Yet Another Coda

The owner of the bus company HORNA, in whose vehicle I was riding when it hit a truck and then crashed into a car, said that he had no way of controlling whether or not the drivers had accidents. He was therefore not responsible for anything that happened, so that it was not his duty to pay for the damage to the car, or send another bus to pick up the stranded HORNA passengers.

It occurred to me that if he said this among the Reeducated and Reeducands, people would give a standing ovation – he would have shown himself to have assimilated the absolute insouciance, irresponsibility, indifference, authoritarianism, and self-serving behavior that Reeducation, the Religious Right, the government, and a few other entities have managed to inculcate in a great many people over the past two decades.

Hattie has an important post which addresses these matters from another angle, although it is about sex so it is more fun than this post. You should really watch the interview to which she links. It explains why the Religious right is a sexual movement. I could give more highlights, but watch the video – then get the book.


On Reeducation, I think its most dangerous idea is that people have permanent, congenital defects they cannot see, and with which they need permanent help from Reeducation. (I am now having the remnants of Reeducation removed with acupuncture. The acupuncturist’s view is that Reeducation cut my connection to life. Part of the treatment is to eat fish, mushrooms, and seaweed – my favorite foods, anyway, which I can now justify buying as medicine.)


A friend, meanwhile, lives with an alcoholic and believes in Reeducation. She says that one needs to learn not to criticize one’s circumstances, but to rise above them, learn to live in them without having them affect one. She says God has taught her tolerance, so that she is not affected. Yet being at the house is like standing at the edge of an open wound, and when our friend is at home she is rigid with tension.

There are five bedrooms and seven household members. The alcoholic says my friend is not tolerant enough. The other five agree, in a way – she is committed to arguing with the alcoholic about drinking, committed to complaining, and will neither leave nor just let things ride. Every cousin over eighteen years of age is moving out, making various excuses. My friend and the alcoholic have arranged for a new set of cousins to move in, so that the feeling of having a family can go on.

The teenaged nieces have been grounded, not by their aunt, but by their mother, who lives in the country. One is grounded for using Tampax (on this, please see Hattie’s post, referenced above), and the other for refusing to ride in a car driven by the alcoholic while he was drunk. The adults, remember, are Bodhisattvas, having learned to rise above the uncle’s drinking.


My point on the above, of course, is that it is not tolerance – it is Denial 101. But then there is a lot of denial in Lima. I would even say there are U.S. levels of denial, only on different topics. One of the most obvious ones to me is the current cant and prayer that foreign investment and the revival of the mining industry is going to “save Peru.” It amazes me that Peruvians, of all people, do not remember that these things have been said before.


43 thoughts on “Yet Another Coda

  1. I’m glad we’re hanging in with each other. I think that the discourse going on in this corner of cyberspace may be important.

    I’m seeing encouraging signs everywhere of rebellion against the notion of abandoning oneself in the interest of mere survival.

  2. I remember the episode way back when my parents — having decisively dis-earned my trust, decided to regain it.

    “The problem with you, young woman, is that you don’t TRUST US enough!” my father boomed in my ear. “They only way to fix this problem of yours is for you to tell us that you have started to trust us again!”

  3. Hattie – Oh, good! Jennifer – yes, I’ve also been accused of that, when in fact my interlocutor is not trustworthy. All – I am not sure whether this post is discreet enough. I might make it private, or disguise it more (it is somewhat disguised – it conflates households – but still).

  4. But how did you understand the accusation?

    Here is how I understood it:

    “I hate it that you are making evident, through your cautious behaviour, the amount of ugliness I feel inside. It is deeply hurtful for you to confirm it in this way, since I can do nothing at all to improve that feeling. Unless you deny this internal ugliness I feel, I will have greater difficulty living with myself. You owe it to me to make me feel better about myself.”

  5. Children are being to forced to cope with their parents’ mental illness with no outside help. It’s tragic.

  6. Well I was an adult at this time — but I expect it happens to children, too. It’s devastating enough to see one’s parents come undone in this way, though. The natural instinct is to want to help — but unfortunately that would lead to becoming a victim, rather than saving oneself. And the parents really are convinced that their child is the one torturing them by rejecting them for no reason. They present themselves to the outside world as angels, struggling with a nasty child.

  7. But the problem that CAUSES this mental illness, I detect, is the necessary infantilisation and self-prostitution that one must undergo, as a member of the proletarian class, in order to make ends meet.

    So, objectively I am implicated in my parents’ mental illness — as they did what they had to do in order to support me.

    This is a very bad state of affairs to be mixed up in.

  8. I had help by educating myself in the Nietzschean concept of ressentiment. I see that this attitudinal stance is most common among right winger proletarians today, because they are the ultimate dupes of the system and have so much objectively to feel resentful about. The thing is that they remain passive — or blame those close to them instead of the system as such, which is another way of remaining passive. That is why conservatives are amongst those who are most mentally ill today. (see the site “feminist critics” for an example of this kind of passivity, although not yet, but perhaps in due course, mentally ill.)

    Those who fight back, as a rule, can salvage much of their mental health. At least they know what is hitting them.

  9. This site? Tell me more … I really ought to stop exploring websites …

    In general, remaining passive, yes. It is what they do, which is why one is so scary to them, etc.: it is something I am only slowly coming to see, as the attitude of these people is so hard to imagine. I will have to study this thread.

    Tangent: I *do* think fighting back, precisely for purposes of salvaging mental health, is the thing to do. But I am trying to figure out what to do re a current fight: “Defend yourself!” cried one and all, but the thing is that I am by myself and may not have the physical power to do it. When is NOT fighting, so as to not have to sustain further attacks, better for mental health? (And why is it that so few support assertive middle paths: what is this either just accept what’s dished out, or sue the pants off of them mentality?)

  10. I don’t know enough about your situation to know what to do. One thing to remember is the phenomenon of projective identification (or in Jung’s term, “the shadow”), which always seems to come into play with those who are inherently passive (It’s like they try to get rid of their waste material — what they don’t like about their situation — by projecting it onto you, and making it out to be your responsibility.) One way to defend against this is to point out that you can see the behaviour for what it is, but that as an infantile form of expression, it doesn’t — and cannot make any sense. (These projectors are relying upon YOU to create meaning out of the situation for them — they are that lazy!)

  11. OH YES, I see. Projective identification. It is why it is so hard to get procedural information, anything objective. “What are my options at this point, according to your protocol? I see your policy document, but it does not address all aspects of the law. How do you…?” And then the one thing they can NOT do is answer the bureaucratic question – they can only go at feelings or details, somehow.

    But I see. Lots of vicariousness, and laziness, and projection, and *I* am to create meaning. I shall think on this.

  12. Well feminist critics are an interesting case of people who have HALF woken up to the reality that social meaning is politically determined. It’s an uncomfortable fact for most of them — since they are conservatives and quite comfortable with that, thankyou very much. Yet, they can see that feminists have made some inroads into changing society. They feel strangely hurt by this. It’s as if feminists have upset the pre-existing political balance which was no doubt working for everyone. (The fact that they are hurt by the seeming one-eyed nature of feminist political activism –something I am unqualified to speak upon, as I am not in the US or Canada — is the genuine side to their complaints.)

    Anyway, their intellects function to allow them to see some shady outline of what can be done through political activism. Yet what they see is limited — just the shady apparition of feminism moving around, and not the political nature of the economy and social system per se.

    So, they form this oppositional discourse to the stereotype they see as feminism (they overgeneralise a lot). Their opposition is primarily based on the notion of giving air-time to an opposite point of view — that is, to the view that it is males, in fact, who are oppressed, and that women are pretty well positioned in societies in general.

  13. Well, with regard to being the one to create meaning — once you create meaning out of the situation, the lazy ones will know what your position is, so they will create the diametrically opposite meaning then, and assert that it is the correct one!

    So the best thing to do is not to relay what you actually think of the situation. Keep putting pressure on them to give them their version of the meaning of the situation.

    (People — especially political animals who thrive on projective identification to nourish themselves — will not welcome this approach.)

  14. Oh God. I also just read the “About” part of the site and it is revealing. They want to express half baked generalizations about feminism and then have feminists come and defend themselves, and explain their positions – GOOD GOD, that’s as sexist as it comes. !!!

  15. And – our comments crossed. Hm – interesting. It won’t work as a strategy in this situation, I don’t think – their stated opinion is that there is no problem and that their policy document covers everything – but I see the point. Would have worked in a situation like my X relationship, though, and might have worked in an earlier stage of the current situation.

  16. Well, the feminist critics don’t mean to be sexist. I believe they are very sincere and genuinely benighted — not trying to set a trap for feminists at all. Yet they do dig their heels in at certain points, and refuse to think. I think they genuinely lack critical thinking skills, whilst believing — like most conservatives — that they know about as much as there is to know.

  17. It might be possible to say that my mother’s life circumstances drove her crazy. But her family was one in which both of her parents were psychotic. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother schizophrenic.
    My sister and I can’t figure out why we’re sane.

  18. J – no, they don’t, and yes, I see how they feel. They’re not trying to set a trap for feminists, but they do think women should spend their time going over there and explaining things to them. That is a conservative trait, it’s true – believing they know about as much as there is to know.

    H – I’d strongly suspect it was your mother’s life circumstances. Did you know your grandmother, the schizophrenic one? On turning out sane: I really think it helps to be intelligent. It enables you to have a critical sense. People keep telling me it makes you more fragile, but I don’t think so.

  19. Both of my grandparents died within a few months of each other when my mother was 14. There were other circumstances, as well; a brother and sister died in adolescence. With the exception of the eldest son, who inherited everything, the remaining children were poverty stricken all through the Depression. But they were not strange, like my mother. I do have one cousin who is mentally ill but functional.
    My mother was brilliant but a depressive alcoholic. She did have the sense to get help, which may have provided enough rational input into the family for my sister and me to avoid mental illness. But I would not call us happy people, nor have we advanced as far in life as we might have otherwise. I am grateful that I do have a life, however, because many from families like mine end up bereft.
    I don’t think families like mine are even rare.

  20. Many families eat their young. That is why we need social services.

    Hi PZ. Well I went over there and explained stuff to them, but unfortunately none of it sunk in. I did give them the benefit of the doubt that they actually wanted to know stuff, but it seems that they only want material so that they can rebuff it. They are not interested in dealing with the actual content of the material that they deem feminist.

    So they read what I say — and I have experienced some genuine misogyny — and the instinct is to place some statistics up against it and claim that in the big picture it doesn’t matter because men are the major victims of society. Their whole paradigm is off. It merely implies that if the stack of female bodies was to be higher — and be proven to be so — then feminism would win, but failing that it presumably loses. A very misanthropic way to view that world, which yeilds no good results.

  21. H – ah, I see, very like my family except moreso, same tenor of problems but more intense and more densely placed, fewer people escaping. But yes, it’s good not to have succumbed to all of it.

    J – yes, I know their type. They’re probably the kind of guy who is virtuous by voting, say, for your Secular party, and recycling and all, and don’t understand why women date more retrograde men first. Except that the more retrograde men are probably *not* more sexist, and are probably more entertaining since they ask you to dance or something rather than ask you to sit around and debate, on their terms, picky pieces of what they think is feminist theory.

  22. Sould be like that, PZ. Being picky about feminism as a kind of courtship behaviour. Urgh. And then followed by the always very telling aspect: You owe me something because I spoke to you for a while. Or the other: I’ve decided what your label is, and now you must wear it.

  23. But the really disturbing thing is the implicit one — that the body count of victims determines who has moral righteousness to the exclusion of the other party. I don’t know if this is a normal way to think, in the US and Canada. My own view is that if there is something pathological about society, you try to clean it up so that whatever is going wrong does not continue to go wrong. You don’t make a competition out of “the pathology afflicting me is worse than the pathology afflicting you — so I win and you don’t have a point at all!”

  24. J – on the first of these comments, just yes. On the next – yes – I don’t know if it is a normal way of thinking here but one does encounter it as a power play. White middle class men do it often. My theory is that they have ressentiment because they think they should be upper class, or have upper class privileges, and don’t, so they are mad at the women and nonwhites. I’ve seen some women do it also, usually in competitive environments (e.g. academia).

  25. PZ– if people do that to me, I can reduce them to the zero that they want me reduced to. There is no need to believe in such modes of specious reasoning — not when there is no outside pressure to accept them.

  26. Yes – it’s pretty easy to rebuff or not participate in. But not worth trying to show them the way out of, because they want to be the kings and queens of suffering. It took me a long time to understand / ‘grock’ that some people prefer to continue to suffer, and want to get credit for it / use it as a way to wield power over others, while suffering to as to mask the power play. That’s what I see in that website.

  27. Right. I think that it is the fashion today to believe in hidden principles concerning how things simply have to work. It’s weird enough, because it is in effect the belief that one’s fellow human is the maximal victim of all sorts of compulsions — which, if so, what does that say about you???!!

    But people believe they can control others by using strategies that create a sense of obligation or whatever — like the white male attitude regarding feminism, which believes that women everywhere are under the compulsion to “teach me”.

    There are all sorts of variations on this theme, concocted by very immature people. Perhaps is is because of the uncaring and atomising nature of society, who knows, but if you feel you need love and care, that is one thing, to require it as the basis for someone else’s compulsion — that just isn’t how things work!

    But people want to use Newtonian principles to get what they want. They believe in psychological leverage, and in close proximity to you, they are prepared to use various mechanisms of the political and bureaucratic system to force you to comply. (They can threaten to charge you with certain things, implying malice or negligence on your part, for not coming through for them.)

    I find this all exceedingly weird and bad — because even if such people get what they want out of you, their own characters and possibilities are ruined by this negative play.

    However, it is what they do.

  28. As in, the invisible hand of the market is natural, etc. It’s all very odd, but I think they aren’t interested in not ruining their characters and possibilities, and they don’t see an outside to this negative play.

  29. Right. *Especially* the invisible hand of the market is natural.

    Those who don’t see an outside to this negative play always astound me — because, in my view, once they have forced me to do something I hadn’t planned to do … once they have used the mechanisms of the system to compel me to do something for them, then so far as I’m concerned, they’ve played themselves out. They have revealed their cards, and now I know who they are — people who are not worth my time or concern. And yet, hope springs eternal, and these types always seem to assume that I didn’t see what they were doing, or that I must forgive them.

    But I am under no compulsion to forgive them, at all.

  30. “…these types always seem to assume that I didn’t see what they were doing, or that I must forgive them.”

    This is why they’re irritating. They think one isn’t intelligent, so that if one disagrees with them it is because one hasn’t understood their lofty intellects, or their subtle ways, or their sensitivity, or whatever. And they think one cannot leave them, cannot even stay with them and not like them them, must love them, and so must forgive them. Or something like this.

  31. Right. To leave them is to prove one’s lack of intelligence in their eyes. But it is a great virtue to lack intelligence in that sense, I say.

    These days, I swear, I am becoming more and more like the Buddah.

  32. I’m good at being Buddha like in some situations, but not in others … ! (I sometimes think I should get more Geronimo like instead.)

  33. Here’s a tip from martial arts (Bruce Lee, in fact):

    If someone is a skilled kicker, then punch them. If someone is a skilled puncher, kick. Draw the attention of the opponent down and hit high. Draw the attention of the opponent up and hit low.

    Also from me: Oppose Western idiocies with Buddhism. Oppose Eastern idiocies with ego-centred will.

  34. With the invisible hand of the market thing, mentioned earlier, it really is as if people presume that they are they are the manifest agents of this invisible hand. That’s what gets me about the weirdness of it all (the current cultural fashion). At the time that they are acting as the invisible hand in relation to you — generally, in the sense of acting sadistically, although sometimes masochistically — those that do so clearly do not perceive themselves as individuals at all, but as abstract forces acting and being acted upon. That is why they do not expect you to take it “personally”.

    But of course, if you are not bound to see the world in these same terms, what you see are individuals who have temporarily decided that they are “forces” and not exactly individuals (who will have to answer for their actions later in a personal sense). You see the evasion of responsibiilty for having a self, and then the return to a certain posturing as an individual with unique qualities, and it all seems very funny.

    A true individual, of course, would remain one from this moment to the next, and not posture as an abstract force, beyond his or her own control, whenever that was convenient.

  35. Yes – and

    “the evasion of responsibility for having a self”

    is really key. These are the people who can’t stand (or can’t see) integrity in others, and who try to destroy that.

  36. I think I’m starting to nail it though — how someone can SEEM okay on the outside, but when it comes down to it, their personality turns out to have been eaten through with holes. It’s like they see themselves as an individual, too, but actually they’re the Borg, and should not be trusted.

    These days, my feelings are very finely tuned to detect this all too familiar aberration from human centred being. I ask myself, “did I come away from the interaction feeling like I’d just spoken to a human, in the deep sense of it?” Very often there is something human there, but also something resigned and empty. You feel like you are touching an “almost human”, someone who will sway in the wind. That isn’t so much the problem, but that they may betray you by yeilding to the path of least resistance. (And they will feel “strong” if they get to express their sadism in the process.)

    But people who do martial arts, people who do adventure sports, most of the black people I speak to from Africa (and somewhat fewer of the whites) seem to return a feeling of reliability and substance. Those are the ones whose company I choose.

  37. This is key:

    “Very often there is something human there, but also something resigned and empty. You feel like you are touching an ‘almost human’, someone who will sway in the wind. That isn’t so much the problem, but that they may betray you by yeilding to the path of least resistance. (And they will feel ‘strong’ if they get to express their sadism in the process.)”

    Is it especially prevalent in academics? I feel this is true, but my experience is limited.

  38. I also think it is held as a certain ideal. There is the sense that holding firmly onto an institutional consiousness is a way to self-transcend. And, in turn, institutions perpetuate this view, self-servingly, by enforcing the belief that the quality of being recognisably human is one that has to be earned. So people see their real selves as being defined by service. Such service commands them to turn in their fellow man and woman, so that they, too, might get the appropriate discipline they need in order to become properly human.

    It’s insidious.

  39. Great diagnosis. Insidious, yes indeed.

    “…enforcing the belief that the quality of being recognisably human is one that has to be earned. So people see their real selves as being defined by service.”

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