The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, March 03, 2006

Double Feature: “Freud versus Marx,” and “It’s Alive!”

What is the interaction between sociology and psychology?  Marx felt that if we changed society, human beings would  change.  Freud, on the other hand, pretty much said  “society is us.”  In other words, that societies arise from the needs and instinctive thought patterns of human beings, and therefore there is no one to create a “new” society other than the same ones who created the old.

The question needs to go deeper.  How do societies change?  We’ve had comments on this blog concerning racism and sexism and political jingoism on both sides of the aisle.  Capitalism seems to appeal to the third (power) chakra, whereas Communism would seem almost to be a spiritual vision of mankind.  Lacking the instinctive urge to share with others what we might give to our own families, such can be sustained only by the force of the State.  Yuck.  In my mind, better to go with what seems in alignment with our human needs, and work to evolve individual human beings, and encourage THEM to go out and help evolve individual human beings.  At least, that’s the course I’ve taken.

What is your concern about the world?  Women’s rights?  Racial inequality?  It seems to me that the answer is the same: a reduction in fear.  A belief that if the oppressed group gains more privilege, it will benefit all.   An increased grasp of the degree to which our own success, health, and happiness is in our own hands.
Society, any society, any ORGANIZATION, will try to gather all of the power into its own hands.  It is an “emergent behavior” that has nothing at all to do with whether the Right or the Left is in power.  Whether men or women are in control.  Whether blacks or whites are on top.  WHOEVER is in control will be rewarded by the system in proportion to the degree they help the system gather power.  Just yesterday, I heard about a bill that would make Federal standards for food purity supercede all state standards.  Frankly, this frightens me.  It smells EXACTLY like the kind of thing a giant, amorphous System would want.  It doesn’t matter that conservative Republicans, as individuals, wish smaller government.  What seems to have happened is a number of reasonable steps:
Power collects at the top.  Both houses of Congress?  Sure.  The Supreme Court? Sure.  The executive branch?  Yum!
Let us create coalitions to gain even more power.  The NRA. The Religious Right.  That ole debbo Military-Industrial complex.  The fact that each of these groups are to the “Right” in a different sense is of little concern.  They can help each other.  But together, they are farther to the Right than any one of them, or any individual within them, because the Political Procrustean bed needs to slice off anything that doesn’t fit for the sake of a voting block.  I know quite intelligent social conservative teachers who turn a blind eye to the anti-evolutionists on the “well, who are they really hurting” basis.  Scares the hell out of me.
What’s good for general Bullmoose is good for the USA.  Let’s talk to Big Business about  what they need to expand and grow.  Sounds good!  Jobs for workers, dividends for stockholders, profits for owners.  What can argue with that.  One problem: companies care about their profits, not the lives of individuals.  This is not a bad thing.  It is just a thing to be remembered.  Lions eat meat.  Not a bad thing, unless you  make the mistake of thinking they are vegetarians.

Each of these groups has a slightly different agenda.  Each of them needs the help of the others to get their business conducted.  Each of them trims off the more moderate or “liberal” aspects of their platforms so that they can all shelter under the same tent.

PLEASE NOTE: this is not a special disease of the right.  The Left would have the exact same problem, were they to have the same level of control that the Right has now.

The result?  I think that there is a critical mass of numbers, after which any organization begins to wake up and behave as if it is a living thing.  In a cub scout troop, that would be the size when all of the members can no longer recognize each other by sight. It could be that a Greek city-state is the maximum size for a true democracy.  Right now, we have an unbalanced situation where there are so many competing interests, and collaborative interests, and so much fear and confusion about what should be done for our security, and so much competitive urge to “win” against “the other guys” that individual differences and voices have been stifled as I’ve never seen it in my lifetime.

And in such a situation, I think that the System, composed of 300 million citizens behaving like cells, and a million different interest groups with overlapping needs and memberships behaving like organs and organ systems, is awakening to its own will in the world. 

This is a metaphor, not a literal statement.  I’m not trying to propose the existence of a new life form.  On the other hand, if Corporations are individuals…
I have no idea what the answer is.  The “System” as it exists is largely the result of unconscious choices.  Conscious choices might be better, if made by conscious people.  We will have the opportunity to make change quite shortly. If we can’t wake up to the fact that our prejudices and needs are being used against us to the blind and groggy new lifeform called a 21st Century America lacking political checks and balances…well, amoebas and phagocytes are fairly similar structurally, but one is free, and one is not.  I REALLY, REALLY don’t know what to think about this.  It’s just my morning rant.
Can anyone see how a truly wicked short story or novel could be created out of this rather bizarre notion?  Luckily, as a writer, my thoughts only need to have internal integrity.  As a science fiction writer, I need to tie them to the laws of physics, of course.  As a philosopher, I need to tie them to the interaction of consciousness and reality.  I’m not sure what the above represents.  Probably, just a bit of indigestion…