For a Determinist Theory of Praxis! Part 2: Navigating the Social Environment

The Inefficiency of Socio-Cultural Regulation Under Capitalism

All societies that have existed and exist today have in common the fact that they enable some degree of sociocultural regulation. This process includes the behaviors, rituals, and resources of a particular culture that, in some fashion, sate the needs of a society’s population. On a basic level every culture accomplishes this by communicating at least enough information to individuals to survive, means not withstanding. It is for this reason that the culture of a given society is reproduced and circulated by each surviving generation. Antonio Damasio, world-renown neuroscientist, in presenting his lifetime of research, suggests that this is due to a fundamental human impulse that motivates and aids us in accomplishing the tasks necessary for survival. He explains the relevance of this drive in our social evolution:

I suggest that the engine behind these cultural developments is the homeostatic impulse…They respond to a detection of imbalance in the life process, and they seek to correct it within the constraints of human biology and of the physical and social environment. The elaboration of moral rules and laws and the development of justice systems responded to the detection of imbalances caused by social behaviors that endangered individuals and the group. The cultural devices created in response to the imbalance aimed at restoring the equilibrium of individuals and of the group. The contribution of economic and political systems, as well as, for example, the development of medicine, responded to functional problems that occurred in the social space and that required correction within that space, lest they compromise the life regulation of the individuals that constituted the group. The imbalances that I am referring to are defined by social and cultural parameters, and the detection of imbalance thus occurs at the high level of the conscious mind, in the brain’s stratosphere, rather than at the subcortical level. I call this overall process ‘sociocultural homeostasis’ (Damasio)

Here, Damasio illustrates the role that human civilization has played in strengthening our devices for accomplishing “sociocultural homeostasis.” Situated within history, many of these “functional problems” become apparent. Slaveocracies used brutal force to accomplish the “necessary” differentiation between social classes while also meeting societal demands for labor. Feudalism created organized states, utilizing land lords for the purpose of prescribing occupations and dictating land use. Capitalism created the “freedom of the market” where any individual could sell his or her own labor or product in a capital-based economy. Imperialism provided the means through which capitalism could continually expand and seize markets whenever the rate of profit became undesirable due to resources or contempt within the labor market. Within each of these systems, people were able as individuals to detect “imbalances” in their societies’ ability to reach sociocultural homeostasis. Draughts, food shortages, the quality of goods, and the quality and degree of social freedom are all reflections of societal balance and imbalance. However, each historical epoch is characterized by a portion of the population which, instead of simply “detecting” imbalances, is also privileged with positions of authority from which they attempt to act upon these imbalances. More importantly, it is noteworthy that these special groups within each population have sufficient resources to  define and redefine what an imbalance is. This is most apparent wherever an economist insists upon the necessity of an unemployed population.

Culture: The Social Mind’s Strategy For Human Survival

Each of these historical epochs contains divisions that play particular roles in creating the homogeneity that constitutes the identity of a singular “culture.” These divisions are reflective of the interests of classes with contradictory interests in a society. At the same time, there are further divisions within these classes as a result of the variance found in the vast global population of workers. Here it is important to note that each class, without negotiation, does not accept these social divisions. Indeed, we use verbal and written strategies to communicate a social agreement in which some work and others hire, but they do not intrinsically represent the “free-will” of the individuals who choose accept their social role in a given class. This is due to the fact that we as individuals are born into a particular societal context where we, through experience, evaluate the socioeconomic environment around us in order to make critical social decisions, which affect our quality of life (ostensibly measured by the quantity of commodities our earnings allow). Marxists George Novack and Ernest Mandel highlight the fact that these conditions inherent in capitalism may appear normal to us who are living under capitalism, but, in fact, they are relatively new developments in our expansive human history:

The fact that the modern wage earner owns none of the products of his labor, obvious as it may appear to people who are accustomed to bourgeois society, is not at all so self-evident from the viewpoint of human history as a whole. It was not like that for thousands upon thousands of years of human existence…(Novack & Mandel)

Instead, the civil behaviors we engage in daily in order to understand and navigate our working positions under capitalism are strategies we have developed in order to avoid direct conflict with the existence of the modern state. The civil acceptance of class oppression by a violent state (Or, rather, a state which utilizes the threat of violence to achieve social cohesion) is what motivates people to accept the duties of their particular class which has been prescribed to them by the ruling class (the class which commands the most amount of capital) which decides upon the methods of sociocultural regulation individuals are allowed to utilize within a class-dominated society. While the state embodies the devices for negative motivation, capital embodies positive motivation under capitalism. Damasio stresses the importance of understanding how culture and biology are thoroughly intertwined neurologically;

The idea that there are two broad classes of homeostasis, basic and sociocultural, should not be taken to mean that the latter is a purely ‘cultural’ construction, while the former is ‘biological’ Biology and culture are thoroughly interactive. Sociocultural homeostasis is shaped by the workings of many minds whose brains have first been constructed in a certain way under the guidance of specific genomes.(Damasio)

Oftentimes the supposedly “commonsense” understanding of “human nature” lazily explains why people oppress and are oppressed, why people compete and show apathy rather than empathy. The shallow analysis of these perspectives boils down to some mythical “greed” and “hate” drive which inevitably produces injustice and evil. Aside from being grossly dehumanizing, this perspective fails to explain why the bearers of this cultural “knowledge” are not themselves oppressors instead of oppressed people. Perhaps more disturbingly, it suggests that all of humanity is powerless to resist the apparently seductive nature of oppressing other human beings. Luckily, however, in deconstructing the nature of our human responses to environmental stimuli, it becomes more obvious that the expressions of oppression we observe today and have observed throughout history are but coping strategies in the face of violence, natural and manufactured scarcity, racism, sexism, the threat of starvation and homelessness, and other equally strenuous environmental stimuli. With all of these present in existing societies it follows that these negative stimuli permeate into any culture where these stressors are present in the environment. What Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha reveal in their book, Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, is the fact that a great deal of egalitarianism and harmony was present in societies that preceeded agriculture:

Difficult as it may be for some to accept, skeletal evidence clearly shows that our ancestors didn’t experience widespread, chronic scarcity until the advent of agriculture. Chronic food shortages and scarcity-based economies are artifacts of social systems that arose with farming. In his introduction to Limited Wants, Unlimited Means, Gowdy points to the central irony: ‘Hunter-gatherers…spent their abundant leisure time eating, drinking, playing, socializing—in short, doing the very things we associate with affluence.’ (Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha)

It is for this reason that, taking into consideration the scope and ability of industrial agriculture, scarcity is largely manufactured by the capitalist ruling class in the interest of profit. By manufacturing scarcity the ruling class’ commands a significant amount of social leverage because it is able to decide upon a select few who will receive privileged access to the resources and commodities that circulate within the capitalist market. This allows otherwise oppressed people to “escape” from the taxing nature of their social environment where goods are scarce or at least expensive. These privileges do not directly deal with the causes of oppression, but rather skate over them, portraying the inequality inherent in oppression as a necessary evil in exchange for privilege. Privilege, in any form, lubricates an individual’s strategies of sociocultural regulation, effectively repressing their otherwise instinctual animosity for their oppressors and the fear elicited by the violence of the ruling class’ state. The historical fact that these concessions for sociocultural regulation have not always existed is oftentimes suppressed and rewritten in the minds of workers living under capitalism by the institutions of knowledge erected by privileged classes.

How Relative Social Privilege becomes the Foundation of Class Division

The implicit conclusion embodied in this historical observation is that the concessions given in exchange for class oppression are also unnecessary. If less intensive work days and more relaxed work schedules were possible in natural scarcity, or “primitive communism” to use the Marxist term, the exponential increase in the intensity of our work week under manufactured scarcity becomes glaringly apparent. Part of this is tolerated in society because of the existence of this tightly controlled population of privileged persons;

‘Affluenza’ (a.k.a. Luxury fever) is not an eternal affliction of the human animal, as some would have us believe. It is an effect of wealth disparities that arose with agriculture. Still, even in modern societies, we sometimes find echoes of the ancient egalitarianism of our ancestors (Ryan and Jetha).

The accumulation of capital is perhaps the most fundamental facet of the “American Dream.” It is the false premise that all persons who “work hard” and remain patriotic will be rewarded with more capital than those who have allegedly worked less for considerably less capital in the form of minimum wages for “unskilled labor.” This illusion venomously obscures those who already, by right of private ownership of property, possess larger amounts of capital which they can circulate in a capitalist economy for yet more capital, i.e. profit. Classes considered, only one class has a direct role in determining the conditions of private property in the capitalist economy. This class under capitalism is the bourgeoisie. This class possesses such an astronomically large portion of existing capital that their decisions directly influence every individual who interacts with bourgeois property or receives payment from the bourgeoisie’s capital. The myth of the “trickle down effect” is an illusion and a redundancy because the capitalist market insists that capital be circulated such that profit can be made. The rate at which profit is expropriated is determined by the cost of production, which, by both competition and by capitalist interest, is driven lower whenever it can be. Because wages are included in the cost of production, it is rarely if ever in the interest of capitalists to spend more than absolutely necessary on wages and income. Economic systems and schemes that aim to lessen the costs of the privileged elite are protecting profit exclusively while maintaining the lie that it will better the conditions of workers.

Here is where the bourgeoisie decides the proportions of people who will receive a particular amount of “privilege” in the form of wages. Here a person experiences privilege (or does not) by belonging to a particular “tax bracket.” Thus commanding a given amount of capital in relation to the general population represents a particular form of privilege with profound social implications.

Class, in this sense, is determined by an individual’s relationship to the privately owned means of production. Workers (the proletariat) are people who have nothing to sell but their own labor, and they sell it to the bourgeoisie who employ labor for the creation of commodities or a salable service in order to expropriate the value generated by employed labor for profit, which is then re-invested in the same fashion. Such is the stage set by the modern social environment where capital rules:

When I think of Darwin’s survival of the fittest, I picture body-builders, alpha male gorillas, or lions stalking their ultimately doomed prey. But what does it mean to be the ‘fittest’ in our modern society? Certainly it is not the romantic notion of the noble savage. The instincts to run fast, fight others, and catch our own food have been channeled into hobbies and sports. Remember, survival of the fittest is entirely dependent on the environment to which the organism is trying to adapt. In the first decade of the first 21st century we are adapting to information overload, spiraling expectations, and being stuck in traffic. The freeway is our savanna; the internet superhighway is our Galapagos. Could the fittest in our society actually be the average citizen, going about his daily routine with a solid sense of self, able to successfully navigate relationships and regulate the stress of sitting through business settings? (Cozolino).

Here Louis Cozolino touches upon a major feature of modern capital. The abilities that most directly contribute to our survival are those employed for the purpose of receiving payment in exchange for our labor, which is then spent on basic necessities—shelter, clothing, food, and water. It is precisely because capitalism demands capital in exchange for virtually anything that those persons, who command the most amount of capital, who are the ones with the power to select the “fittest” traits. The bourgeoisie buys labor, expropriates the product of labor, and sells it back to laborers for more capital than was originally invested.

The Consequences of Class

These two classes, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, are homogeneous classes in the sense that they each represent a general interest as a division of the population. Workers desire less taxing work for more pay, and the bourgeoisie desire the cheapest labor possible in exchange for the largest profit. There are, in addition to these two fundamental classes, somewhat superfluous classes that are heterogeneous in their interests: the lumpen-proletariat and the petty-bourgeoisie (I use strictly Marxist terms here for lack of a more modern term for the same population of people). These classes indirectly influence the capitalist labor market as opposed to the proletariat and bourgeoisie who directly control and make up the labor market.  If it is difficult to understand these classes in a modern context, consider the purpose with which an individual works. Those who invest their capital for a return are not necessarily part of the ruling class, however if one observes the further division in this category by the amount of capital, and the number of people who are affected by the circulation of that same quantity of money, it becomes more obvious who the ruling class is and who belongs to the petty bourgeoisie who, by comparison, command far less capital. Workers who are employed, selling nothing but their own labor, belong to the proletariat (the modern working class) whereas those who are not employed or perhaps simply “manage workers” do not necessarily belong to the proletariat.

The lumpen-proletariat here can be understood as the “reserve army of labor” or more commonly, the unemployed. These are people who, due to economic conditions, are not employed. Despite this fact, the bourgeoisie, which acts on behalf of capitalism, needs a population of unemployed workers as leverage against employed workers in the event that the proletariat should, for example, ask for higher wages, fight for better treatment from their bosses, or any such demand that undermines the bourgeoisie’s rate of profit–the speed and efficiency through which labor creates value which is expropriated by the bourgeoisie in the form of profit.

The petty-bourgeoisie represent all persons who participate in the workplace or other capitalist institutions such as small business owners, students, managers, etc. The petty-bourgeoisie indirectly influence the capitalist economy because they either lack enough capital to truly compete with the bourgeoisie or their position in society does not as directly influence the value of commodities as does the working class. Students are included here because their labor is not expropriated in exchange for wages (there will be a separate point on the educational system in part 3 of this installment). This class is not necessarily comparable with the modern conception of the “middle class” because the latter unnecessarily divides the working class according to how much an individual earns, while ignoring the similarities between the social roles people are prescribed according to class. For example, a worker who has been given a higher wage than another worker might consider him/herself to be “better than” the “lower class” or belonging to the “middle class.”

These two classes are heterogeneous because there is not one particular interest that accurately represents the entire group. In each of these classes are contradictory interests and conditions, which could not feasibly represent a cohesive interest. In the context of the main stage of class struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie, heterogeneous classes can be “split” because they can be sufficiently inspired to support either current of a political conflict, assuming the side they choose can satisfactorily address their needs in an alternative system of sociocultural regulation. The more privileged a member of a heterogeneous class is, the less likely they are to sympathize with the working class in their struggle against the bourgeoisie. In this instance, they become reactionary, seeking to justify their own privilege by adopting dehumanizing attitudes for those who are less fortunate.

The existence of these social divisions creates a social dynamic wherein workers are “alienated” from the means of production, counteracting the exponential growth in the human population (thus, socialization also) with a dehumanizing social condition that prevents communal efforts and action. George Novack and Ernest Mandel elucidate the consequences of alienation:

Having established alienated labor as the basis of the beginning of capitalist production, Marx then deduces the consequences. Labor becomes alienated when the producer works, not directly for himself or a collective united by common interests, but for another with interests and aims opposed to his own. This antagonistic relation of production injures the worker in many ways. (1) He is estranged from his own body which must be maintained as a physical subject, not because it is part of himself, but so that it can function as element of the productive process. (2) He is estranged from nature since natural objects with all their variety in function, are not means for his self-satisfaction or cultural production. (3) He is estranged from his special traits and abilities as they are not needed, used or developed by his economic activities which degrade him to the level of a mere physical force. (4) Finally, he is separated from his fellow human beings. ‘Where man is opposed to himself, he also stands opposed to other men.

Such is the modern context in which members of society must navigate.

For A Determinist Theory of Praxis! Part 1: The Material Basis of Capitalism and the Consequences of Idealism

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The Astonishing Hypothesis

Our existence is determined by material reality. Our consciousness, soul, and self all arise from the brain, however complex and counter-intuitive (as it often times is) the processes through which they emerge may be. As humans, this understanding of the mind is necessary if we are to squarely acknowledge our social nature. In dissecting and discovering the scientific truths that are based upon this central focus of our humanity, we come to understand the extent to which we are, in fact, our brains. This simple orientation in the context of cultural and philosophical knowledge is perhaps controversial and brow-raising. However, with the emergence of modern neuroscience we have a plethora of new tools with unprecedented accuracy that have aided us a great deal in elucidating these existential questions.

In short, there are many precious truths that must be evaluated soberly if we are to continue our existence as an educated conscious organism.

The ultimate consciousness product occurs from those numerous brain sites at the same time and not in one site in particular, much as the performance of a symphonic piece does not come from the work of a single musician or even from a whole section of an orchestra. The oddest thing about the upper reaches of a consciousness performance is the conspicuous absence of a conductor before the performance begins, although, as the performance unfolds, a conductor comes into being. For all intents and purposes, a conductor is now leading the orchestra, although the performance has created the conductor—the self—not the other way around. The conductor is cobbled together by feelings and by a narrative brain device, although this fact does not make the conductor undeniably exists in our minds, and nothing is gained by dismissing it as an illusion”(Damasio).

Instead of a mystical soul with a mystical fate in the afterlife, there actually exists a complex universe of synapses connecting billions of neurons that communicate with each other in a complicated “language” which neuroscience seeks to decode. We now understand how individual neurons communicate, how they organize, sites which have specialized purposes, each essential to our conscious existence. How something as complex as you, the reader, comes from the product of 100 billion cells cobbled together within your skull may be unsettling to think about. In fact, most react to this seemingly cold and machine-like worldview with immediate distaste, instead holding fast to some unexplainable soul-like entity. Regardless of these expressions of existential angst, there is a direct material connection between your experienced self and what your brain is.

No scientist today claims to have illuminated the secrets of the mind in its entirety (and many doubt that we ever will), despite the immense amount of neurological knowledge that has been uncovered since accepting a determinist outlook. This knowledge based upon a determinist worldview will continue to accumulate whether or not people choose to accept the truth inherit in each succeeding experiment and discovery. As our planet continues to face never before seen problems based upon the human density of our modern civilization it becomes more and more imperative that we deepen our understanding of humanity rather than satisfy ourselves with a stagnating mysticism. Ethically speaking, when will it be more of a social detriment to our communities to turn away from materialist knowledge than to reject it? How many emotional abuses must be tolerated and endured by skeptical individuals before people look for new explanations of their suffering, their missteps, and the injustices that surround them?

The Material vs. The Immaterial

Determinism is directly counterposed to “idealism” and other ideologies that conflate mental events with an almost supernatural causative nature. The idealistic rationalizations of our existence, which have been created and reproduced by the cultures of past generations, have thrived in the absence of a scientific analysis of the human brain. Despite the genius inherent in the beauty of these spiritual explanations, they still miss the mark in identifying the true underlying causes of our magical existence. Now that we as a species are faced with more crises than ever before, situated within violence of an astronomical magnitude, it is urgent that we identify and deconstruct the antecedents of these evils. How can we truly isolate these violent variables if we do not understand ourselves and the processes through which we discover our own world? It is no longer sufficient to rationalize our suffering through invisible entities. We do not deserve the pain that is inflicted upon us by our fellow humans any more than we deserve to be limited by a system wherein we are allotted our successes by some superhuman agent. If we content ourselves with these elaborate immaterial narratives which seem to justify our behaviors in a difficult world, we will not make progress in removing that which make our lives difficult.

Despite the cathartic effect spiritual explanations have on individual behaviors, the entities that are created to accomplish these subjective experiences are nonetheless immaterial and invalid understandings of our universe. This is more apparent now that we have the ability to identify the structures in the brain that allow for these spiritual delusions to sate our existential angst. Posed differently, our scientifically accurate understandings of the brain also explain how our brains have created the inaccurate perspectives that have served less-informed generations of the past. To move forward, we must allow scientific discovery to imbue itself with our social rhetoric, thus enriching our logic further. This process of rediscovery and re-evaluation is essential to our education as a society because it clears away many obstacles that have previously obscured the truths neuroscience is beginning to reveal.

In embracing a determinist understanding of the world we gift ourselves a standard with which to evaluate the cultural knowledge we have accumulated as a species, discarding problematic inaccuracies while also embracing more humanizing accuracies expressed through the wisdom of our ancestors. Perhaps more importantly, with this standard we as a society can re-examine the ethical nature of our social structures and build new systems of sociocultural regulation wherever we find shortcomings in our current political systems.

How Capitalism Artificially Constructs “Value”

Determinism is relevant because it enables us to focus upon social variables that affect our behaviors. In addition to social behaviors, our environment also shapes the structures and social roles with which we socialize others. I argue that under capitalism, the structures and roles we see most modeled in society are based upon the accumulation of capital, as its title implies. In this environmental niche we see behaviors which best win capital rise to the top of the capital hierarchy. In reproducing these behaviors through different means of socialization—the educational system, the media, the armed state, religious institutions, banks, corporations, and political parties—society provides strategies for its individuals to aim towards in order to best survive. Recognizing those behaviors that are beneficial for our survival is a significant ability the human mind has attained during its evolutionary history. This tendency towards capital-winning behaviors, which are vehemently encouraged under capitalism, promotes destructive structural assimilation towards capital as a social motivator.

But in addition to the logic imposed by the unfolding of events in the reality external to the brain—a logical arrangement that the naturally selected circuitry of our brains foreshadows from the very early stages of development—the images in our minds are given more or less saliency in the mental stream according to their value for the individual. And where does that value come from? It comes from the original set of dispositions that orients our life regulation, as well as from the valuations that all images we have gradually acquired in our experience have been accorded, based on the original set of value dispositions during our past history. In other words, minds are not just about images entering their own procession naturally. They are about the cinema-like editing choices that our pervasive system of biological value has promoted. The mind procession is not about first come, first served. It is about value stamped selections inserted in a logical frame over time”(Damasio).

And what environment better demands that out brains make “value stamped selections” than capitalism? We might assume that our “selections” are made exclusively by ourselves, from within our individual selves. Yet, in examining the causal entities which create social symbols—money, commodities, privilege, and authority—that express a particular value, we realize that we are merely reacting to a social landscape which has been presented to us by persons of power. Expressed differently, we live under conditions set by the class that rules us, i.e. the Bourgeoisie.

In understanding how our emotions sufficiently motivate our actions and decisions, we recognize how behaviors are directed towards objects and rituals that have value relative to other environmental stimuli. This “value,” however, is not necessarily dictated by some abstract concept that is inherently beneficial to the human body and mind.

Hence, when we bring the products of our labour into relation with each other as values, it is not because we see in these articles the material receptacles of homogeneous human labour. Quite the contrary : whenever, by an exchange, we equate as values our different products, by that very act, we also equate, as human labour, the different kinds of labour expended upon them. We are not aware of this, nevertheless we do it. Value, therefore, does not stalk about with a label describing what it is. It is value, rather, that converts every product into a social hieroglyphic. Later on, we try to decipher the hieroglyphic, to get behind the secret of our own social products; for to stamp an object of utility as a value, is just as much a social product as language”(Marx).

This much is apparent when we evaluate the variation in how value is subscribed to similar behaviors and objects across different cultures. Subtle behaviors of gratitude in one culture might arouse disgust in another. On a smaller scale, we see how our propensity to recognize value is easily abused when we evaluate the amount of addictive behaviors that have become more and more prevalent in our modern society. More importantly, much of “value” is defined and dictated by those who own the means of production which materially motivate and socialize the people who are directly affected by what is produced. This is true because of the basic prerequisite of capitalism; that people use money in the exchange of commodities—food, clothing, shelter, luxuries, electronics, and even labor. What is produced is dictated almost exclusively by what is determined to be profitable by these owners, i.e. the bourgeoisie. In a country based upon urban sprawl, industrial means of transportation are necessary to maintain a job. Living in the information era necessitates commodities that receive and send information—cell phones, computers, and fax machines. Following this apparent observation, one can easily see how our social hieroglyphics are oriented around framing the necessities of life such that they become commodities, thus compelling us to work for capital; our lifeblood under capitalism.

Regardless of the personal value each of these items has for an individual, a price still remains. The working class, which has nothing to sell but its own labor, acquires objects and services by purchasing them. Each necessary purchase in a worker’s immediate future represents a ritual, a series of eight-hour shifts, that end in the right to own a commodity. The inequities that result from the exploitation of this dependence on the bourgeoisie’s ability to “offer” jobs are as numerous as the number of workers who make up a population’s workforce.

The Consequences of Capitalist Socialization

Many of our devices for sociocultural regulation have profoundly negative consequences if one is to accept a determinist (materialist) view of socialization. Consider the consequences of the commodity fetishism that propels the Capitalist Economy—one of large-scale commodity circulation and production:

A commodity is therefore a mysterious thing, simply because in it the social character of men’s labour appears to them an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour; because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour. This is the reason why the products of labor become commodities, social things whose qualities are at the same time perceptible and imperceptible by the senses…There, the existence of the things [through] commodities and the value-relation between the products of labour which stamps properties and with the material relations arising therefrom. There it is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relationship between things…[It is] Fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour, so soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities” (Marx).

Here we see, by the very fact that we are now dependent upon the consumption of commodities, we engage in social decisions that do not take into consideration the well being of the people directly involved in creating the object before us in the market.

The Contradictions Inherent in Capitalist Bourgeois Illusion

The basic contradiction we find ourselves continually running up against is the fundamental irreconcilability between the workers of the world who labor for the most minuscule of wages, which are necessarily too small to compete in the free market in the illusory manner we are socialized to accept as a truly “equal opportunity,” against the bourgeoisie who accumulate capital from exploiting generations of labor.

Such an illusion, nefarious in its very nature, is an excuse for the condemnation of workers to a lifetime of poverty. The magnitude of capital owned and circulated by the ruling class exists because of the means through which profit is usurped by the bourgeoisie in the labor market. This market is where workers sell their labor at a value predetermined by capitalists who calculate the cost of paying wages in direct relation to the profit he or she expropriates from the worker. This is the fundamental problem with capitalistic production; it requires the existence of a class of people who are exploited for the purpose of producing more capital to be expropriated by the ruling class.

This process includes the supposed “middle class” who exist on the periphery of direct class exploitation. The “middle class” or petty-bourgeoisie exist in as much wealth as the bourgeoisie allows. Regardless of the amount of wealth a member of the petty-bourgeoisie has managed to accumulate, their money pales in comparison with the wealth of the true bourgeoisie who not only have astronomical amounts of capital in the market but also, as a requirement of capitalistic production, super large populations of people who labor under their rule for a small portion of the capital (i.e. wages) originally advanced by the wealthiest of the bourgeoisie.

Despite the fact that the American dream/illusion appears more vibrant for this “middle class,” it still remains an illusion because they will always command less capital than the bourgeoisie. In addition to this fact, the capital they are allowed to have is necessarily composed of capital already set into motion by capitalists before a petty-bourgeois business can set into motion its own small pool of capital in the market. It is also important to note that the small business owner’s money returns to the hands of capitalists as soon as he or she spends their capital in the market on commodities.

To quote Engels; “The state is, therefore, by no means a power forced on society from without; just as little is it ‘the reality of the ethical idea’, ‘the image and reality of reason’, as Hegel maintains. Rather, it is a product of society at a certain stage of development; it is the admission that this society has become entangled in an insoluble contradiction with itself, that it has split into irreconcilable antagonisms which it is powerless to dispel. But in order that these antagonisms, these classes with conflicting economic interests, might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle, it became necessary to have a power, seemingly standing above society, that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of ‘order’; and this power, arisen out of society but placing itself above it and alienating itself more and more from it, is the state. The armed state of capitalist rule thus further compels us to engage in this oppressive system under threat of imprisonment and/or death.”

The Importance of Emotion and Feeling

Fear may be nothing but a false alarm induced by a culture gone awry. In those instances, rather than saving your life, fear is an agent of stress, and stress over time destroys life, mentally and physically. The upheaval has negative consequences (Damasio).

Contrary to popular belief, emotions and the feelings of others have a certain logic embedded in the very nature of their existence:

Emotions are complex, largely automated programs of actions concocted by evolution. The actions are complemented by a cognitive program that includes certain ideas and modes of cognition, but the world of emotions is largely one of actions carried out in our bodies, from facial expressions and postures to changes in viscera and internal milieu” (Damasio).

This means that the circumstances in which an individual’s emotions/feelings are aroused reflect within them an individual narrative that expresses their own subjective experiences. Capitalism situates these emotional mechanisms in an environment of extreme stress and ultimatums, which demand our submission. Thus an important task  of our narratives is to rationalize our social submission. Narratives are constructed by each person’s own self, a lifelong stream of memories bound to one body, which lives because of successful life regulation techniques learned by the core self. Simply put, we must work as wage slaves under capitalism if we wish to continue living, and our brains have the capacity to internalize this implicitly and explicitly. Under capitalism, which is constructed of inherently stressful oppressive structures focused upon irrational accumulation of capital, all people who are socialized within its body adopt (at least for a time) a narrative casting each individual as the protagonist. This protagonist rationalizes all of his or her decisions in a hostile environment as necessary. In the worst cases we see people who feel entitled to act in ways which are oppressive to others simply to justify the crude daily decisions that must be made in order to survive under capitalism. Regardless of whether or not this external process of motivation is subjectively understood, objective reality shows us that human reward circuits drive us to survive in our hostile environment by adapting, or assimilating, to the social roles that capitalists most desire from their subordinates in their hierarchical order for Capital.

The Social Implications of Wage-Slavery

Marx deconstructs Capitalism to its most basic parts. He defines wage slavery as the fundamental social contract to which we all agree.

What does it mean to sell your labor power to a boss? …behind this purely formal and legal contractual relation—you sell your labor power, part of your time, to another, for money to live on—is in reality something of deepgoing consequence for all human existence and particularly for the life of the wage laborer. It first of all implies that you lose control over a large part of your waking hours. All the time which you have sold to the employer belongs to him, not to you. You are not free to do what you want at work. It is the employer who dictates what you will and will not do during this whole time. He will dictate what you produce, how you produce it, where you produce it. He will be master over your activity”(Mandel & Novack).

So it stands to reason that our own individual narratives of purpose, of existence, have embedded within them a certain existential defeat. I believe that we carry within our selves, either unconsciously or consciously, an understanding of this fundamental sacrifice. We search for affirmation of the necessity of the many sacrifices we make out of reverence for the might of capital and the state that defends it.

Hierarchy and Patriarchal Rule

Hierarchy removes the agency working class people utilize from the sphere of social production. It replaces personal agency with subordination to a hierarchical structure that is both non-democratic and is based upon the flow of capital. This structure bases itself upon the social roles that are decidedly more favorable for the accumulation of capital. Each of these roles embodies a surface narrative combining authority, status, and privilege for the purpose of subordinating individuals (or other “subordinates) who make up the foundation of a hierarchical structure.

Necessarily, it is true that by adopting these prescribed social roles workers accept their poverty and the comparative wealth of society. This is because the workers, who live within society at gunpoint, accept their wages and the violent terms that come with them. Because the capital hierarchy is dominated by men, and its legacy is founded upon the oppressive subjugation of women for the purpose of creating private property, it follows that the social roles and narratives that patriarchy has culturally reproduced throughout history do not allow for true gender equality. Specifically, by adopting certain stereotypical gender roles (which are incongruous with less accepted/familiar gender identities) the oppressed reproduce oppressive “gendered” behaviors, which permeate profoundly into sexual relations and agreements.

Privilege & Idealism

Capitalism sets the accumulation of capital as the primary idealistic aspiration for the people trapped within its historical rule, thus resigning its most proud aesthetic to the likes of immaterial spiritual worship. This material condition of Capitalism necessitates a new environment, which in turn encourages a new revolutionary aesthetic founded upon scientifically based re-education that can equip the minds of this modern generation more properly so that they may better evaluate the complex environment in which they live.

-M.I. Jazz Freeman

I am so excited to read this book! I’m dying to get my hands on it. I am eager to see some extrapolations on this controversial premise.

To coincide with the broadcast of the Christmas Lectures, my UK publishers are giving away a free electronic extract of my new book, “The Self Illusion” today on amazon today. If you have an iPad or a Kindle, then you can read the opening chapters and a later one about the way we represent our selves on the internet.

I think that the message of “The Self Illusion” is going to be very controversial and upset a number of people. I already know that some colleagues disagree with the premise. In effect, I am challenging the idea that we are autonomous individuals but that rather we are a product of the history and influences of those around us.

The notion of no self will be familiar to Buddhists and philosophers alike. Buddha of course, taught that the path to enlightenment required attaining ‘annatta’ (no self) and Hume argued that there…

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On Revolutionary Organizations & Pedagogy

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A revolutionary organization must be a body which empowers the oppressed. The body must be a resource at the disposal of the working class. Such an organization would attract the most conscious elements of the working class, because its fundamental orientation is based upon aiding and assisting the proletariat, rather than commanding and leading it.

An organization which insists upon being at the helm of the working class in the struggle against the bourgeoisie immediately adopts a pedagogy which is fundamentally flawed. Its very orientation addresses the working class as an uneducated subordinate population.

Now this attitude is one that is most commonly expressed within the radical left by Leninist Vanguard Parties. Theoretically based upon Democratic Centralism, this structured organization historically has consisted of professional revolutionaries who concern themselves exclusively with the growth and maintenance of the party. Democratic Centralism in practice means that Party members enjoy complete democracy internally, that is to say amongst fellow members in the privacy of party meetings. On the other hand, Party Members in public express one party program which is democratically constructed and voted upon by the Party as a whole. These Parties and others like them exist ultimately for the purpose of leading the working class to revolution.The authenticity of Vangaurd Parties becomes “legitimate” once a particular party has won the universal respect of the working class at large. The classic historical proof of this concept is the Russian Revolution where we saw the Bolsheviks feeding and educating a largely illiterate population of workers and peasants prior to their assent to power.

However, it must be acknowledged that the population which makes up the modern proletariat has under gone a qualitatively giant step in education and intelligence. This leap is an inherent property of the information era. The Vanguard Party pedagogy presents itself as necessary for the revolution. The working class, which discovers the public faces of the party, fears being consumed by the bourgeoisie and in that fear accepts the Vanguard Party as its savior. However, a revolutionary organization which takes this positional orientation in the face of the modern working class at this juncture in the struggle against imperialist oppression is privileged in its social isolation from the working class, authoritatively arrogant, and part of a legacy of hierarchical patriarchal dominance among many class reductionist organizations. A humanizing pedagogy of education is a prerequisite for engaging with the modern working class that has been thoroughly socialized by bourgeois institutions which utilize the banking method of education by establishing a bourgeois teacher-student relationship.

What is the Vanguard Pedagogy?

The Vanguard Pedagogy can be summarized by one instruction: “Defend The Party Line.”

It is in the interest of those under the direction of a Vangaurd Party to defend the Party’s political program because it provides for them a materialization of their life’s passion and dream. In giving themselves to the hierarchy’s ideology a revolutionary individual’s praxis is corrupted. The link between theory, action, and reflection is disturbed because theory is given readily in the form of a Party Program. Instead of humanizing individuals meeting to reflect upon the actions of their revolutionary organization, the organizations’ theory reflects in place of their members. By this I mean that actions are measured against the efficiency with which professional revolutionaries wielded the party’s program. In this false reflection it is assumed that an organizer’s failure to recruit an individual stems from either the backwards consciousness of those who exist outside of the party or from the party members failure to adhere to party discipline. This reflects a backwards pedagogy because it carries no humanizing orientation towards the oppressed. In fact, it adopts a reactionary attitude towards the working class. Within this hierarchical system for revolution, plastic theories which can adapt to the needs of the working class, are discarded in favor of sacred texts, actions become scaffolding activities for the party’s program, and reflection decays into reductionist meditations on imperfect programs for action.  Despite the democratic process from which a party’s program is solidified, all members are expected to march lockstep under the leadership of the party, thus invalidating internal party democracy.

It is for this reason that a truly revolutionary organization must safeguard the health of its own praxis. It must make sure that it allows for theories of action which are informed by the entirety of the organization’s knowledge and experiences. Action must be fundamentally oriented towards assisting the oppressed. The organization’s reflection on its own actions must then re-inform its theory, completing a healthy cycle. Such are the base elements of a truly humanizing pedagogy.We must discourage practiced exclusivity with regard to revolutionary education. The oppressed masses must remind professional revolutionaries and organizers that they exist to serve the people, not the other way around.

-M.I. Jazz Freeman

The Basis of Belief and Self-Disgust Under Capitalism

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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?

On Modern Fascism

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Fascism is upon us and I do not mean this lightly. I am writing this piece in the context of recent struggles which have exposed the acute nature of the current sociopolitical landscape. With the recent passing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) “which [authorizes] the U.S. Government to use the US military to imprison American Citizens who question the government’s political agenda, and detain them with no charges, or trial, indefinitely (One Billion Against Indefinite Detention),” a stark and morbid reality has come to the forefront of American’s consciousness.

So what does this mean? The state is rapidly consolidating itself for preemptive repression. By this I mean that the power of the state is such that any and all political organizers can now be disappeared from society, restricted from even attempting to struggle for change in this wretched society where one starves in the cold before a mouth is fed for free. Capitalism is breaking. Inflation is rising. Jobs are disappearing. People’s futures and livelihoods are being threatened and taken away with each swift budget cut to public sectors which do not yield enough profit for the ruling class.

While people continue to have faith in the political legitimacy of the system, the ruling class and their state are blaming and punishing the oppressed for their own oppression. As they imprison the people, they use the media to ostracize the victims of fascist state repression from society. We saw this in the news coverage of recent occupy wallstreet protests. The ruling class sees to it that the people believe the oppressive hand of fascism rules from a place of benevolence and necessary prudence.

It is important to use the term “fascist” because it is an accurate representation of the relationship between capitalists and the modern state. Fascism is the extreme reactionary fusion between capitalists and the armed state for the repression of actions by the oppressed people which undermine the capitalist system of profit-making. This is to say that the armed men and women, who allegedly serve the people, exist exclusively to ensure that capitalists extract surplus value from working people.

The belief that the ultra-rich capitalists, who command entire economies with the astronomical amount of capital they own individually, have a right to the money they fetishize and hoard is problematic because it obscures the fact that the people’s money is stolen from them every day. Our power as a people is usurped from us when we trust in our own slave drivers. When we trust that men and women with guns on our streets beat and arrest and shoot us with positive intentions, we have relinquished our own political agency. We must understand that without our toiling hands and minds, this fascist imperialist system will only entrench itself further in its own money and power.

While it is true that Privilege is everywhere, a revolutionary consciousness must be attached to this culture of privilege checking. To ignore one’s own privilege as well as the privilege of others is incorrect as it cripples the possibility of healthy deconstruction of oppressive culture. Institutionalized Racism begets white privilege. Patriarchy and Male chauvinism begets male privilege, etc. However, it is White Supremacist Patriarchal Capitalism which creates all of these severe ailments. It is a revolutionary praxis of action and reflection fused with privilege deconstruction that truly unearths the causal forces of our oppression.

Fascism absolves all privileged persons of their personal responsibility to deconstruct their own privilege for the good of the community. Fascism rewards these privileged persons with physical power in addition to their financial power over other people, thus providing an incentive for people to acquire power under capitalism in order to be protected by the Fascist state. This also creates a disincentive for oppressed people to undercut privilege. This is the ultimate aim of Fascism, to remove all challenges to an Imperialist system.

It is the task of working class and oppressed peoples to become the successful challenge which overthrows Imperialism, thus ending the cyclical nature of capitalist crises. By reconstructing a more humanizing society based on the elimination of scarcity, we exterminate oppression by exploitation. In abolishing private ownership of the means of production and smashing the state which defends these archaic property forms, we eradicate fascism from history.

-Amai Jazz Freeman

“The Emotional Brain” Submerged in the Left (part 3)

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In this final part of “The Emotional Brain” Submerged in the Left I’d like to propose 4 principles which must exist in an organization in order for it to be healthy and successful. These principles are all based upon the concepts discussed in the previous parts. If you have not read them, I strongly suggest doing so before proceeding.

Part 1 (The Science)

Part 2 (The Politics)

I) Promote Environmental Consciousness

An organization which aims to change society must be fundamentally committed to learning about the class nature of the society in which it exists. Without this, the development of its political worldview becomes severely flawed, divorced from reality. This blindness, in effect, is submission to the oppressive class forces which exist in society. Historically, this political awareness in Marxist circles has been referred to as Class Consciousness. I believe this point is more accurately called “environmental consciousness.” Despite the fact that class is the predominant force that defines the trajectory of society, it runs far deeper than simple economics. Environmental Consciousness refers more broadly to a person’s awareness of the many manifestations of oppression in the environment that influences, either positively or negatively, an individual’s perception of the world around them. This includes oppression based on race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, and class.

Environmental Consciousness extends the Marxist method beyond economics simply by connecting it to our emotional appraisals of the world around us. Concretely, this means spending an adequate amount of time on research and analysis of a topic that individual comrades find interesting and important. All this must occur, while also sharing each other’s personal encounters with oppression. This process of exchange and education should be a communal one, as well as an individual, to establish a culture of environmental consciousness.

Most existing organizations focus their energies on assimilating new members to a party line by directing their attention towards a pre-existing list of essential works. These works, in the view of the organization, are integral to constructing an informed worldview. This is a static and alienating political tactic, regardless of how strict or militant an organization’s political program is. It naively presupposes there is one lens, one seat of consciousness, which is necessary and essential for affecting social change. It is in limiting a person’s environmental consciousness to the issues with which an organization concerns itself that isolation begins. It is political isolation which inspires sectarianism.

By being committed to flexibility and acceptance, an organization challenges its members to seize knowledge and share it. This principle encourages rather than alienates.

II) Unify Seats of Consciousness

The second principle of radical organizing stems directly from the first: while environmental consciousness, as the term suggests, refers to types of oppression in the environment around an individual, a seat of consciousness refers specifically to an individual’s rationalization of his or her life within that same environment. Rather than approaching different views as counterposed to one another, this principle aims to unite what is common. This is not something as narrow and superficial as looking for what is agreed upon by two conflicting views. It is a determination to find why a particular political view comes into existence. To do this, one must accept the unity between a person’s environmental consciousness and how this ultimately shapes one’s particular seat of consciousness. This starts with placing more value on WHY a person holds a particular opinion than on WHAT their opinion is. It is through seeking this deeper understanding, upon which sympathy and empathy are founded, that we achieve unity.

Establishing a safe emotional space for healthy exchange is a prerequisite for unifying seats of consciousness. Conventionally, there is far too much at stake in debates and political exchanges, especially public ones. It is in this atmosphere that people become concerned with being correct and besting the other, instead of encouraging understanding and clarity between different people. This practice should be just as informative for comrades working together as it is for the oppressed who may attend these forums of debate and exchange.

By encouraging all leftists to join and create such spaces, we strengthen our movement by including a diversity of perspectives. This is not something that stops when “everyone agrees,” but rather a non-stop process of discussion and expansion.

In unifying these perspectives, we create not assimilation, but tolerance and acceptance.

III) Rationalize Action

When a community of leftists feels confident in its existence as a body, the question of communal action comes into play. Before elaborating on this third principle, I want to make clear that no organization should ever restrict its members from acting autonomously politically. This is an unconditional freedom. That being said, when it is decided that a collective political action is appropriate, there must be a degree of discipline and structured procedure for the sake of individual as well as for organizational clarity. This is accomplished by requiring that all propositions for collective actions have a clearly articulated goal, means to accomplish the goal, and period of reflection that follows.

Once proposed, all members of an organization must dialogue and reach an agreement on the action. It is here where suggestions and feedback on the means of accomplishing the action’s goal must be submitted and discussed as well. This extends the democratic process beyond deciding on a simple proposition to the ideological makeup that inspires an action. By fusing education with every action, necessitating competence and seriousness between comrades, this establishes a professional attitude about the political work. By doing so, leftists are enriched by the communal discussion of action regardless of its outcome.

If the action is solidified and carried out, a period of reflection must follow where comrades meet and discuss the successes and failures of the action. This principle aims to synthesize action with reflection. It is a principle of Praxis.

IV) Fuse Development with Support

This fourth principle is the foundation on which the others rely. While the appeal of most organizations is embodied in what they offer programatically in addition to how they support a particular “cause,” rarely do they support their members’ livelihoods. I believe this is why there is a crisis of “cadre” (full-time activists). This was not always true for organizations. Being a professional revolutionary used to mean something tangible. Although this privileged status was given almost exclusively to vanguard parties with the financial means to pay their members’ expenses, the strategy is effective. It allows current and future members to fight with minimal dependence on capitalism as a means of subsistence. This frees them to pursue a more ambitious place in the left and provides the organization with a more effective means of acting within society.

A healthy leftist organization must offer both political development as well as socio-economic support to all of its members. The aim of this principle is to better equip leftists as agents of social change. Undercutting dependence on capitalism through organizational support eases the intensity of the workweek, opening up more opportunities for political work and education. This is a friendly gesture, which acknowledges the toils of oppressed working people rather than demanding yet more work from the masses. This is also something that can take on many different forms – communal spaces, food kitchens, donations, childcare, education, etc.

When we, as leftists, step back and commit ourselves to growing as a social force that interacts with the oppressed working class people, we can create a political environment of radical ideals, education, and communal resources.

For newly developing organizations or ambitious leftists looking to organize, I hope these four principles are useful guiding steps.

“The Emotional Brain” Submerged In The Left (part 2)

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Sorry for the long wait! Check out part 1 here if you haven’t checked it out!

Here in part two I would like to integrate what we learned about “the emotional brain submerged in the left” with some political strategies and outlines for organizing and reorganizing our leftist community. I will draw largely from Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which I find to be full of insightful and intuitive criticisms and proposals for our fractured political landscape. In the previous part, I wrote largely about how our brain’s emotional mechanisms give rise to our basic political program and how our emotions can manifest themselves in the form of sectarianism or other unproductive political practices. Here, we will flesh out in depth many of the processes we briefly touched on in part one while also criticizing and supplementing some of Freire’s theories and observations with some neuropolitical dialectics.

Paulo Freire dedicated decades of his life to working with oppressed workers, educating and learning from them. His book is largely the fruit of the knowledge he acquired in investigating, as the title implies, the pedagogy of the oppressed. In it, he dissects the strategies of education that characterize the oppressive ruling class and the fractured political parties of his time. In doing so he counterposes a pedagogy that is truly revolutionary. Freire’s insights stemmed from decades of research through observation and interaction with the oppressed class in Brazil. He shares a collection of tendencies which reflect class distinctions that capitalist societies implant in the minds of the oppressed and oppressors. I stress that these are tendencies rather than scientifically concrete and proven data. Again, this is not a shortcoming of his work, it is merely an objective assessment of the resources available to him at the time. With what we know about the emotional brain, I will provide an emotional neuroscientific framework which further legitimizes the intuitive tendencies Freire discovered. I hope this adds another dimension to an already phenomenal work.
Freire begins is book by establishing his humanist understanding of humanity.

“Concern for humanization leads at once to the recognition of dehumanization, not only as an ontological possibility but as a historical reality…Within history, in concrete objective contexts, both humanization and dehumanization are possibilities for a person as an uncompleted being conscious of their incompletion. But while both humanization and dehumanization are real alternatives, only the first is the people’s vocation. This vocation is constantly negated, yet affirmed by that very negation.”

Indeed, humanization is the people’s vocation. As a reader of this blog, you (hopefully) feel this desire to further humanize society. Freire insightfully states that even the negation of efforts of humanization affirms that humanization is the people’s vocation. This is a dialectical fact which Marx and Engels embraced and built upon in their work. Dehumanization is the suppression of otherwise revolutionary forces. It is the effort to retard growth, to oppress those who desire humanization. Dehumanization is the force a ruling class employs to oppress another. But if this is so plain and true, why are some of us on the side of humanization and others on the side of dehumanization? This is the first point I’d like to discuss. I believe the answer lies in every individual’s personal development.

In part one, I mentioned political development within an individual, stressing the importance of understanding how this is a reflection of one’s exposure to oppression. The political program a person chooses for him or herself is essentially his or her personal rationalization of those experiences. How this program changes and develops is largely at the mercy of one’s particular track of education be it in a university, through the lens of the media, or through political education within an organization. This is what is often referred to as a person’s worldview. I propose to replace “worldview” with a “seat of consciousness.”

What constitutes a ‘seat of consciousness’ and how does that differ from a ‘worldview?’ A seat of consciousness represents all environmental experiences, including how a particular person processes them. All contributing factors such as one’s family, nationality, gender, race, religious upbringing, education, and the like are encapsulated in this term. Ultimately, one’s seat of consciousness embodies the information needed to understand why an individual, at any particular point in time, chooses a certain political rationale (program, worldview, etc.) and expresses it. This term represents the unique perspective of an individual who interprets the experiences he or she has had, is having, and will have. A person’s seat of consciousness changes as each experience emotionally affirms or denies one’s accumulated understanding of the world. It is not permanent. On the contrary, it is marvelously plastic and fluid. Rather than approaching a person’s opinions as indicative of an abstract “worldview” which somehow represents a specific type of thinking that a definable population uniformly subscribes to, we root one’s unique perspective in a simple material fact; that all humans have a starkly individual life with a rich private history—a fabric of memories and subjectivity inextricably woven together. It is this that constitutes an individual’s seat of consciousness.

Unfortunately, due to the forces of dehumanization utilized by the oppressing class of our society, political development does not expand and improve so easily. There are many obstacles purposed solely for impeding this humanizing process of development. Freire identifies many of them clearly and boldly, synthesizing them with the humanizing forces present in a person’s seat of consciousness. The tendencies that characterize a particular epoch he terms its “thematic universe.”

“An epoch is characterized by a complex of ideas, concepts, hopes, doubts, values, and challenges in dialectical interactions with their opposites, striving towards plenitude. The concrete representation of many of these ideas, values, concepts, and hopes, as well as the obstacles which impede the people’s full humanization, constitute the themes of that epoch. These themes imply others which are opposing or even antithetical; they also indicate tasks to be carried out and fulfilled. Thus, historical themes are never isolated, independent, disconnected, or static; they are always interacting dialectically with their opposites. Nor can these themes be found anywhere except in the human-world relationship. The complex of interacting themes of an epoch constitutes its ‘thematic universe.’”

It is this “thematic universe” that an individual’s seat of consciousness is born out of and ultimately navigates, deconstructing each theme with every tool available. In each system ruled by a class of oppressors there is a goal of purging attitudes of rebellion from the minds of the oppressed. Under imperialism there is a plethora of tactics with the ultimate purpose of political assimilation to the oppressor’s rule. The oppressor’s seat of consciousness is forged in luxurious capital, towering above the oppressed.

Emotion is the foundation upon which the strategies of humanization and dehumanization are built. Without emotion, we would not recognize oppression, much less understand and recognize our freedom and the liberating ecstasy it entails. It is because of emotion that obstacles to freedom take root. Obstacles scare us from discovering our own power, obstacles give temporary relief when we have been beaten badly, and obstacles give us hope and faith in the system which rules. Obstacles confuse our emotions, blinding us to what we know to be true: this system is oppressing us. It is for this reason that our oppressors have an interest in political assimilation. It is for this reason that we are assigned roles which are safe and logical under a system of oppression. These roles keep us safe and sterile in the eyes of the ruling class. These roles isolate us from the truth so much so that reality becomes an unfamiliar friend—a stranger to be feared:

“One of the basic elements of the relationship between oppressor and oppressed is prescription. Every prescription represents the imposition of one individual’s choice upon another, transforming the consciousness of the person prescribed to into one that conforms with the prescriber’s consciousness. Thus the behavior of the oppressed is a prescribed behavior, following as it does the guidelines of the oppressor. The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. ‘Freedom would require them to eject this image and replace it with autonomy and responsibility. Freedom is acquired by conquest, not by gift.”

The process of numbing us to our own chains interferes with our seat of consciousness. The strength of this authoritative prescription causes us to abandon our unique experiences as the oppressed, and and as a result, we adopt the perspective of our slave drivers. We internalize their methods of dehumanization. Freedom becomes an uncomfortable topic, left only to the oppressors to discuss and frame. It is in this fragile state that we look to our rulers for mercy. We develop faith in their decisions. We line up for their gestures of false charity. Dazed, we come to be more focused on the symptoms of our diseased society rather than the disease itself and the ruling class indulges this change of interest. They pose as the generous crusaders against such “causes,” sending us further into a dizzying state of confusion. We come to fetishize the “good fight” against these symptoms, organizing narrowly around them instead of searching for our freedom. But Freire casts light on true generosity for us:

“True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity. False charity constrains the fearful and subdued, the ‘rejects of life,’ to extend their trembling hands. True generosity lies in striving so that these hands—whether of individuals or entire peoples—need be extended less and less in supplication, so that more and more they become human hands which work and, working, transform the world.”

In acknowledging how the discussion of freedom in some becomes more uncomfortable than submission, we come to understand the necessity of fighting for and educating others about freedom. We need a praxis that is devoted to uncovering the causes of our oppression, both through education and action:

“It is only when the oppressed find the oppressor out and become involved in the organized struggle for their liberation that they begin to believe in themselves. This discovery cannot be purely intellectual but must also involve action; nor can it be limited to mere activism, but must include serious reflection: only then will it be a praxis.”

In realizing who and what this political struggle is against, we must consider how to fight this battle. How this battle takes place is a topic where our unity as the oppressed disintegrates, dropping us into the cesspool of sectarianism. It is here that we see hierarchy develop in political parties, centralized around a party’s program. In looking to further their political development, people join organizations seeking knowledge, comrades, and tools for fighting oppression. It is in this emotionally affirming environment that an individual begins to cement their viewpoint once more; yet still not from themselves, but from a seat prescribed to them. At the top of these hierarchical organizations, a seat of consciousness is decided for the entire group to represent and adopt.

“Many political and educational plans have failed because their authors designed them according to their own personal views of reality, never once taking into account (except as mere objects of their actions) the men-in-a-situation to whom their program was ostensibly directed.”

As I referred to in part 1, sectarianism stems from these organizational methods which callouses individuals from being able to effectively discuss their abstract political differences in fruitful dialogues. The vanguard party, by engaging in democratic centralism, becomes a doctrine designed specifically to blind outsiders to a party member’s individual seat of consciousness. This is done in order to keep outsiders focused on the party’s program, which is a grave and serious obstacle to healthy dialogue. Other organizations utilize reactionary emotional tricks designed to arouse feelings of disgust and intolerance before discussion can be had. Red baiting is one of these tricks which has often been deployed at a moment’s notice. With this said, what organizational methods are healthy?

This will be the topic of part 3.