The Clare Spark Blog

October 1, 2009

Perfectly Progressive Parenthood

Po Bronson, author

   Until my posting of the Anne Hutchinson witch-hunt essay, I hadn’t said anything here about the battle of the sexes, a fact of life that I never doubted in adulthood. At my age I can say, though it is impermissible to claim,  that I will probably never fully understand most men (no matter how much I love them), and I am quite certain that men will never understand women, or given unequal gender relations, will they even need to. I could say the same about sibling rivalry and the murderous impulses it calls forth, but you can read all about that in the Biblical book of Genesis. But never in my blogging life did I encounter a more blatant example of “progressive” tomfoolery than in the interview NPR’s Terri Gross conducted with the co-author of a book about the latest advice to would-be perfectly progressive parents. The primary subject was the value of mommy and daddy fighting in front of the kids, hitherto something of a taboo in the old dispensation.  

    For the past few months many of the essays on this website have been identifying one overarching theme in the ideology of “progressives”: the belief that all conflict can be peacefully resolved through the mutual “cultural” understanding that leads to better diplomacy and compromise. It is simply a question of management, properly understood if we would only listen to [infallible] experts, the ones who artfully and scientifically mediate to bring “conflict-resolution.”  So when I heard an interview with one such expert I didn’t know whether to be relieved that my analysis was correct, or to wonder yet again how such a blatant ideological intrusion into and about family life can earn research funding, a book publisher and air time on public radio. Here is a section of the transcript of Fresh Air, 30 Sept. 2009. (The full transcript can be found on the internet.)

Mr. PO BRONSON (Author, “Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children”[co-author Ashley Merryman]): Mark Cummings’ lab out of the University of Notre Dame is looking at this very phenomenon very closely and he has parents simulate arguments in front of their kids, where he has kids watch videotapes of arguments and he has parents as conspirators in his experiments. And normally when a kid watches a fight between parents, an argument, a quite heated conflict, that kid will then lash out afterwards or during it and act aggressive. But there’s one thing that happened in those experiments that makes all that aggressive behavior in the child go away: it’s watching the fight get resolved, it’s watching your parents work it out in a constructive way.

And when I read this, I understood that taking it upstairs, you know, I might have a moment of conflict with my wife and I’ll say that according to Cummings’ data, you know, parents are bickering to each other seven to eight times a day and the kids are a witness to it. It’s wrong to imagine that kids aren’t seeing this and feeling it. But when we take the arguments upstairs, the kid sees the fight begin but never sees it amicably resolved, and that’s hurting kids more.

In fact, Cummings’ work is now showing, this most recent data, that kids who are exposed to constructive conflict, and it can be quite heated, but when it’s resolved and worked out in front of the kids, those kids are being reported by teachers as having better well-being and better social skills and they’re sort of more adaptive in their environment at school. We need to – parents need to model for kids how to work through arguments – how to work it out.

GROSS: So are you suggesting parents fight in front of the kids and then hopefully they’ll reach an end of the argument, have an amicable resolution, then the kid will learn from that?

Mr. BRONSON: Mark Cummings would never say, hey, go out and fight in front of your kids, it’s a really good thing to do. He would say that, more that don’t pretend your kid isn’t seeing some of your conflict. Parents believe they are sort of hiding their kids from this conflict but the kids can feel it. And so the important thing is to be aware when you did start something in front of your kids to then really try to model, for the benefit of the kids, working it out. And that might mean holding your tongue and enthusiastically trying to compromise in front of the kids so they can see from their parents how to do this with their own friendships. [“in fact” my emphasis, end transcript]

GET ME SOME SMELLING SALTS! Just rereading this, I had to get up and walk around to calm myself. Apart from the vagueness (which alone is enough to discredit the reportage), the general obliviousness to the raucous and often unmanageable, poorly understood emotions aroused within families and all intimate relationships is breathtaking. Only the intellectually lobotomized could come up with such quackish nostrums as best-selling author Bo Bronson in his report of Mark Cummings research. My readers will already have asked themselves, what are the conflicts about: the trivial that are easily worked out, or major differences in values and direction? Lacking such specificity, we do not know how to proceed in evaluating this research. Are the parents arguing about who drives the kids to school, or how to handle bullies (fighting back or appeasing?), or what religious practices to follow, if any? Is father philandering? Is mother unspeakably bored and overworked? Is the new baby arousing murderous impulses in the older children? Are the parents in disagreement over how far to push their children to achieve at or beyond their own levels? Are the fights over apparent trivia masking much deeper unresolved conflicts within either or both parents? (Make your own list, dear reader.)

     It was once held that children need safety and solidarity between parents, and that open (or subtle) warfare between parents creates intolerable, but often repressed, anxiety as the children feel forced to choose sides; then, later, comes the desire to reconstruct the perfectly happy family that never existed. Such veterans of the family civil wars can become fixated on any demagogue who promises utopian solutions and peace among the nations, no matter how much their material interests clash. In today’s world, such a one may refuse to believe that there is a real threat from Islamic fundamentalism, or blames such threats, assuming they even exist, upon themselves as imperialist Americans or Israelis or “Jewish” capitalism (that is the money-grubbing exploitative variety, as opposed to the “progressive” variety that brings “social justice”).*

      Social conservatives usually argue that their religious traditions recognize the foulness of human nature, hence religion is required to order social life. Thus they emphasize inborn human weakness rather than strength. By strength, I refer not to an indwelling and purifying Christ-Savior, but to the demonstrable human capacity for overcoming anti-social impulses under certain conditions, including discovering the repressed secrets of the self. In the foundational tenet of conservatism, however, “progressives” are necessarily utopian perfectionists who think, like Rousseau, that our species is innately good. In the fiction created by such conservatives, Nathaniel Hawthorne, for instance, the mad scientist is conflated with all would-be social reformers, destroyers all: see his short stories “The Birthmark” or “Ethan Brand.” Unlike Hawthorne, Po Bronson is obviously speaking to parents who see themselves, their children, and their world as entirely manageable once they have mastered the latest techniques.

    I find myself more in accordance with Freud’s essay “Thoughts for the Time on War and Death” (1915), cited in several prior blogs: Freud was dealing with his own disillusion with the idea of Progress, i.e., that civilization would end wars, for who could doubt that Germany, England, and France were ultra-civilized, and yet the casualties and brutality of the Great War were terrible. What I got from Freud’s meditation was this: What we call “civilization” sits lightly in the human psyche, and it is a constant, lifelong struggle to manage anger and frustration (what he would call “aggression”), just as it is often difficult to identify whether the anger is justified, what has caused it, and what, if anything, can be done to improve those institutional structures and practices that either instill rage or deflect it to unworthy, inappropriate objects. But such potentially tragic conclusions are terra incognita to Bronson and NPR, where all endings are happy ones, if you would just fall in line with the latest newsflash from the front.

*Budd Schulberg’s fascinating memoir of his childhood and adolescence is instructive on this point, for he detailed the ongoing conflict between his parents and his naive determination to reconcile them. He then goes on later to write What Makes Sammy Run, a story of a ruthless Jewish operator, Sammy Glick, balanced by the assimilated narrator, a better type of Jew.

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August 9, 2009

What is a corporatist liberal? And why should they frighten us?

Tony Grist Janus 2011[Janus painting by Anthony Grist,2011]To those practiced in political theory, the term is an obvious oxymoron. That is, a corporatist thinks in collectivist terms, while a liberal (at least in the eighteenth century version) focuses on individual rights, competitive markets, and advance through merit. During the 1960s-70s New Left radicalism, “corporate liberalism” usually referred to the despised Democratic Party that was seen, as all capitalist parties were, as part of the business-oriented state that was therefore irrevocably set against the working class. It was my teacher at UCLA, Robert Brenner, who suggested that I use the term “corporatist liberal” instead; he may have wanted to emphasize the protofascist character of the “progressive” capitalist state whose psychological warfare I was studying (and in this case referring to Italian Fascism, with its organization by occupation, the so-called sindicati, with the [corporatist or corporative] state imposing harmony on capitalists and workers from above, in similar fashion as the New Deal intended.

But I liked the term because it suggested the institutional double-binds that Herman Melville had revealed in some of his more autobiographical texts, so the oxymoron formulation brought that out. For instance, he was to search for truth as an original artist, but not upset the conservative* formulations or belief systems of his patrons and family–clearly an impossible task (see https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/). Similarly, in graduate school, I discovered that original historical research was demanded, but not so original that it undermined the published work of the faculty that awarded the Ph.D.  [8/11/09: I have been criticized by one academic  for sounding like a disgruntled failed graduate student here, so let me give an example: in a course on women reformers of the nineteenth century, I was punished for using class analysis, indeed one well-known feminist historian stated outright that I should have been thrown out of the program (apparently for noting that not all women had the same economic  interests). In general, class was collapsed into ‘race’ and gender at UCLA, in keeping with the “anti-imperialist” and anti-Western orientation of UCLA at that time. Similarly, I was accused of racism for opposing cultural nationalism as an inevitable outgrowth of separate “ethnic studies” programs. Still, I stuck to my guns and after only eleven years got my Ph.D. in U.S. history.]

In other double binds, I found contradictions between loyalty to one’s country of origin while simultaneously becoming a citizen of the world, sensitive to suffering humanity wherever it might be found. Hence the compromise of “the rooted cosmopolitan” as opposed to the unreliable “rootless cosmopolitan” that I have written about in other blogs and in my book on the Melville revival. This notion of the compatibility of [moderate] “nationalism” and “internationalism” is everywhere today, and must immobilize those who think that all conflicts with other nations can be negotiated peacefully. As I saw while researching Ralph Bunche’s actions as mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the notion propagated by progressives such as Elmore Jackson that an artful and rational mediator could manipulate irrational warring parties to come to their senses and compromise, came straight out of strategies emanating from capitalist managers that disagreements between capital and labor* could be arbitrated by skilled mediation. So much for peace studies or conflict-resolution in general. They are part of the utopian thought of populist-progressives and dominate the mainstream media.

positive state

Briefly, what corporatist liberals do is switch from one P.O.V. to its opposite, as if no contradictions were involved. I trace the aversion to this tactic and to its association with Women to early childhood impressions. What follows is a brief but meaty extract from my conference paper given at the Modern Language Association in 2002. Do not despair if it is too much for you. Just read it, or skip it, and move on below.

“Extrapolating from his texts (and from the writings of other Symbolists) perhaps Melville’s demonic clouds are related to the “ruffled brow”: the sudden pained and searing glance that mars the happy mother’s smooth placidity when her child vomits, wets his bed, soils his clothing, touches his genitals, blurts out a dirty word: the glance that makes him feel so poisonous to her, he imagines she would like to spit him out…and yet, she molded and branded him in her womb-factory: she is his double and his shadow.  Ever entwined, they are Eve/Cain, the Wandering Jew, Beatrice Cenci, and Pierrot: over-reachers whose self-assertion and gall will be rendered innocuous in the final scene.  The thick black eyebrows of the Gothic villain (like the mark of Cain or Pierrot’s black mask) will trigger the memory of Mother’s distress and her child’s shame.  Romantic defiance, in its identification with the designated enemies of authority, portends only degeneracy and decline; as Melville has shown us, it brings remorse and cleansing punishment, not better forms of social organization.  The cancellation of early childhood “dirt” and parental disapproval (which may be registered as sadness–Mortmain’s “muffled” “moan”–as well as anger), then the return of the repressed in the ostensibly opposed symbols, “archetypes” and “types” of popular culture, undermines emancipatory politics.” [This will be hard going for many readers. To see the original MLA paper, please write to clarespark@verizon.net. It is both psychodynamic and anchored in Melville’s texts, but I think, clear enough.]

What I wrote is an hypothesis only, and to be persuasive, would have to be verified through examination of the early childhood brain under similar stress, that is, so far as I know, currently beyond the capacity of physiologists (neurologist Robert Scaer has observed this as traumatic to the child). But it intrigues me and seems plausible  for it links the intertwining of misogyny and antisemitism that I observed in the biographies of Melville readers: Woman is the [switching] Jew of the Home.

In all the academic literature I have read recently, no explanation is offered that adequately explains why antisemites are so often fearful of women, especially mothers, clinging or otherwise: the important feature to me is their inexplicable switching. I am not satisfied with explanations that refer to “the Other” as produced by the projection of forbidden aggression onto Others who must then be controlled (the Kleinian object- relations explanation pervasive in “cultural studies” with its generally post-colonial slant).  As I have mentioned elsewhere, that formulation of “scapegoating” was produced by the very social psychologists who, during the late 1930s and 1940s, created programs of “civilian morale” and “preventive politics” through psychological testing in order to provide consensus and order. Their goal was not discovery of new and useful truth and/or an informed and appropriately educated clear-eyed and critical citizenry. (I am referring to such corporatist liberals as Talcott Parsons, Gordon Allport, Henry A. Murray, and Harold Lasswell, with allies among the much lauded “critical theorists” whose influence in the humanities remains powerful. See especially chapters two and nine in my book Hunting Captain Ahab for documentation that shocked my doctoral reading committee, but, not surprisingly, remained invisible in published reviews of my book.

Compare this emphasis on the double-bind with Jonah Goldberg’s scathing critique of the Progressives, who are nailed for statism and authoritarianism but not for immobilizing us through the double bind. For instance, if you compromise your art or writing to please authoritarians of the Left or Right, then you are not an original artist/writer, but a courtier. If you sacrifice “order” to be true to your vision, you may not be able to support yourself through your craft–you are what Melville called a castaway. The consequence: those with independent incomes make art or saleable books, and their life experience may estrange them from the various less fortunate whose  vision could enrich their own. )

    Which brings us to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the war on terror. As long as we pretend that all conflicts can be compromised through skillful (i.e. manipulative) mediation, we are helpless to defend ourselves or our allies against determined enemies for whom “peace treaties” (i.e., the rule of law) are irrelevant and tactical only. What I have been arguing here, as elsewhere on this site, is that corporatist liberalism, the ideology of “civilized” progress, indeed, of the United Nations itself, does not only make us crazy in attempting to reconcile the irreconcilable (such as Truth versus Order), its continued hegemony may threaten all life on our planet as we ignobly submit to determined aggressors in thrall to premodern and antisecular ideologies, and who will stop at nothing to maintain traditional hierarchies and privilege. (By secular, I mean the older definition that specified the separation of Church and State; I did not mean the newer meaning where “secular” equals “atheistic” or suggests Jacobin hubris/popular sovereignty.)

Janus_fmt

*Marxists postulate that there is a structural antagonism between capital and labor. In later years, I have rejected that formulation, and prefer to look at concrete situations, for instance, where there is either a labor shortage or a labor surplus. Moreover, as Michael Mann and other sociologist have argued, the state is not simply dependent upon capital, but has its own particular interests. This should be obvious from the recent brouhaha in Wisconsin with respect to teachers unions. And when I used the term “conservative” with respect to Melville’s relatives, I did not mean to equate the religious conservative Democrats who supported his projects, with the classical liberalism of the Founding Fathers, especially Hamilton. (See https://clarespark.com/2013/10/31/gossip-and-the-gullible/, for links to blogs on Hamilton.)

July 13, 2009

Eros and the Middle Manager: S-M with implications for Multiculturalism

Advertisement, Los Angeles Weekly, Nov. 10-16, 1989

Advertisement, Los Angeles Weekly, Nov. 10-16, 1989

I’m reposting in response to my enigmatic statement on Facebook that “Masochism Builds Character.” Also because of the wide distribution on a related blog https://clarespark.com/2014/09/21/spanking-sex-and-the-nfl-fracas/.

This  essay was originally delivered on Pacifica Radio as the first installment of my series, “How Do We Know When We Are Not Fascists?” [Added 3-24-10:  This essay contains my inferences from the study of one particular collection of materials, and is not intended as a formula or a scientific law. But compare it to Peter Gay, The Cultivation of Hatred: The Bourgeois Experience Victoria to Freud (1993), chapter one on the German dueling societies and bourgeois adolescent aspirations to join an aristocracy. Gay sees adolescent homosexuality as a defense against terrifying relations with women (see Gorer on Sade, mocking romantic love as slavery). Also, materials from the Steadman Thompson collection are scattered throughout this website, particulary in the essays on Dr. Henry A. Murray of Harvard University, Director of the Harvard Clinic and a practicing S-M connoisseur.]

[excerpt from a fantasy by Steadman Thompson, middle-management at the Armstrong Cork Company, Akron, Pennsylvania, in the Sadomasochism Collection, UCLA, added 1/28/06:] “As I stood up, she came forward with the silver collar. I was aghast at what I had said and done but I stood still and let her fit the cold metal around my neck. As the lock clicked with an icy finality my misgivings rose to an apex.
“Now look, Vivienne,” I whined.
The wand whistled and struck stingingly before I could flinch. “Speak when spoken to, slave and address me as “Mistress” unless I give you another title to use. Now take a hold of the back of my robe.
As I timidly obeyed, she raised her wand and from the wand and the ball on her crown came a light so intense it washed away all our surroundings.”

EROS AND THE MIDDLE-MANAGER, KPFK, 9/89. [slightly revised 7-13-09, revised again 2-14-15]

Fascism may be seen as an attack on the Brain and the color Grey, that is, on the rationalism of the Enlightenment. It wants to restore or perpetuate the corporatism and militarism of the feudal world. Its targets are the newly literate, politicized, and partly emancipated groups of modernity: labor, women, non-whites, Jews: the rising groups of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who were using Universal Reason to discredit the claims of the old aristocracies. Trusting the evidence of their senses, they challenged the notion that élites were more intelligent, more socially responsible, more moral, more balanced than the “lower orders.” Their arts were realistic and naturalistic; their philosophy was materialism, [some of?] their anthropology suggested that “we are one”: “races” would soon be obsolete.

The technology made possible by science raised hopes for a world freed of unnecessary toil, of leisure that would give all people the opportunities for creativity and self-development that had been possible only for the very wealthy. Dispossessed or threatened élites counter-attacked with the ideology of “scientific racism”: there were imperishable differences between “races,” between all men and all women, geniuses and dolts. Blurring the boundaries, muddying distinctions led to degeneration and decay; the rationalists and materialists were un-natural, turning supple social organisms into machines; they were setting classes and genders against each other by insisting that there were conflicts of interest in the real world: theirs was a delusion caused by a foolish reliance on “the rebel senses.” Rebel senses created extremists. The good father, the Good King would restore a lost harmony to the mutinous and riven modern world; the Heart would conquer the wandering Mind. With a wave of his magic wand, pink and red children would see the old light. Only the Mind forg’d manacles. The Heart was the site of liberation.

The test of Freedom was easily comprehended but harder to enforce; the rebel senses kept coming back.

This is the Test: Iron collars, high-heels, corsets, all the iron cages, were not confining, as the naked eye would suggest. In the pastoral ruled by the Heart People, we were all frolicking lambs & skylarks, appearances notwithstanding. We were all artists and craftsmen: inventive, spontaneous, unchecked. Marx called these Heart People feudal socialists. Some of their mentors were Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, William Morris, Eric Gill, Lewis Mumford, and Carl Jung. After the rationalists of the 1930s were purged (while at the same time master race theories were in disgrace) the Heart People became ideologists of “democratic pluralism” (now called either ethnopluralism or multiculturalism, C.S. 7-13-2009): A pluralism without the classical liberal bourgeoisie, a pluralism that said all blacks or whites or reds or browns, whatever their social class or particular life experience, naturally cohered into ethnic or racial groups, each with its own distinct ideology, by definition mysterious to other ethnic or racial groups. Mental health, emotional maturity, physical well-being, and a blossoming individuality depended on acceptance of such natural facts.

But we were not fascists. Harvard psychologists warned us of the dangers of scapegoating. Christians must stop scapegoating Jews, whites must stop scapegoating blacks, and labor must stop scapegoating business, as Gordon Allport insisted in 1948. The corporatist triumph was complete. Disputes that might be grounded in ideological differences were to be resolved through self-control. An emotionally mature person would beat down the rebel senses to use the social institutions that, properly manipulated, would bring rewards to the truly meritorious; would resolve all conflicts. Any stray rationalist who said it couldn’t be done was stamped with the label: outside agitator, melancholy baby, the secret agent bringing a grey conformity to a spotless black and white world. Greyness brought artificial enmity to the body politic; even dangerous illness. The remedy was the purge of this foreign body, only then there could be healing and a restoration of harmony and order.

A Quack Remedy. The outcome for rational self-defense in the face of real dangers was disastrous. Social problems that required rational deliberation, analysis, and social action to be solved were turned into questions of decorum: politeness, respectability and moderation meant identifying social irritants in order to purge and heal. We were a nation of muckrakers, each group identified its enemies as was naturally apparent: modern artists, homosexuals, feminists, pawnbrokers, polluters, media moguls, demagogues, Klansmen, Willie Horton, mobs, white supremacists, consumer society, Pharisees, psychiatrists, midwestern Protestants and fundamentalists, commie-Jews, technocrats, mad scientists, Palestinians, and Zionists. Respectability, success, sanity, realism and group acceptance were all linked. Groups cohered only around the identification of the source of the disease, not because of underlying unity in a shared humanity, a commitment to open-ended inquiry and creativity for all, or a clear-eyed view of institutions that hamper the growth of democracy and solidarity.

If your rebel senses told you that freedom was domination, that praise was humiliation, that community was only a definition imposed on warring fragments by bureaucrats, you were blessed by the magic wand/rod until greyness gave way to the blaze of pseudo-enlightenment, the halo of the moderate man. In such a condition you were qualified to manage the health and education of those below: humane, competent, and calm, you were the good mother, the labor bureaucrat, the schoolteacher, the historian. Our humanity, our competence, our serenity comes from the certainty that is the lesson of the beaten child: we are too weak to overthrow the illegitimate, hurtful authority that trained us. (See Terry Gilliam’s recent film, Brazil.) We patrol the boundaries that divide artist from non-artist, black from white, good from evil, male from female, professor from student, expert from amateur, parent from child, clean from dirty, rational from irrational.

In this context, sexuality (which may be intense) becomes a performance of, a metaphor for, irrational hierarchies, and is an occasion for punishment, not pleasure, intimacy, or mutuality. Sadomasochism expresses the power relations of the middle manager, who is masochistically submissive to her/his superiors, sadistic to those under her/his supervision–to the extent that human possibilities for growth, change, and cooperation are stifled by the imposition of learned helplessness and misrepresentations of ourselves, of other societies, and of world, group, and individual history. Whether or not we literally are tied-up and whipped, as “middle-management” we are no less in bondage than our explicitly histrionic brothers and sisters. It is this terrible resonance that has provoked, I believe, the furor over the art of Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano.

Sources: besides the life and art of Herman Melville and his Anglo-American revivers, the collection of Steadman Thompson, an employee of the Armstrong Cork Company in Ohio and Pennsylvania, who later moved to San Francisco. He collected the Justice Weekly (a libertarian newspaper dedicated to the civil rights of the bizarre), the photographs and pamphlets manufactured by professional writers and illustrators catering to this trade; movie stills–all showing scenes of bondage and humiliation; scrapbooks which montaged his own drawings and compositions with typed excerpts from pulps, novels, and literary criticism, and newspaper clippings about transvestitism, the New Look, crinolines and girdles. The collection spans the mid 1940s-mid 1960s.

First impressions: 1. These lovers of the bizarre identify with the aristocracy against the grey world of the urban proletariat. The corset symbolizes superior self-control. 2. S-M is a purification ritual. Messy, impudent, uppity children are switched until they declare that the whip is a magic wand bringing transcendence. [I am not certain that they confuse pain and pleasure, perhaps they become one big scar.] 3. In the photos and stories, women torture other women; the observer is a respectable male, who identifies with the tormented victim. In some pictures, young men wear the clothes and make-up of middle-aged housewives, chained to a stove or sink or vacuum cleaner; frequently the victim is arranged as Christ on the cross. In some stories, the victim is assigned impossible tasks: wading through muck without spotting his/her shiny black and white uniform, carrying a dominatrix on his back. 4. The reward is a promotion, but not to a position of dominance: one aspires to be mistress of the manor, not the Lord; the servant hopes to displace the selfish and hard-hearted wife. 5. The transformations are sudden, but not stable. Slaves and masters merely change places at breakneck speed [this is not a foolish reading of much history, C.S.]. 6. The writers of the S-M material have contempt for the servility of others, i.e., the upwardly mobile person who enters the houses of torture, then complains about the beatings. “She asked for it,” says my man, the S-M artist and consumer. SHE wears red panties and is from the upper-classes, not the working-class or jobless poor. SHE is the parlor pink or swimming pool liberal; SHE is the mother demanding service both to God and Mammon, separation and dependency, self-interest and Christian charity. 7. The practitioners I have studied do not seek pain as such, rather the serenity and sense of family reunification that follows purification. Their sin is the perception that family relations are duplicitous, that demands cannot be met: such insights lead to dangerous and intolerable anxiety and divisions: the purging restores the child to the lap of benignant authority and family unity, however bogus, is restored.

The beating is not about poor self-control, reining in antisocial “instincts.” The crime is not resistance to socialization as such, some timeless conflict between the individual and society expressed in adolescent defiance, but double-binds specific to modernity and its constantly innovating science and technology which preserve the need for some cultural freedom while braking the momentum toward more broadly shared self-management.

Why are the victims tied up? Perhaps the bondage expresses the passivity and immobility of the so-called objective and independent creative professional and middle-manager, performing a masquerade of self-assertion. In the 1930s, our cultural freedom was used to distinguish democratic capitalism from its proposed alternative, democratic socialism (that went well, didn’t it?) Today we promote the resegregation of women and non-whites into ethnic studies departments. Our professionals, by contrast with their projected harnessed competitors, are frank, socially responsible, neutral, and disinterested: that is, pure. According to the corporatist, facts are group facts. But what if they are not? Then you may lose your job and be invited to step out into a hostile world, for independence may not lead to institutional adjustments; that is, structural change that does not simply co-opt dissidents or display tokens from below. But if such loyalty to old structures or authority figures is paramount, then science and rationalism are betrayed; the modern world, so rich in promise, turns into a death-trap.

What are the implications for artist and intellectuals who want to be “progressive?” We might understand how vanguard arts have been used to prop up the status quo, pleasing an élite clientele through: 1. Playing up to the “superior” by creating puzzles and enigmas to titillate bored would-be aristocrats. 2. By providing ritual rebellions: donning the primitivist mask to discharge tensions. 3. By equating social change with asceticism, sacrifice, and self-denial, symbolized in submission to the oppressed person with a whip; by equating social change with violent revolution and terror; using shock techniques and calling it advanced art: “Making it new” [Ezra Pound] does not have to mean killing it.

What to do now? We should call into question hard and fast distinctions between artists and non-artists; but separate art from life: art is a realm of fantasy, play, and experimentation, where no human experience or feeling is off-limits; but understand that veterans of authoritarian families will be scared of such art, possibly believing that their own violent fantasies are real, have killed others, caused divorces, etc. We should stop begging institutions to love our rebelliousness, but use contradictions within them to secure maximum autonomy, while building alternatives to prefigure a better society, staying alert, clear, appropriately angry at hypocrisy and unnecessary suffering, and desirous of the material preconditions that make a measure of egalitarian love and friendship possible.

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