antonio damasio, belief, bourgeoisie, Emotion, feeling, marxism, neuropolitics, Neuroscience, oppressed, organization, pedagogy, politics, praxis, proletariat, revolution, rita carter, self-disgust, vangaurd party
For those of you who have not read any of my neuropolitical theory, much of it rests on the following premise: In political spaces designed for the facilitation of discussion, exchange, and political action much is lost, discarded, or simply rejected because of the emotions they trigger in individual minds. With this understanding, political organizations must look to reconstruct a new ethical system as well as new organizational models which address these situations of social and emotional friction.
From Rita Carter’s latest reference book about the brain, incorporating recent neurological findings,
“Belief and disbelief are driven by parts of the brain to do with emotions, not reasoning. Belief activates the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which processes reward, emotion, and taste, while disbelief is registered by the insula, which generates feelings of disgust.”
Pause a moment and consider this. Beliefs and Disbeliefs, in all forms (political, religious, common sense, etc.) are driven emotionally, not necessarily rationally. Our logic is what rationalizes the existence of these emotions within us. I have been meditating on this information and it has allowed me some insight into what this means in political landscapes.
With that being said, I’m sure many of you who are political have been in a situation where you or one of your comrades have begun to make a broad political point, but are interrupted by someone who has misunderstood you. What follows is a negative political appraisal, refuting your statement, whether or not their negative interpretation was your intention or meaning.(This happens especially when two activists of different political thought interact). Usually in these scenarios you must then spend minutes, hours, days, or sometimes years speaking to this person about the object of their “disgust” or “fear” of your opinion. I believe most heated political exchanges, at root, play on these structures in the brain to the dismay of all those involved in the discussion.
Now, if we take into consideration that
“Emotional responses are considerably customized relative to the causative stimulus…Influenced by the culture in which we grew up, or as a result of individual education, we have the possibility of controlling, in part, our emotional expressions. (Damasio)”
The implications of this are quite astonishing. Indeed, culture influences directly that which we interpret as “disgusting” or “pleasing.” Society, almost by definition, plays the largest role in shaping the beliefs of individuals within that society. We know now that these beliefs are processed emotionally, triggering an emotional cascade of information for the brain to interpret AFTER its own brain state has been altered by the same emotional reaction to an external stimulus. Ideas which are abstractly “opposed” to each other must amplify these emotional contradictions, which are largely generated and promoted by those who rule society.
Political education in particular (and I include religious education when it educates people about ethics and political questions) is particularly volatile because it deals with continual process of political re-education. This introduces a certain chaos to the landscape of beliefs an individual has prior to interacting with a political organization. This process of self-recreation, I believe, involves utilizing a person’s “self-guilt” as a motivating force for emotional, mental, and physical change. On the surface, this can be likened to a person “growing up” from infantile beliefs, shedding a lesser shell for a stronger one. However, the political conclusions (which ultimately spur actions) of many organizations adhering to systems of beliefs which preceded the discovery of these neurological structures, I feel deal too harshly individuals who do not share the same belief.
This is true of political organizations on both sides of the “spectrum,” but I will focus my time and attention on the radical left as it is the environment I find myself in. This harshness is especially difficult for members of radical organizations which utilize advanced political theories which are consciously removed from public access at large by the ruling class of a society in order to protect its societal position of rule. We see this now in Arizona as they have banned books concerned with racial equity and marxist deconstruction of capitalism. Members of these organizations find themselves isolated, not because their theories and ideas do not connect with reality, but because their “belief” is too novel in comparison with the population of an oppressed people raised to be blind to its own power. This is not to say that their understanding of society must be abandoned, in fact I mean quite the opposite. I make this point to suggest that the left can be better reformed to consider these neurological facts in order to create a more humanizing praxis which will ideally be more easily digested by the unradicalized population of oppressed people.
- As a result of the absence of a neuropolitical praxis, these radicalized minds sometimes respond with disgust towards oppressed people—people who will ultimately become their most important comrades in the revolution—problematically rejecting, not only the bourgeois false consciousness of the ruling class, but the working class and oppressed people which have fallen victim to these societal fallacies. As a result, many leftists entrench themselves in their own political circles—writing for an already radicalized audience, organizing with those who share similar beliefs rather than branching out and reaching other circles, or articulating their disgust and rejection of other populatations instead of creating plans for their radical unity. These are the major seeds of sectarianism.
- As an aside, I think it is important to acknowledge that the bulk of people who reject doctrines such as marxism, anti-capitalism, anti-war, socialism, and communism do harbor reactionary beliefs which are not being consciously deconstructed. It is important to note that all people must be focused upon deconstructing any and all reactionary opinions they harbor because they assist bourgeois rule in oppressing the proletariat. Those who refuse to accept this societal responsibility are not the fault of radical organizers.
- Self-Disgust is the major catalyst here because it is both the driving emotion which educates the individual and ultimately the same emotion which isolates the individual from those who do not share the same moral disgust. The latter part of this process is of course the part we aim to undercut with a more humanizing pedagogy. Vangaurd Parties play on this emotional dynamic consciously by labeling those outside of the party “counter-revolutionary,” thus scaring their own members from becoming that which disgusts them. On the surface, as individuals struggle for a reason to no longer be “disgusted” with themselves by aiming to obtain a more desirable identity and purpose which will banish this fear, they seem to be on a harmlessly fruitful path. Yet it is this fear which continually lives inside of them. It is this fear which keeps them from radicalizing the unradicalized. We must learn to check this fear, always.
What are your thoughts?