duty to protect the environment and engage against injustice is very clear. I am preparing to embrace this reality around us, that I am not distant or abstract in the world but that spirituality and that symbolic connection is physical and real. As said by Thoreau: “You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”

Social Media. The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.

Several years ago during the most difficult period of my life, the internet became the conduit for me to interact socially while at the same time enabled me to be protected by this simulated reality, where I could sit at home and remain behind the computer at a safe distance from people. It was only earlier this year that I realised I actually believed in this virtual reality, where words that were written online by someone somewhere half-way across the earth was real and I used that as a basis for creating a person in my mind. It was not them. It is not solipsism, they actually exist, but my interpretation of them was imagined and based on the words or the language being communicated between us. John Searle’ famous Chinese Room thought experiment sheds light on the theory of mind where he is sitting alone inside a room in front of a computer and outside there is another person who slips cards with Chinese characters under the door. Using a computer program, he interprets the Chinese characters and reiterates this to fool the person standing outside that he understands Chinese. While the thought experiment is primarily about the differences between artificial intelligence and the human mind, it also argues how we can simulate an artificial appearance of someone that is not really us using language to articulate a type of personality, and by manipulating a string of words that symbolise a personality for someone on the other side of the computer who believes we can appear to have type of character that we really don’t have. It is how we communicate with the external world in order to imagine that we are not alone or separate from one another.

This period of difficulty was primarily due to the loneliness that I felt and social media provided the platform to feel connected and enabled me to share narratives of my experiences to a small but supportive cohort of friends, helping me increase my self-esteem by feeling safe and comfortable to open up and share my experiences. It fostered social connections where I made new friends that influenced me to take a break from the continuous rumination I felt trapped in at the time, teaching me to find that balance in how I communicate by objectifying my ideas and opinions to suit an audience through trial and error [through a ranking system of “likes” – the less likes, the less significant] and helped me escape from that repetitive themes of negative thought. I slowly became actively engaged and have forged satisfying and positive friendships by creating an environment of like-minded people. This was based on the decision to remove toxic people from my life and to begin believing that I am worthy and deserve to create my own happiness, removing myself from an environment that once stated how bad I am and how worthless I am where this noise pollutes your sense of self-worth and clarity to be yourself. I was encouraged to feel included by good people.

This socio-semantic web is a platform that enables virtual communication both with words but also with images and these images become symbolic that, viz., Peircean semiotics, is interpreted and given value. According to Pierce, a ‘sign’ which is any object that conveys meaning involves a combination of a ‘signifier’ which is the image but can also include words and sounds along with the ‘signified’ or the mental concept that arises, the latter entirely how the individual addresses and gives meaning to these images. It may be a sign or object – such as a picture of me standing near the Pyramids – but it could represent freedom, a love of travel, passion for history and this enables me to recruit the positive reception from my audience.

But what happens when there is a shift from making positive connections with real people that you know personally to those who you don’t even know? The more likes, the more popular and since it is therefore you in the photo, your value or meaning becomes dependant on the amount of likes you can get and this only alienates you in a different way. The vicious cycle here is that like how people avoid liking photo’s that are not liked by others, they can also like photos because other people are liking and you being in the picture obtain superficial meaning from this; there is no authenticity when they like your photo, it is just people who want to feel part of a community, who want to feel like everyone else and are afraid of being different. And by targeting a particular culture or community in order to garner more likes (i.e. #hashtag), the more likes you have, the more meaning the photo itself has and there the more significant you become. You transform into a product where you start to sell yourself to people rather than sharing your experiences with your friends. The utility or purpose of social media transforms into a mechanism that engineers our imagination into virtual reality, an unreal world of faux interactions.

There are a plethora of studies that show links between social media and depression. The highly competitive “capitalistic” space develops Others or enables comparisons where people become pressured to sell themselves or buy into the selling of others in order to fit in and feel popular. It is indirect peer pressure, telling you that if you do not look a certain way or behave a certain way then you will never be happy, you are different, the Other. Tammy Hembrow, a so-called “fitness” personality who appears to be mimicking the Kardashian mould uses Instagram to display her body and family life and her photo’s can garner up to 500,000 likes. While she is covered in plastic surgery and layers make-up, she pretends to be promoting self-esteem when she has turned herself into a product that causes it. Who she is personally is irrelevant, she could be a complete moron or a lovely person, but what she represents and how she teaches others to be through her images is the problem that is represented as the solution. People then believe they must like her pictures and even be like her in order to be a part of what her images are supposed to represent, despite those liking her photos are likely those that feel alienated and want to feel connected to something that doesn’t even exist.

It becomes a social pathology where virtual reality has offered the medium that hides the evident sickness of this social condition. A pattern forms where the more people behave the same the less it will be seen as a problem. They start to feel at ease in this pattern and normalise what would otherwise be very concerning behaviour. If I were to individualise this pathology – imagine Tammy Hembrow posting but no one liking her photos, or you are an alien wondering what she is doing – the photo clearly shows a crazy woman copying the Kardashians who themselves are crazy. Why is it suddenly acceptable because she has so many followers? And the worst part about this is that when I challenge these very followers and the meaning they have attached to such people in reverence for doing absolutely nothing for humanity, a type of panic forms as though my comments initiate some fear within them. What is that? Is it the fear of exposing their immorality, since what they thought was ‘good’ behaviour – equating goodness as majoritarian – is no longer a good thing and they simply cannot accept that they are wrong or bad in someway? Are they afraid of forming their own identity since they developed meaning through others and when that begins to collapse who they really are becomes visible, which is an empty and separate person from all others? Does that panic amplify the hatred where people like me become the troll or hater to silence me in order to feel secure again?

It calls into question what is real? Is taking a picture with a man and kissing him mean genuine love? Does what the majority approve make something real? Or is everything that we do virtual, a mirror reflection, something that is visible but does not actually exist? Is that the only way we can communicate to one another whether virtually or in reality and if so, is authenticity just an imagined construct? Rousseau stated that our dependence on others diminishes the authenticity of our self-hood and once lost, hierarchies and inequality forms as contrasts from our desire for the approval from others.

Now that I intentionally destroyed my online presence, I saw my life for the first time after years of hiding behind virtual reality, feeling safe and secure but not really forming any real bonds with people. My imagination was shattered and my actual life was suddenly exposed to me where I saw all the future risks and difficulties both present and future, my aloneness and separateness, the panic and the fear of my existence. But, being mature now, accepting this reality, overcoming that panic and fear, I also saw the chance to create happiness and just how outstanding love really was. I was no longer scared. I felt no sadness and all anger was gone. Instead, I felt present, here and now, and a certain relief came over me as though I have finally accepted reality. Social media is merely a utilitarian platform that we must recognise objectively. Authenticity is a choice and gives credibility to our actions and behaviour, whereby it is only in freedom, or free-will, that small part of our consciousness that enables one to discover this contrast and realise her own self-hood.

It is time for me to strengthen real friends and real bonds and be OK at the risks that are associated with that, to feel secure in myself and never escape to virtual reality again.

Copycat: Social Imitation and Reciprocal Determinism

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

~ W. Shakespeare

What would you say to the possibility that the very fabric of our learning and cognition, of how we perceive and identify the external world, our opinions, our world view and ultimately our identity is actually determined solely by our social and environmental conditioning? That what you consider to be your ‘individuality’ is really an integration of a number of learned behavioural patterns that you have spatially identified and assimilated into a cohesive language which you alone understand and refine into a framework assuming it to be your own? Indeed, Carl Jung spoke of a Collective Unconscious where people share common experiences and emotions and form archetypes or characters and personalities that we shape and mould and pretend to be ours. “The mirror does not flatter, it faithfully shows whatever looks into it; namely, the face we never show to the world because we cover it with the persona, the mask of the actor.” [1] It is not difficult to believe that societal processes can appear to be nothing more than a simulation of reality. Indeed, the idolisation of celebrities such as the Kardashians – an empire built on the incredibly intelligent and effective marketing ploy and PA for what is essentially a rubbish family of senseless people – has provided the social instrument to form a continuum for millions who attempt the same effective marketing ploy and PA for themselves, covering themselves in a thick layer of make-up, spending thousands of dollars on breast augmentation or injecting fillers into their lips as they dishonestly present this archetype of normality to others. Psycho-social interaction and masquerading a false identity puts a question mark around whether we are capable of introspection and honest self-reflective examination and whether we have the cognitive capacity to transcend the determinism of our social environment.

There was a moment several days ago that resulted in an epiphany for me as I sat on the train on my way to work and in my sleepiness looked out at the cold scenery through the window covered in speckled rain. Briefly stopping at a local station to collect new passengers, across the platform another train had arrived to go the opposite direction and I saw a woman attempting to board the that train, albeit with a great deal of difficulty. My attention was first drawn to her feet, my concern immediate as she wore a mangled pair of flip-flops on such a cold day and I thought ‘goodness, you should be wearing a thick pair of socks and boots!’ She was incredibly thin under her tattered clothing, had tattoos on her gaunt face as she flicked her cigarette when someone finally helped her open the door. My thoughts, however, were drawn momentarily away from my concern for her well-being as I suddenly imagined this woman a young child, pretending to myself that for a moment I knew her mother and father who themselves were repeating a history of abuse and they raised this young girl in an environment that made her feel worthless, her existence valueless that she had grown to believe the same in herself. She could not find the will to take care of herself until one day she encounters some drug-dealer who deceptively made her feel significant for his own benefit and trapped her into a vicious cycle that, over time, the light within her completely diminished to the state that she had now found herself in.

This set condition then shattered into a matrix of an interconnected set of imagery, where I remembered an overweight man sitting at a bus stop eating from one of three large containers of fried chips smothered in gravy, or that girl who defensively boasted about having sex with the same number of men as her age and in one night for a birthday gift to herself, or that middle-aged man that aimlessly sat outside the local shopping center chain smoking. They contained the same root problem; each of them appeared to lack any sense of dignity as though they eventually became disillusioned to point of becoming truly lost. I could see this pedigree or continuity of abuse beginning from others before extending to the self as though persisting in this maltreatment somehow justified the former. Indeed, a woman who experiences the oppression from a violent husband who in turn creates the right conditions – keeping her away from her family, from friends, from an education or employment – enables him to gaslight her through psychological manipulation and make her believe that she is at fault enough for her to begin to believe it herself. The social and environmental conditions facilitate this failure for many to perceive objectively the overall wrong in their experiences that they finally stop caring for themselves as a coping mechanism for the initial mistreatment that they experienced.

Violence is not strictly physical, whereby vicious or cruel words, threatening behaviour and persistent harassment can be just as violent as physical harm. “Battering is not merely physical violence but a range of coercive behaviours that often consists of physical, sexual, psychological, verbal, and economic abuse. These behaviours serve to undermine the victim’s self-esteem and independence.” A marijuana addict or an alcoholic, those that eat too much or starve or smoke among a litany of other concerns are just as violent to themselves as physical self-harm can be. The causes of aggressive behaviour can be a direct result of learned responses, whereby according to Albert Bandura’ theory of Triadic Reciprocal Causation, there are three factors that play a determinative role during the process of imitation where people model themselves to their social environment as part of an identification process. This includes learned conditioning through the continuous interaction between personal, environmental and behavioural influences, whereby interplay of psychosocial processes enables an individual to simulate prominent role models that ultimately expand and become included into ones self-regulatory mechanisms and behavioural patterns. While mirroring such behaviour from others has been attributed to violence or aggression against others, it is clear that person who harms themselves in some way may be reproducing the same harm they experienced, only back to themselves.

Mapping the reciprocal interactivity and cognitive functioning that enables an individual to simulate and imitate their environment, whereby the construction of an individual’ reality is based on the adaptation and modelling of external behaviour, has been used to understand a number of internalisation and self-regulatory processes. This includes the mechanics of motivation, values and models of self-guidance and indeed the complexity of this development continues into adulthood where individuals may encounter new experiences that can result in a alteration of cognitive processes and perspectives and in turn shed light into the possibility of whether we are cognitively capable of self-reflective determination.

Globalisation itself is an ambiguous term but reflects the continuous discourse on the ever-changing and complex social structure of contemporary western society. The socially constructed idea of beauty or the concept of masculinity for instance has played a major role in developing the right conditions that provide the landscape for widespread abuse by external parties. Just as our immediate environment – such as family and friends – can impact on the structure of our personal identity, the broader social configuration causally influenced by economics and engendered by profit additionally influences behaviour that subliminally networks into this influence and shapes our view of ourselves. Like how some men or women, or drug-dealers, or even sales agents can calculate an opportunity to use the vulnerabilities of others for their own advantage, parties of globalisation have opportunistically captured the right tools through commercial and consumer marketing to diminish any resilience against this disregard to oneself. Cosmetic surgery for the purpose of being ‘beautiful’ is a form of self-harm normalised by the disillusioned as a number of social and environmental factors have enabled the right conditions that tolerate the absorption and consumption of an image, a symbol of something better then they are. It is a form of social violence that imperceptibly tells others to copy and paste an identity that is not their own. A way of making one feel unworthy until they reach a state where who they are becomes truly lost, just like a drug addict. Indeed, the construction of masculinity is no different; conceptions of physical power and violence as determining the identity of a ‘man’ can be considered a form of violence by society against the identity of men.

Cosmetic changes for the purpose of being ‘beautiful’ is a form of self-harm normalised by the disillusioned as a number of social and environmental factors have enabled the right conditions that tolerate the absorption and consumption of an image, a symbol of something better then they are. It is a form of social violence that imperceptibly tells others to copy and paste an identity that is not their own. A way of making one feel unworthy until they reach a state where who they are becomes truly lost, just like a drug addict.

The question that inevitably comes to the fore is whether we are enabled with the cognitive tools that would allow us to transcend learned social behaviour. Indeed, but perhaps a post for another time. It is moral consciousness in my opinion, the state or capacity of genuine love that will enable one to take the necessary steps toward reaching an actual state of authenticity. The evil here is the subtle hatred that infects the person who desires to be loved and so appealing is this need that it causally disconnects them from the ability reach a state of self-determination, making one believe that yielding to the whims of society and receiving accolades for a false image is better than the harsh reality of the Desert of the Real.

[1]C.G. Jung, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Routledge (2014) 20
[2] Lee Ann Hoff, Violence and Abuse Issues: Cross-Cultural Perspectives for Health and Social Services, Routledge (2009) 152
[3] See Albert Bandura, Social foundations of thought and action: a social cognitive theory, Prentice-Hall, (1986)