The Clare Spark Blog

February 21, 2013

Discovery anxiety

Joyce Kozloff Map

Joyce Kozloff Map

This blog is about mental health and idealization of families (for a previous and related blog see https://clarespark.com/2013/01/17/bondage-and-the-family/); but this one emphasizes the fear of discovery, whether it takes the form of self-inspection (examining our deepest, most hidden feelings) or discovering knowledge of other peoples, other places. Some might call this process of locating oneself in a specific personal history/world history a form of mapping. It is possible that many “anti-imperialists” suffer from the fear of actually encountering what is now called “the dark side” of human nature, and which in less enlightened periods, was called savagery or “the primitive.” Even the most enlightened and creative persons in the history of the West (e.g., Diderot) have imagined the “primitive” as exempt from the vicissitudes of growing to maturity in the developed societies. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/04/08/racism-modernity-modernism/.)

Perhaps one of the hardest life tasks is this process of mapping, for the darkest continent is ourselves. Many of us will do almost anything to avoid the mapping and I do not blame others for reluctance in undertaking a voyage into choppy waters, where strange creatures lurk.  For many, such monsters are transformations of our repressed rage at being unfairly bossed by parents, or competing with siblings for the love and protection of parents, or the “puritanical” tasks of self-control and the postponement of gratification or instinctual renunciation for the sake of treasured relationships (I refer to sex and aggression as instincts). Sadly, our schools and other socializing institutions may not address such “Freudian” considerations, because even the most advanced societies dare not tamper with the institution of family, lest its “citizens” start defending their political and economic interests with greater energy, focus, and sophistication.

I first realized that “discovery” was terrifying in my dissertation research as I read the very private letters and notes of major Melville scholars, most of whom developed frightening physical symptoms while conducting their researches into Melville’s texts—symptoms that they blamed on a dead author (and his demonic character Captain Ahab) who should not have been a real-life threat. Melville’s indefatigable close readings of every kind of “family” that he wrote about, whether that be his family of origin, or “families” aboard ships, or the wider Christian family, was disturbing to very intelligent men, who then diverted their attention from Melville’s texts to his “influences” in the literary history of the West, or perhaps the leftists among them, tore delightedly (and sadistically) into the task of destroying his reputation as a man and a husband and/or father. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/06/10/herman-melville-dead-white-male/. )

One of my most productive friends in academe, dead at 55 of a massive heart attack, once told me that he was afraid to look inside himself, or even to go to a physician, because he feared the chaos within. The braver artists and scholars have fascinated us because they gave these “imagos” forms and faces. I don’t care if you call them Moby Dick or Leviathan or the State. Just don’t mix them up with Mom and Dad or sisters and brothers.

Joyce Kozloff

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November 8, 2012

The Magical power of “Negroes” and other Beautiful People

Viola Davis as magical

One Facebook friend reports polls concluding that Romney voters focused on the economy, while Obama voters responded to his “caring” persona. This is valuable intel, for it reminds us of the Magical Negro archetype described here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_Negro. As Wiki tells it, this archetype is a throwback to the “noble savage” who emerges in the European age of expansion.

(This one of those “back to basics” blogs, basic tactics for political support that are cross-cultural and universal in their efficacy.)

But more, we should reflect upon the power of the Beautiful People, and the mass appeal they exercise. Why? Is it simply that “beauty” is a supremely rare quality that mesmerizes us in all times and places? Or is it something more primal, which returns us back to the emotions of early childhood and our dependency on mothers and fathers for care and protection?  After all, Mitt Romney projected a “caring” persona, as Anne Romney emphasized in her RNC account of their marriage, noting her husband’s constant attentions to needy neighbors and even strangers. But all the demonstrated compassion in the world is not enough to compensate for the image constructed by Democrats that Romney was the (uncaring) tool of Wall Street and the Big Money.

In prior blogs, I have written much about populism and its embedded antisemitism, how many ideologues continue to blame Hollywood “Jews” for corrupting the masses and either converting them to the Democratic Party and to the Left in general, or conversely, fastening the “mass” psyche to the material goodies promised by capitalist economies. Both claims are nonsensical, for such “Jewish” titans as Laemmle, Mayer, Goldwyn, or the Warner brothers adapted themselves to immigrant tastes and prejudices. The history of the Hollywood film is replete with bloodsucking bankers and other capitalist villains, valiantly opposed by the muscular Common Man. (For the femme fatale as a repudiation of the idea of progress, see https://clarespark.com/2011/04/27/james-m-cains-gorgon-gals-2/, retitled “Film Noir, decoded.”)

All tyrants use visual images (including architecture) to consolidate support and to divert mass rage away from themselves; pictures are deployed to evoke parental imagos.  The tyrant’s friends are beautiful—as lovely as the nursing Mother to her clamorous infant, or as her glittering earrings are to her toddler who pulls on them, while enemies are as repulsive as the angry father wielding a cane or whip (think of the omnipresent Big Brother) or old crones—women who no longer expect to please men, and who have nothing to lose by stirring the pot.

Female Chartist

And so, fed by a diet of idealized/demonized images, we continue the process that psychoanalysts describe as “splitting.” Our love objects, whether politician or other celebrity, can switch with alarming frequency from ministering angel to terrifying demon. Don’t look to popular culture for “integration, “ i.e., a less distorted view of The Loved/Hated One.

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