Parenting and Childing the Revolutionary Subject
Individualism and Collectivism as False Dichotomy

Most of us in the modern world at some point come to think there is something fundamentally wrong with human relations in this day and age. Many have turned to the authority of religion or psychiatry: "Will someone please tell me how to act?" Some are more philosophical about this mess; we turn the "other" into a dialectical opposition and attempt to annihilate it through a competition of accumulation and consumption and rationalize the process with a 'libertarian' egoism. They used to call this "greed and pure-D selfishness". Others try to annihilate the self in ways Freud labelled "neuroses", the old tried-and-true suicide, use of intoxicating substances, or even "pure-D socialism" – the sacrifice of the self "for the greater good". Of course, this is all predictable when we think of the other as not only disconnected, but in opposition, and is only 'natural' in a world view informed by aristotelian logic. Every option seems to put the self and other into a dialectic friction – conflict and competition – and the world view is reinforced through self-fulfilling prophecy, even if the self is left more than a bit confused.

"I hold a beast, an angel, & a madman in me, & my enquiry is as to their working, & my problem is their subjugation & victory, downthrow & upheaval, & my effort is their self-expression." - Dylan Thomas

Life, as we find it, is too hard for us; it brings us too many pains, disappointments and impossible tasks. In order to bear it we cannot dispense with palliative measures. ‘We cannot do without auxiliary constructions’, as Theodor Fontane tells us. There are perhaps three such measures: powerful deflections, which cause us to make light of our misery; substitutive satisfactions, which diminish it; and intoxicating substances, which make us insensitive to it. Something of the kind is indispensable. Voltaire has deflections in mind when he ends Candide with the advice to cultivate one’s garden; and scientific activity is a deflection of this kind, too. The substitutive satisfactions, as offered by art, are illusions in contrast with reality, but they are none the less psychically effective, thanks to the role which phantasy has assumed in mental life. The intoxicating substances influence our body and alter its chemistry. It is no simple matter to see where religion has its place in this series. - S. Freud, from Civilization and its Discontents

It would almost seem we are built to dissect and categorize. It is obviously related to our special knack for comparison, even of each other. We "recognize". Somewhere along the way we've been domesticated – seduced to give up comparison and replace it with contrast. Instead of asking on similarities, we are content with opposition: "what's the opposite of _____?" (fill in the blank) – and so we come to think we "know". We label things and then we measure, rank, or even negate them. Concentrating on differences, ever searching out conflict, we distance ourselves from connection – we witness alienation. When we do experience 'sameness' we consider it a profound revelation – "ah-haa!" – or a matter of "synchronicity" – surely evidence of the "supernatural"! It is a "warm" feeling. But we cannot escape similarities in the world: every equation must have an 'equal' sign. This we call "cold logic" – the sterile domain of the mathematician.

This is how we construct the world and our shared construction is why we can even talk about it. That we impose a logical grid on reality neither suggests that there is no 'order', nor does it say that the world does not exist outside of our constructions or only comes into being because of them (the notion of the early 'idealists'). Rather, we cannot directly 'know' the world except through metaphor – poetic or mechanical, this is symbolic thought. Anything outside our metaphor is therefore considered "chaos", "criminal" and "insane". Thus, our own categories are felt by many to be overly restrictive, even suffocating.

Human beings are not absurd, and the world is not absurd, but for humans to be in the world is absurd. Human beings, recognizing the limitations implied in being human in this world, cannot create another world which ignores the absurdity of this existence – Albert Camus
This metaphorical categorization or "symbolic thought" has led some, like John Zerzan, to consider it the source of the absurdity of living in this world. Source, it may be, but this draws away from the crux of our discontent – the social relation of power (one-upmanship) producing atomization, alienation and separation; the social relation of power (exclusion) producing property, poverty, illness and wars of conquest and annihilation. Metaphorical categorization also allows language, art, trust, camaraderie, community and festivity. There has never been a revolution against these things, only their deflection, substitution and denial (repression).

The divergence might just be as simple as categorization based on differences (discrimination) as opposed to that based on similarities (generalization) – they tell us we have passed intellectual "milestones" when we are able to make fine distinctions, when we can throw out the triangle from a box of squares. They tell us that intelligence is is the mastery of information, and that information is "that which makes a difference". We have achieved this grand intelligence at the expense of the child's ability to generalize, to see how things are similar, to see connections, to create poetry. We supercede rather than accompany generalization in our all-or-nothing, either-or world. Discrimination outranks generalization – we must choose the more efficient to raise our children to become successful time-and-motion engineers.

Freud told us the first categorical distinction a child makes is between the self (ego) and the other (mother). This he labeled "the reality principle" which comes to gradually supersede the "pleasure principle" – the pursuit of happiness or the avoidance of unhappiness which is, for Freud and most psychologists after him, the attempt to satisfy our personal needs or desires. This supercession is also the foundation of society. It sets up the social relation beginning with the immediate family and extending to the local group. The 'undomesticated' child, interested in his/her own needs comes to know s/he requires aid from others as soon as the self-distinction is made. It is this nurturing aid (reinforcement) from others which prevents the self-distinction or 'individuality' from metamorphosing into isolation and alienation.

A society or community or family requires that the self-other distinction not be complete – the child still shares a bond with the mother, and this comes to extend to others. Where the so-called "reality principle" accompanies rather than supercedes the "pleasure principle", the social relation of mutual aid sets in quite rapidly – there is no one more giving than the undomesticated child. As we extend this self-other logic, we come up with the notions of us and them ('group solidarity' and its civilized cousins, 'patriotism' and 'bigotry') and eventually the collective species or superordinate/generic category, 'mankind' (humanism), which distinguishes us from all other existense. Without the balance of generalization, we instead become alienated from all other existence.

The fact is that we are social beings and, in evolutionary terms, the species cannot survive without a social relation. The 'social' individual cannot 'live' without others (although s/he can 'struggle' and 'survive' for a time). Eastern mysticism (Tao) sees a logic or connection between the self and the other which should be in balance/harmony/equilibrium rather than display the politics of antagonism and control by superior forces (the winners, parents, teachers, cops and even colleagues) of which we are all well familiar (dialectics is the warfare of ideas). It is appropriate to suggest that there is a war between the individual's construction of his/her world and the society's construction of the individual, but this only continues our notions of all against all – competitive democracy.

That we can share our construction of the world via language allows us to help or hinder each other. When the child comes to see the parent as a source of control rather than aid, individuality is suppressed and resentment (or even neurosis) sets in. This is the civilized social relation of domestication/control which prepares the child for submission to social institutions (school and thereafter, work). Throughout life, the individual both feels and is hindered and isolated. The task of the social institutions is to repress this natural resentment, but it is never eliminated. It always resurfaces as a quest for power (the so-called "black seed" of "human nature") among the successfully socialized, and aberrant behavior (crime, madness, eccentricity, rebellion) among the less so. For the successful domesticate, one's own progress is derived from the hindrance of others, and this is called "healthy competition". All domesticates seek to express their individuality since this is the first thing (self-expression) taken by 'society'. The psychopathy of the serial killer is not so far removed from the war-mongering politician. The difference is a matter of cultural sanction or social convention – the former conveys too much individuality. Exploitation under feudalism or capitalism is also not so far removed – the former allows too much locality and therefore, multiplicity. The movement of civilization has always been toward universality and away from multiplicity, whether through conquest or conversion.

As civilization itself progresses, dissent grows with our struggle to assert our individuality as well as our collective interests: childhood friendships must be screened by discerning parents to avoid spoilage. In civilization, Maslow's "self-actualization" always grows from a sense of dissent or rebellion. It must. We think of this as a quest for freedom because in our situation, we do not experience freedom – we hardly know what it means. Romantic utopianists try to imagine a social relation based on helping rather than hindrance. Both Kropotkin and Marx fall into this 'category'. Marx felt the state could be transformed into a 'helping' institution through a natural revolt of the discontented. The opposing anarchists following Bakunin thought we could in fact do quite well without the state altogether. Individualists or 'illegalists' have influenced the modern day insurrectionists. As 'grownups', concentration on the state apparatus or economic institutions distances us from our own participation in the process of domestication which starts with the incredulous social relation between parent and child:

Traditionally this (basic distrust) orientation has encouraged attention to latent tendencies to "naughtiness", which have sometimes been seen as actively present in every young child. The theory influences the way an infant is perceived, and once this point of view is adopted it tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more infants sense a danger that their biological needs may not be supplied, the more their biologically-determined survival mechanisms prompt them to seek to control their mothers, apparently confirming the view that they are naturally too selfish, "manipulative" or aggressive. Thus, exaggeration and distortion of necessary biological mechanisms may encourage the perception of the infant as a potential "monster".

When naughtiness is seen as the result of failure to control natural tendencies which are considered to be primitive animal, and therefore bad, her conviction may be reinforced that these must be eliminated by appropriate training, lovingly if possible, but coercion and threats may be needed if resistance is encountered. If this becomes pronounced, violence is justified in what is, after all seen as a good cause. If this doctrine and the related training processes produce a "naughty" or "disturbed" child, this can still be seen as confirming the premise that the original tendency to naughtiness was strong, and the difficulties may be attributed to insufficient training and punishment.

The emphasis (in an orientation of trust) in the parents' basic goal is to enjoy a good relationship with the child, and help to produce a "whole" healthy person who is also likely to be sufficiently "good". The quest for obedience and conformity is not a prevailing emphasis as in the basic distrust orientation.

(This) method of childrearing aims to satisfy the young child's needs and develop a cooperative, mutually satisfying, affectionate relationship, in which the potentialities of the child and parents unfold, blossom and gradually mature. The developing capacities for self-regulation are respected and encouraged ... The parents teach avoidance of common dangers and gradually encourage a disposition to consider and respect the needs and feelings of others' through experiencing this consideration within the family ... Thus when confronted with an infant displaying a strong urge to do something or have it done for him, it can be illuminating to consider whether this urge may have some genetic component, being adaptive and of value for the child's development. This point of view is neatly expressed in the saying: "A baby's wants are pretty much the same as its needs".

The child's point of view is more likely to be understood, and parental requests take into account the child's feelings and capacities so that hostility and negativism tend to be minimized. The child's feelings are accepted in the expectation that sufficient self-control will be achieved as appropriate to the child's age. (The options of exercising authority and sufficient force are still available if essential.) Inconsiderate behaviour is discouraged but the quality of relationships tends to make punishment inappropriate and it may be seldom or never needed.

This approach is based on a different view of the nature of the child and is more in accord with modern understanding of child development. It appears less alien to the traditions of many non-Westernised societies, including those of hunter-gatherer groups whose mother-infant interactions have been studied ... In Western societies a partial breakdown in these natural processes of mothering behaviour appears to have occurred on a considerable scale ... it is not generally understood that this does not require the parents to strive for early versions of the finally desired behaviour since infancy is not so much a prime opportunity to mould the child but rather a time to seek to satisfy the infant and enjoy the unfolding of many built-in qualities in the setting of trusting and mutually rewarding relationships. - Peter S. Cook, Childrearing, Culture And Mental Health

Raised as "naughty" children, we cannot imagine an alternative to mistrust and competition, so we remain at odds with each other. Individualism and collectivism have no common ground for the "democratic" collective still out-ranks individual expression and a world of "free" individuals is thought to deny community. In either case, the self is atomized, alienated, separated. Many cannot imagine the individual's pleasure other than at the expense of the other, and others cannot imagine the helping of others as anything beyond personal sacrifice. This aristotelian struggle between the individual and collective, the self and the other, will not be eliminated until our child-rearing techniques eliminate the ideas of entrenched power and competition and replace them with an orientation of trust and inclusion – Heidegger's "openness to being" rather than Nietzsche's "will to power". But we are caught up in a vicious cycle starting with the wrenching of the new-born from the bonding physical contact with the mother the moment s/he is born, given a swift slap on the ass and sent off for sterilization.

Because of our lack of community or even the extended family, the only option for the civilized parent is to prepare the child for institutionalization – school. S/he is informed and aided by the television. In the past, any number of parenting 'mistakes' could be counterbalanced by kin and in fact, the entire community with their diversity of experience as opposed to our uniformity of cultural expectation. Today, a 'mistake' perceived by the state results in the state appropriating your children. This is why the state has always relied on the ideological destruction of 'community' over and above the physical destruction of communities. Only state institutions are to provide community – whether as soldier, teacher, cop or social worker, "the policeman is your friend".

The appeal of the 'barbarian' was the original revolutionary subject – the threat to the civilized/domesticated social relation. With it's destruction by empire, the 'peasant' became the only stronghold of community. With the commodification of food, the only threatening subject left is the child and those "child-like" qualities of the improperly socialized – the "mentally ill" [please see Alien Subjectivity]. Today, among the few places to witness community are the street and the mental ward – the "no-go zones" of the urban world, the places of play and imagination.

Living free within community is thought a logical contradiction and is perhaps the most difficult concept for the domestic adult. It makes quantum mechanics look like child's play. Yet child's play looks an awful lot like living free in community. It's undomesticated. It's savage! To slightly detourne Stephen Stills excellent song, "Children, teach your parents well!" What we 'grups' don't understand is that the child comes to us already on a path of knowledge, but for them, "to know" is always in the biblical sense – a passionate or even orgasmic engagement, generating all sorts of fantastic discriminations and generalizations. Sometimes dissidents who adopt this attitude call it "revolutionary praxis" to escape the judgement or accusation of "tree-hugging idealist punk!" In my day it was "long-haired pinko-commie fag!"

Abundance and Relativity:

In this writing, I've dealt over and again with the notion of "primitive" abundance in contrast to our system of imposed scarcity. Abundance is not a necessarily quantitative concept but a matter of freedom of access or the absence of fixed limits [abound: 'over-flowing'; 'without binds'; 'unlimited']. Something in small quantity may be made abundant through unrestricted cooperation or sharing, while a large quantity will represent scarcity for some under the alienating influence of competition and control.

For illustration, let's go back to the beginnings of agricultural civilization, which popular legend tells us started with abundant grain harvests supporting population growth and settlement in permanent cities. A large grain harvest does little to assuage the hunger of peasants when it is stored in a fortified granary and fed to insects, rodents, and those in turn to the fowl which ultimately make it to the priest-king's table. It is small amounts of what grain is left after the other 'livestock' are fed which is divied out to the peasants and which keeps them employable. The difficult work-load to supply abundance to the aristocracy dwelling in the city makes large families an amenable idea. Traditional limits to population growth are abandoned, familial patriarchy and sons are favored, and the role of parent transforms into that of boss. This seems a much more reasonable beginning of agricultural civilization and its rural/urban dichotomy and other economic and political class distinctions than that glorified myth which we are taught in school. Civilization is the birth of the slave class – domesticated man.

Grand artifacts from the early civilizations such as granaries and pyramids are venerated and referred to as beneficial "public works". What this really means, from the vantage point of the aristocracy, is that "the public is working and we are not!" The old chicken-or-egg argument has always been fore front in the mind of the priest-king: "Today, shall I eat the chicken or the egg?" His choice is informed by the bureaucrat/grain inspector who has had the house-slaves make a proper count of the boll weevil population in the granary. A high count means "egg", a low count means "chicken".

This situation, of course, is the source of the popular phrase, "there is no war but the class war!" Unfortunately, as simple as our social organization is, it is no longer so simple as to clearly distinguish a "them" and an "us". What radical theorists struggling with the concept of class are basically saying is: "After the revolution, who do we line up against the wall?" This is not so far removed from what the "powers-that-be" are saying: "To prevent revolution, who do we line up against the wall?"

I cannot over-emphasize the point made by Gustav Landauer, which I paraphrase:

We are all the state and will continue to be so until we learn to form real human communities.
"Real" human communities, as with all animal communities, are always based in mutuality or cooperative social relations – not in conflict, competition, coercion and struggle (and to appease those aristotelian 'either/or' critics, this is not to say that competition, coercion and struggle never occur in "real" communities – they just don't define them). To place "cooperation" and "civilization" in the same context (of imposed scarcity) is to portray oxymoronic logic at its finest1. If we, the civilized, cooperate at all, it is because it is somehow an instinctual drive which must surface now and again (especially during courting rituals), and felt pleasurable because hormones are put into play which haven't been active since childhood, or it is an ancient artifact held over from more primitive times. Not a few dystopian sci-fi writers have imagined civilized worlds where cooperation is not necessary at all except in the sense we mean when we use such phrases as "cooperate with the authorities". If Boas was correct when he implied that habbit and tradition outweigh conscious rationality underlying human actions and institutions, these 'fictions' may well turn into prophecy. In fact, there has always been much discussion of their prophetic value.

Einstein popularized the notion that all existence is subject to relativity. Even existence as mass or energy is relative to speed, and that itself is relative to distance traveled as witnessed by another at a different vantage point. With the relativist point of view, it matters not whether the chicken or egg came first – the focus is on the process or relation between the two. Epicurus said something not too dissimilar 2500 years ago, and even Socrates invoked relativity to point out the absurdity of Greek slave-based social stratification. The absurdity is found in the question of origin itself. As Samuel Buttler noted, "A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg".

But, with the help of a good dose of hemlock, the notion of class superiority still reigns. Of course, there is certain adaptive 'value' to a feeling of cultural superiority (ethnocentrism) when it maintains solidarity – what sociologists call "group cohesion". Some anthropologists have referred to it as a group isolating mechanism, maintaining local autonomy and therefore, helping to maintain conditions of abundance in each group.

Relativity is always the question of standpoint. Any ism which is invoked to further expansion, annihilation or conquest and exploitation of the "other" can only be of value to the conqueror, and in our day to day existence, we 'others' call such people assholes, bigots, racist, chauvinist, or just down right psychopathic. If we considered Kant's categorical imperative in searching for a universal morality (that our assessments must be equally valid across all categories), the proponents of "class war" have every justification for their position, seeing everywhere around them evidence of this misplaced superiority in the exploitation of their fellow humans by what they perceive as the "ruling" or "capitalist class". Boas would see this "class" as merely better programed in their culture and driven by the forces of custom. From this vantage point, who is lined up against the wall after the revolution will be a matter of deducing who is better enculturated into capitalism or even civilization, and the revolutionaries might just find themselves standing in line as well. This was clearly seen in the "Reign of Terror" after the French revolution and many other post-revolutionary purges. I think if we are against traditions or customs (and their resultant institutions) maintained by emotional attachment and habit (which we often refer to as "mindset"), then clearly the guillotine or firing squad is not the weapon of choice. What is needed has been no better said than by the Youngbloods: "Blow your mind, turn your head around. Don't let the rain, don't let the reign bring you down!"

"Virtue," "duty," "good for its own sake," goodness grounded upon impersonality or a notion of universal validity -- these are all chimeras, and in them one finds only an expression of the decay, the last collapse of life, the Chinese spirit of Kφnigsberg. Quite the contrary is demanded by the most profound laws of self-preservation and of growth: to wit, that every man find his own virtue, his own categorical imperative.[...] Nothing works a more complete and penetrating disaster than every "impersonal" duty, every sacrifice before the Moloch of abstraction. -- To think that no one has thought of Kant's categorical imperative as dangerous to life!...The theological instinct alone took it under protection! -- An action prompted by the life-instinct proves that it is a right action by the amount of joy that goes with it: and yet that Nihilist, with his bowels of Christian dogmatism, regarded joy as an objection . . . What destroys a man more quickly than to work, think and feel without inner necessity, without any deep personal desire, without joy -- as a mere automaton of duty? Nietzsche

Reciprocity and the Mechanistic World View:

Without mutuality and sharing, we are nothing but parts in a machine. It is no wonder that we, the civilized, have a mechanistic world view. Mutuality cannot be reduced to the "self" and/or "other". It is the connection, relation or process between them. Reciprocity is not a matter of tit-for-tat or give-and-take. These economic ideas spawn such alienating fields as academic economics, political science, and the psychology of motivation. They are alienating in that they seek to discover universal, rational laws which justify our own alienating behavior. Poets have called the idea of symbiotic connection (which is reciprocity) "love". I think Kropotkin and John Lennon were on the same wavelength when the former said, rather not conflict and competition, but mutual aid is the driving force of evolution; the latter said "love is all you need" and "give peace a chance". I think a fellow a few thousand years ago, who got himself nailed to a tree said much the same.

Franz Boas explained why such sentiments never caught on – they merely went against the grain of custom:

It is not any rational cause that forms opposing groups, but solely the emotional appeal of an idea that holds together the members of each group and exalts their feeling of solidarity and greatness to such an extent that compromises [or cooperation or even communication] with other groups become impossible.

As Elvin Hatch noted (in Theories of Man and Culture).

[Boas] held that political segmentation and competition cannot be viewed in terms of competing interest groups rationally calculating advantages in relation to others ... Much of the political strife in the world, Boas thought, is due to an emotional opposition to foreign ways of behaving and thinking, together with the belief that one's own culture is superior to all others.

To Boas, only a limited degree of understanding can be achieved if behavior is viewed as the manifestation of conscious, willful thought. Far more important for assessing the meaning of human action is the concept of custom. Man's behavior is dominated by unconscious, customary patterns to which emotional associations have become attached.

For this, Boas is considered an "anti-intellectual" and we continue to ridicule the "primitive" who explains his behavior with "this is how it's always been done". When you get right down to it, how are we any different, except that we add "but it's just gotta get better!"?

Where rationality and creativity and imagination come to play is in the modification or explanation of pre-existing phenomena or behavior (this would include revolution or any other "goal-seeking" behavior). But creativity and toleration of the novel are still limited by custom or tradition and their emotional attachments. The civilized engineer is forever modifying the mouse trap, yet it took a "savage barbarian" to invent it. This is why, the more society infringes on individual expression in the child as well as adult (rationality and creativity and imagination as opposed to universal algorithms of thinking and behaving), the most creative artists must come from the fringes of society – the "wingnuts" of civilization, the fringes of socialization, not necessarily the fringes of the economy. The surrealist movement as well as Tim Leary's promotion of LSD attempted to "blow your mind" with novel juxtaposition in order to break the ties of unconscious preconceptions (custom) – the necessary precursor to any kind of revolution, be it political, cultural or scientific. But I digress.

And so it never occurs to us to wonder why the early followers of a symbiotic social lifestyle (communalism, reciprocity, "love"), a message spread by word-of-mouth over vast areas of the globe after much Vandalism and, ultimately, Attila had put enough pressure on Roman 'global' control, the followers who rejected civilization and went on to form autonomous living communities, were persistently hunted down and executed for the next 1500 years or so by the good civilized "christians" for "heretical" notions – all "in the name of jesus-mary-&-fockin-joseph" (to invoke a particularly apt ancient Irish-catholic curse).

These same righteous ones who called themselves "persecuted" went on to kill Jews and Moslems and all other "heathens and atheists" in the name of their god, (who is "love" – see Mark Twain, The War Prayer), and who in great philosophical works pride themselves as the guardians of reason, logic and enlightenment. Of course, today, and because of this very rational enlightenment, we all know that Bishop Berkely's god (or Hegel's "absolute") is a vast well oiled machine and we all go on to perform specific functions (work our jobs) in his service. This was the message of those anti-papists such as John Calvin or Martin Luther, (who's church reformation set the stage for the bourgeois revolution), but the message of the machine works equally well with or without god. Judging only by the treatment given those early 'feral' communities, I submit to you that jesus was not only an anarchist, but, relative to those "good christians", an atheist as well! The "empire" falling all about them, there was a significant threat of cogs just up and dropping out of the machine, leaving behind their own message, "Gone to Croatan".

Is there a less mechanical (structural-functional) way of viewing the world than our own? Like Irving Goldman's interpretation [in The Mouth of Heaven based largely on Boas' own notes] of the Northwest Coast Indian cosmology where the potlatch recapitulates (echoes, harmonizes) notions of cosmic circulation, Mary Richel-Dolmotof pointed out (in Amazonian Cosmos) that for the Amazonian, the variable connections between all things (reciprocity) is timeless and universal. It is the cause of motion and circulation throughout the universe. They are (were, actually) nightly reminded of this, gazing upon the milky way which they metaphorically referred to as "the great seminal flow". (Epicurus had this relationship reversed, suggesting that random motion, or "Swerve" causes inadvertant "collisions" which account for material formation and change. His predecessors, Empedocles and Heroclitus held the more "primitive" view). From the point of view of the intrepid semen (or Epicurus' "atom"), he is not, like Alexander or Odysseus, rowing out to sea to conquer and administer the world, but to impregnate and merge with it and create something new and unique.

This is also the attitude of the child at "play"; who's science as well as rebellion is found only in direct engagement (collaborative adventure, exploration, festivity); who's questions are solved through living the answers; who's own uniqueness is reinforced through exploration into a world of diverse fantastical beings within earshot of mother's worried voice. The distinction between "play" and "getting down to serious business" is one of the hardest tasks for the child undergoing domestication, and for many, the latter completely negates the former so that a sense of play, that reciprocal engagement with the world (which, of course, includes not only "the other", but a multiplicity of novel others), is forever lost. On the other hand, the psychologist tells us the only important point is that "the child, through play, learns to control and manipulate his/her environment".

An interesting Native American notion [ – B. Martin] describes this engagement as a matter of "harmonics" rather than "balance", "equilibrium", "reciprocity" or "feedback-control loops". This alternate view presents a flowing, merging, impregnating, world of living synthesis as harmonics, not the rectification of conflicts of immanent oppositions or the mechanical connection of dead matching components in a machine – that we are variable "features" of a living organism, not discrete cogs in a dead machine bent on control. The musical metaphor (wave theory?) is completely appropriate in 'traditional' communities. I would say the economic metaphor (particle theory?) is not.

"But", you might ask, "let's get back to concrete reality; how would you account for cheaters in this 'romantic' world view you present?". Modern notions such as "reciprocal altruism" (tit-for-tat) and "strong reciprocity" (the calculation and punishment of cheaters or "altruistic punishment paving the way to cooperation" [- Benoξt Dubreuil] – maybe it's just me, but that seems a contradiction in terms!) completely miss the point of "the gift" as well as the idea of sharing. "Reciprocal" is not a modifier of "altruism", it is the effect when altruism is a 'shared' practice, and the punishment or even calculation of "cheaters" would, in most "primitive" systems of etiquette be highly rude and impolite. These modern notions can only be generated where there is a political (authority) or economic (ownership, property) system in place and, like cheating itself, derive from basically egoistic, not altruistic motivation.

For example, even after hundreds of years of exposure to western civilization, it would be highly impolite to suggest trading a round of wood chopping in exchange for a meal from a Navajo grandmother. First off, it suggests she would not normally feed you if she determined you were in need. In the same way, you would not just chop the wood for her and "hope for the best" without asking if she thought it would be a good idea to bring in her wood in the first place. This suggests you consider her helpless, another insult, and therefore 'antisocial' [- Uncle Jake].

We are so conditioned to thinking of "balanced" exchanges and retaliatory dispensation (feedback) of "justice", we take for granted that these ideas are human universals. In fact, the very presence, or at least preponderence of so-called "cheaters" would suggest a breakdown of cultural conditioning (enculturation, socialization, social learning, etc.) in most societies. As locally defined, cheating goes against the grain of custom in 'egalitarian' societies and would be dealt with no differently than any other perceived 'antisocial' behavior. Following after Dunbar, Benoξt Dubreuil has gone so far as to define “social intelligence” as "our capacity to keep track of who is doing what to whom in the context of the group" and bases the development of language itself on such calculating, rational behavior. "Keeping up with the Joneses" is basically a paranoid outlook on sociality. Finally, would an "unsuccessful" hunter be left to die on the ice for "not carrying his own weight" in the food quest among the Eskimo/Inuit? Such would not be described as "cheating" any more than would a star hitter "in a slump" be fired by the manager of a baseball team. Natural selection could not make a distinction between the extended "slump" and the "lazy asshole trying to get out of work" – the effect is the same. "Cheating" is ultimately a question of morality imposed by the researcher. It may or may not be meaningful to those researched, and if it is, is undoubtedly measured differently. The problem with all these lines of thinking about "cooperative" behavior is that they have never left the realm of a "competitive context" they themselves are ensconced in.

Love, mutual aid, symbiosis, cooperation, reciprocity, sociality, altruism – my dictionary informs me that these are all synonyms – might be seen as connections or relations without rational motivation. Purpose is only a functional explanation and always ex post facto. The so-called primitive might see reciprocity as "qualities of existence", but even this is to impose a western 'structuralist' philosophical notion into their minds. "It just is", they might say.

Reciprocity requires a certain "openness". In Being and Time, Heidegger proposed that the pre-socratic world view considered the essence of being human as an "openness to being", opposing Nietzsche's "will to power" of modern humans, who subordinate all existence to our own ends rather than letting them "be what they are". Our present destructive treatment of the earth as "resource" and our treatment of each other are only mirror reflections. A certain subjective relativism gave way to specific anthropocentrism with the rise of civilization. Use value itself is a modern notion. This is not the same as saying "use previously had no value". Because it has to be subjective, it cannot be measured beyond the individual or shared habits of custom. From the view of subjective/cultural relativity, any other sense is pure reification and sophistry.

Ours is a mechanistic (dead, even if dynamic) and economic world view alienating the self and other which forces the semantics of the above synonyms of sociality into "what one does to/at another" or "what the other does to/at you". Without an isolating self-other dialectic, these words escape into the semantic realm of relationship and connection, but not necessarily in a mechanistic or even algebraic fashion. That it's all a matter of flow is what the Amazonians have gathered. This provides the same distinction between sharing and exchange (give-and-take, which is also to say "a balance between sacrifice and theft"). As Kroeber noted, the one notion shared by primitive (ie., not-civilized) peoples was reciprocity. In such a system, a gift is never thought a sacrifice, negotiated because of a calculated future advantage, or purely out of a sense of moral obligation or duty. Gifting may be a matter of recapitulating cosmic circulation – a celebration of life, the universe and everything, but it's also just a habit. When this habit is shared (custom, tradition), all can see that "what goes around comes around" – the circularity of self-fulfilling prophecy. The very notion of "economic system" has very little meaning, and even less necessity.

Without this flow "all bleeding eventually stops" [ – 'Auntie Dave' Brown]. This is mortality. Reciprocity, the sea quest of impregnation, ensures that life continues. In any electrical device, all current eventually goes to ground and returns through that device until you pull the plug. Otherwise, there is no circuit, no current, no flow. A direct short renders death to the machine. All dams eventually burst – all water returns to the sea. We agree with these notions (physicists have told us so!) yet we ridicule the ignorance of the primitive who's "mythology" focuses on the notion of "eternal return". Freud, of course, thought this "savage" thinking an example of neurosis.

Reciprocity allows multiplicity which in turn demands relativity (but not in a chicken-or-egg logic or dialectic). Unlike competitive economy, the tit-for-tat civilized social relation, reciprocity is the functional relationship which maintains multiplicity (diversity) – it is the source of non-hierarchical interaction. Rather, it is non-hierarchical interaction. Relativity is the 'rule' derived from multiplicity and logically necessitates individul 'freedom' (autonomy), without which, multiplicity would become unity – evolution by means of natural selection would thereby be negated. The resulting harmonic resonance of multiplicity, reciprocity and relativity applied to human beings generates language, song, community and culture. There is more to life than "mechanical systems of the eaters and the eaten", "production and consumption", "struggle and survival", but the rational and enlightened civilized on the road of progress toward universality (unity or global conformity) may never know it.

"All bleeding eventually stops". In our alienated existence, the mechanical world in which we are only cogs wearing human masks, only struggle continues. Many of us consider that we do our children an injustice by even giving them birth in the first place. From the point of view of the child, the mother, and in time, the kin group is supposed to be the source of tenderness and nurturing and even a source of structure – local traditions give the 'local' world of 'everyday life' a degree of predictability and therefore trust. We can even see this operating all around us among all other social animals. It's amazing so many of us even survive our parents and educators, let alone to go on to form our own relationships. We do so largely because of tradition, custom, habit and the emotional adherence to it (and sometimes, if our bullshit detectors are strong, in spite of these!). We become conditioned to living in shit – "It happens!" From the point of view of the primitive, reciprocity is not an economic system. It is a much more encompassing semantic realm than even our "cooperation". Because it tears away at (or prevents) the self-other dichotomy, it is the essential condition of community, and for this reason, communities cannot be planned and organized any more than a new species of animal can. Communities are organic (equilibrium or harmonic) systems, but sometimes "shit happens". Until annihilated by the force of empires and missionaries and economists, primitive tradition, custom, habit and the emotional adherence to it, ensure that this organic condition survives the shit. Probably Franz Boas' greatest contribution is the basic premise of cultural relativism: "people are the same everywhere, cultures are different" [- Mark Fleisher]. Of course, Boas himself has largely been neglected and forgotten because relativism itself "flies in the face of reason" (or rather, "custom").

Most European thinkers in pursuit of the truth have found the prospect of relativism, whether it is connected to Einstein's Theory of Relativity or not, where the majority imply that it is, to be the single most troubling development in the history of Western philosophy. As Heidegger suggests here the ideology positively threatens Eurocentric discourse in a way that few ideas ever have. The "specter" of "relativism" raises questions on one ground or another, furthermore, that have so far resisted rational analysis due in part to the fact that they remain so highly charged emotionally that few thinkers since the appearance of Einstein's Theory have been able to deal with them rationally, if at all, simply because they challenge the core issues that define the essence of what makes European ideology what it is. Heidegger's sentence is a case in point, since he dismisses "multiplicity" as something that necessarily leads to "relativism" without engaging the issue directly or indirectly, believing, apparently, that no one will disagree with his position simply because the "specter" of it has been evoked.

.... (The) warning against "multiplicity" and "relativism" is much less concerned with truth than it is with maintaining an essential ground for the implementation of hierarchical structure in Eurocentric discourse. What is a stake here is nothing less than equality and freedom ... where an inevitable hierarchy of assigned value necessarily dominates the structure, and where the One answer is predetermined as the "best," as opposed to the Many as the "worst," there is absolutely no possibility whatsoever of "relativism." At the same time, all sense of equality and freedom are necessarily banished. [ – B. Martin]

Reciprocity, cooperation and sharing represent a horizontal relationship which, by its very nature, reproduces itself. The flow of 'goods' might be modelled as a system of feedback loops, but a more colloquial perspective would be "self-perpetuating" or "self-fulfilling prophecy": "What goes around comes around". Physicist's laws of thermodynamics which describe complex self-regulating equilibrium systems work precisely the same way.

Competition is also a horizontal relationship, but one which attempts to turn this relationship on end – it is the source of hierarchy and progress. It replaces the circle with the line. What started as circulation or "flow" is interupted by a temporally circumscribed transaction – direct exchange, tit for tat, sacrifice and theft, the beginning and the end. While seemingly harmless, advantage and leverage are given birth, and politics raises its nasty head.

A self-maintaining horizontal social relation (reciprocity) is the source of what we label "freedom" and "equality". Although we still use these terms, the modern semantic realm is most often limited to "freedom to compete" or "equality in opportunity" (to acquire, manipulate and control – that is, to be domesticated and to domesticate in turn). Any broader meaning of "freedom" and "equality" is negated by the vertical social relation established through competition. The self and other cannot be other than at odds. We see again the notion of self-fulfilling prophecy:

"If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences" [ – Thomas Theorem, 1928].
No libertarian struggle can succeed which maintains the self-other dialectic, established very early in childhood, reinforced (positive feedback) and reproduced as a self-fulfilling prophecy (or vicious circularity) through habit, custom and emotional attachment. Reason itself is circumscribed within the realm of explanation, or more often, justification.

Radical or Schizophrenic? – Excerpts from  The Politics of the Mind

"By politics, as I pointed out earlier, (R. D.) Laing means the ability to validate or invalidate experience. The struggle, then, is the struggle to control behaviour by defining experience. Society does this through its various agents by defining "reality" in terms of norms and then using those norms as ideal standards. The primary agent is the family. It is, Laing says, "in the first place, the usual instrument for what is called socialization, that is, getting each new recruit to the human race to behave and experience in substantially the same way as those who have already got here". As social agents, the family reproduces in the child a set of attitudes that will outfit him for life in what Herbert Marcuse calls the "one-dimensional society"."
"The family's function is to create, in short, one-dimensional man; to promote respect, conformity, obedience; to con children out of play; to induce a fear of failure; to promote a respect for work; to promote a respect for respectability.

... From the moment of birth, when the Stone Age baby confronts the twentieth-century mother, the baby is subjected to these forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father, as their parents and their parents before them, have been. These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of its potentialities, and on the whole this enterprise is successful. By the time the new human being is fifteen or so, we are left with a being like ourselves, a half crazed creature more or less adjusted to a mad world. This is normality in our present age.

... Society highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal. Normal men have killed perhaps 100,000,000 of their fellow normal men in the last fifty years."   -laing

"But some cannot adapt to this imposed normality. They break down. Instead, they devise a strategy to deal with their inability to hold their invalidated experience and their sense of themselves together. As Laing puts it, "it seems to us that without exception the experience and behaviour that gets labeled schizophrenic is a special strategy that a person invents in order to live in an unlivable situation"."

"The schizophrenic may look like someone whose "logic" is "ill", he is, in reality, someone, who has been made an invalid because his experience has been invalidated. For Laing and Cooper, schizophrenia is not "something happening in a person but rather something between persons". Thus when one psychiatrist calls schizophrenia "a failure of human adaptation", Laing responds that it may as well be "a successful attempt not to adapt to pseudo-social realities"."

"The validity of a definition is ultimately determined by the identity of the one who is defining: There is no such 'condition' as 'schizophrenia,' but the label is a social fact and the social fact a political event ... What we call 'normal' is a product of repression, denial, splitting, projection, introjection and other forms of destructive action on experience ... It is radically estranged from the structure of being.

... the condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one's mind, is the condition of the normal man."   -laing

"On the other hand schizophrenia may be seen as an alienation from this alienation, where, "even through his profound wretchedness and disintegration", the patient may be "the heirophant of the sacred"."

madness need not be all breakdown. It may also be break-through. It is potential liberation and renewal as well as enslavement and existential death."   -laing

"They (psychiatrists) will say we are regressed and withdrawn and out of contact with them. True enough, we have a long, long way to go back to contact the reality we have all long lost contact with. And because they are humane, and concerned, and even love us, and are very frightened, they will try to cure us. They may succeed. But there is still hope that they will fail."   - Peter Levine


I would like to take a magnifying glass to "society". What is this term we so often take for granted in using? Really, it is a top-down, chain-of-command game, given cammo, and inserted in the imaginations of the inexperienced recruits. – NP

Yes, this is the description of child-rearing in civilization. The military metaphor is appropriate: "chain-of-command" = "hierarchy"; "game" = "superfical capitalist social relation" (the competition for property and privilege); "cammo" = "spectacle" or "illusion". The second word a child learns, after "no!" is "mine!". Then comes "that's stupid!", "I hate you!" and finally, if the institutions of socialization have accomplished their task, "Yessir, Boss!" The family may be the primary agent, but the age at which media and educational institutions take over is increasingly younger. We are all the offspring of institutions. The agent-role of the family may soon be completely unnecessary if the sci-fi writers are on the right wavelength (and it would seem that they are). We are all "agents" of institutions. Here I think the military analogy begins to wither. As you say, the biggest cops are placed in our own heads – the guardians of experience, the creators of uniformity, the destroyers of multiplicity, relativity and reciprocity – the propensities with which every child comes to us, demolished with the violence of civilized love and concern. The result is that both individuality and sociality are reduced to illusion; the possibility of community is negated. The possibility of freeplay is denied; the individual disappears.

For the project of civilization, there is an advantage in going from freeplay (natural to children) to structured gaming. Bonnano suggested that work is merely a game with rules. I'm sure Baudrillard would agree. Rules with games are thought to ease the movement from the condition of living (in the world) to surviving (in an illusion). Still, there is difficulty transisting from freeplay to game to work. Initially, of course, this is school work – in kindergarten, 'work' is still fun; by 1st grade, it starts to become tedium; in later years, when it is struggle and toil willingly engaged, it is said we are ready for "the real world" so we are graduated. The goal of education has always been to corrupt and transform children into "productive citizens", not to assist the growth of human beings. Freeplay is regulated to the point of extinction. All social relations thereafter become economic and political – they become productive.

"Productive forces" are nothing if not the "force of production" regimenting armies of producers.

Let us not become trapped by phraseology. The social relation of production can only mean that our human relationships are mediated by products and production or work – that is, by things, property, value, and their creation and maintenance. The value is not that of things, but of ourselves as measured by those things, their creation, maintenance and growth – the perpetuation of an illusion (actually, "delusion") insistently mistaken for reality. If we are alienated from "reality", we are also alienated from the illusion, for it appears to have magically taken on a life of its own, beyond our grasp and control. Like the television which is defecated from the bowells of a factory, the illusion is a group effort which no member of that group is capable of (re)producing. It is only passed on along the assembly-line to each new generation of workers, trained to proudly reject any allusions to a similarity to the ant.

These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted, still cherish 'the illusion of individuality,' but in fact they have been to a great extent deindividualized. Their conformity is developing into something like uniformity. But 'uniformity and freedom are incompatible. Uniformity and mental health are incompatible too...Man is not made to be an automaton, and if he becomes one, the basis for mental health is destroyed. [- Fromm]

What then is society? I think it is an inadvertant agreement among folks to share our metaphors. This allows, or more properly, is communication of experience. The result is local culture. Laing spoke of 'experience' as our expectations and our metaphor for interacting with the world. 'Politics' is the control of experience which restricts our interacting, our behavior. Thus, we can use such phrases as "the authority of custom", and our aristotelian logic informs us that society itself is the 'enemy'. By agreement, I don't mean we sit around a table and come to a collective decision. That is a "contract". If there is a table, it is the metaphor for locality both as "place" and "situation". Isn't individuality just a matter of one coming up with novel associations even within the program? This also defines 'creativity'. Then an appropriate definition of schizophrenia would be the illusion of individuality taken to extreme – the abandonment of the "social" metaphor altogether – 'a-social' rather than 'antisocial', with the effect of reclaiming free-play2. Many so-called radicals take the opposite tact. This would make "nihilism" (or even its opposite – "Everything is!") the ultimate "insanity" as well as most radical approach, and also explain why it has such great appeal, especially when society is increasingly political.

There is a fuzzy line between the "mentally ill" and the "radical dissenter". Both illustrate programming gone awry. Maybe the radical wants to defeat society militarily or by analogy, through persuasive discourse; the so-called "wingnut" may want to ignore it, or even disappear it through magical incantation. But it can hardly be ignored that civilization creates both the radical revolutionary and the mentally ill in precisely the same way. This is politics, but it has also been referred to as the self-negation built into the system – dissent is the natural response to politics just as defense is the natural response to attack. Maybe it is appropriate that the DSM-V (coming soon to a psychotherapist near you) now contains a diagnosis (based on oppositional defiance disorder) for politically incorrect thought (radical dissent) which the governors can use to chastise all activists and dissenters – as they used to chastise Stalin for doing that very thing – in order to show how "we're the goodies" and "they're the baddies".

Yes, the goodies and the baddies – we're all prone/programmed to think in these terms. Choose your enemies carefully – they may one day save your ass while your allies try to assasinate you!

Underneath the war game of psychiatry (and other social sciences allowed to be established), there *is* a human being with good intentions; it's just that the institutional imagination compells them to become something more along the lines of assasins of sanity.  - NP

Do we have a long, long way to go? I think yes and no. I dig the idea that we try to make things more complex than they need be, and so for anyone (the left?) wanting to reform this absurd system, this pseudo-social agreement we have, they will probably never get there. I also have concern for the militant revolutionaries and insurgents who think we need only fight our way to sanity, (although I admit we may have to fight now and then along the road in getting there). One of my favorite commentaries on this is in We go on by the paraplegic streetfighter and sometime public orator, Albert (libertad) Joseph. The message is eerily matched in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintainence: It's not so much our destination which is most paramount, but what we do along the way. Yes, we go on, but we might also be mindful of the ancient Chinese proverb:

"Unless we change direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed"
– Fardel Hordrik


1 You may be thinking, "A wee bit of overgeneralization here, no?", and of course you would be right. The encouraging point is that civilization has never been (nor will it be) particularly good at what it attempts. For example, as much effiency as is ever inserted into bureaucracies, bureaucracy itself always comes off as probably the least efficient means to any end. Another example is that, relatively speaking, the more force any state tries to exert, the more ubiquitous becomes dissent. Civilization itself is an oxymoron when set alongside anything natural.

2 This should not be taken to deny the terror which may also accompany so-called psychotic episodes.