Finally! Stephen asks, “how interesting do you think your personal turmoil is?” Answer: Not Very! But it is “what I’m left with” (group relations perspective) when other engagement isn’t forthcoming. Not an accusation, just an observation. Not having done any in-depth study into the tragic/comic frames (I’ve been missing Li in this discussion, and the class overall this semester), it strikes me that the tragic frame is more individualistically (narcissistically?) based, and the comic frame requires (?) participation of others…or is that just where I go with it? 🙂 Maybe I can’t find a comic basis on my own, or, at least, I can’t generate a comic frame without some visceral sense of relational connectedness. Can’t say I enjoy that aspect of my subjectivity, and wouldn’t it be nice to change it! But, Stephen, you’re the one who told me I can’t interpellate myself, so who, I ask is interpellating me, in which ways?! Where’s the “audience” for the comedy I also try to perform here? Do I suck so badly at it? 😉
Last night’s democracy class was a rollercoaster, to say the least! We started on the floor in the hall, got sucked into Iris’ latest crisis and her protests of not wanting to disturb us. “They’re all disturbed,” said Stephen. “Some of us more than others,” said I. “You’ve gone over the edge,” said someone to somebody.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, Stephen, that you read my tortured story on human nature as about the aftermath of the election and not as a reflection of my current whole life situation. ‘Cuz in academia, that’s what we do, and you’re fulfilling your “function” in the DRP course as our instructor. Or, perhaps you elided that part “on purpose” out of some ethic of propriety – a boundary that shouldn’t be crossed in polite company (i.e., publicly)?
I’m struck by the incredible energy on the DRP email list right now – getting religion back in schools, campaigning for school boards, all the great things we can read, and other “debates to be had” (Scott). No Doubt there is tremendous Education occurring at this very moment! And I don’t mean to impugn it, although for some reason I keep getting pissed off when I start to write about this. Apologies for any misdirected stray rage.
Then there’s the mental health system.
“…post that stuff about disconnection, rootlessness, and interpersonal/social marginalization and how it works to give cohesion and purpose to the in-group members who need community to understand their own sense of self but also for the outgroup members who live in the interpersonal margins….
For example, if the Judeo-Christian-Buddhist-Muslim death myth is all about
being reuinted with “loved ones” or entering a paradise with others good enough to get into heaven or Valhalla (or wherever the goody two shoes go who kissed God’s ass), or returning to earth in another life or form, then why would anyone who has no real connections to others and who lives mainly alone in a life that has become almost unbearable want an afterlife? I would think that those who find life painful at best and unbearable at worst would want what
they “experienced” in the moments of pre-birth, pre-conception, and pre-
consciousness. I would think they would want to feel, see, hear, and experience
nothing. The idea of being insensate (experiencing nothingness) need not
inspire dread if one takes into consideration the day-to-day world of human
contact which creates and exacerbates in the rootless and alienated the “sturm
and drang” inherent in the social acts of cultural navigation and negotiation.”
Stephen, it seems to me you’re doing just fine with what you call my “non-answers’ – you’ve had plenty to say about them! I appreciate that we can go at each other hard, isn’t that your favorite Kenneth Burke phrase – “sparring without parting”?
I honestly don’t know what you mean by an answer about my views on “human nature” that you “can use.” Use for what? How? Are we even talking about/trying to get to the same thing? My students and I have been talking about how truth becomes “problematic” once one really engages others and has to take into account their perspectives, experience, bases of knowledge…what “truth” do you want to pin down? What kind of knowledge are you trying to generate? Or are you just yanking my chain? 🙂
On Nov 28, 2004, at 1:06 PM, Donna Halper wrote:
“…how is it that some people, Burke and Perelman come to mind in addition to Levinas, seem to somehow refuse to give in to despair no matter what was going on around them? I wish I had that optimism– or that sense of confidence that somehow things will get better…”
Quoting from a recent email from a commgrad:
“…how many times have we read in self-help books or heard from business people that direct communication is key to success? Well, that’s not true. Lying, manipulating, and pretending are what are really key to success. How many times have you asked someone you know at work or at school if there’s a problem and that person looks at you, smiles, shakes her head and says “Oh, no, everything’s fine” when you know damn well that everything is not fine. Is that person simply using tact and discrimination in handling conflict or is she just trying to avoid the possibility of having a discussion in which she has to say things the social environment tells us we can’t say (e.g. “I don’t like you”; “You get on my nerves”; “I think your opinions are born of ignorance”; “I resent you”; “you turn me off when you talk about…”; “You remind me of someone else I hate,” etc.). In fact, the dominant discourse on such “negative” perceptions and feelings insists that it is wrong to feel or think this way and it is especially wrong to communicate these feelings. However, what does covering up these truths really do for our relationships? Are we really better off when we only accentuate the so-called positive in human communication? Is there a way to shift the interpersonal landscape so that backbiting, backstabbing, and gossip become unnecessary? I feel that people backstab because they can’t frontstab. Backstabbing is born out of the norms or rules of social interplay, which constitute a type of repression.”
My opinion on human nature is that most of us make most of our decisions based on fear. I think we’re conflicted about meeting our own needs and those of others; I think our current culture has us deeply, deeply trained to think about ourselves first – hence, anything that threatens – or appears to threaten – the self is a very powerful motivator. I don’t think we’re EITHER “essentially good” or “essentially bad”. I think we are co-constructed (interpellated) into our morality and ethics just like any other “identity.”
The challenge of “not rolling over” in the face of a reality that feels almost unbearable to many of us is to take the risk of putting ourselves on the line in ways that invite change. I *want* to be different tomorrow than I am today! If I can engage with others who feel the same, are compelled toward a similar – DIFFERENT! – future, are willing to engage and listen to the other side as we have done with each other in this class…then there might be hope of constructing an ideological narrative or grand myth that shifts the basis of debate away from fear to possibility.
There is no short-term solution, only short-term immediate actions that invoke a long-term solution.
I had to start taking notes when we got to Karl Marx. Did you know he was