bell hooks, Enlightenment, freedom, human-on-human parasitism, imprinted parent, philosophy, politics, Power, science, sovereignty, time, transcendence
Toxic Consequences of the Imprinted Parent
Human cultures have been poisoned by both direct and indirect consequences of childhood conditioning to an indefinable parental intelligence, the universally imprinted parent, and because of that it is urgent for individuals everywhere to search out and discover the non-poisoned pre-cultural features of their personal powers, sensitivities, and impulses, which is to say the features of experience which express their innocent intelligence. The interiority of every intelligence has both innocent foundations and additional conditioning by the culture or ways of life of the people surrounding it. (Meditation in traditions related to Transcendental Meditation, for example, has innocence-rescuing aspects such as disengaging from language.) A movement of individual re-grounding in personal innocence is the only way that cultures and the human interconnectedness that those cultures condition can be reconstructed to eliminate distortions of reality, injustices, and other poisons which currently damage and restrict the large numbers of individuals exposed to those cultures. Searching out and discovering the innocence of personal intelligence is a critical thinking process, the building of a kind of philosophical consciousness.
Direct consequences of the imprinted parent are personally embedded habits and expectations of dependency and subordination expressed in a continual search for and orientation to authority figures, leaders, elders, and supervised sophistication. Indirect consequences are cultural distortions of reality and elaborated ideologies developed and broadcast by parasitic groups and factions with the intent of exploiting standard parental conditioning to establish themselves as legitimate, stable, and institutional authorities and supervisors, dominant powers, controllers of wealth and general behaviour in a community as a whole. It is the universality of childhood conditioning to an indefinable parental intelligence which has enabled human-on-human parasitism to establish itself securely in all kinds of communities and to use culture to mask its true nature.
bell hooks on imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy
The vicious qualities that bell hooks identifies in the ordinary functioning of Euro-American society, described as imperialist, white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchy, all resolve into top-down human-on-human parasitism. The overt purpose of imperialism is to acquire the benefits of human parasitism as specified in posting 73, May 21, 2014, bell hooks on Freedom, and war as the instrument of imperialism is parasitic on grunt soldiers in a most overt way. White supremacist ideology (or any ideology of racial inequality) is a device to justify human parasitism by de-humanizing (second-classing) certain groups. Patriarchy is an expression of an ideology of gender inequality which provides a (false) justification for males to be parasites on females. Capitalism is an ideology of socio-economic class hierarchy (claiming scientific support from Darwin’s idea of the survival of the fittest, or similar purported laws of nature) along with a structure of laws and organization of property, production, and distribution which glorifies and privileges owners of the means of production (capital, including conceptual property such as patents), effectively licensing owners to be parasites on non-owning employees who labour to supply, operate, and maintain the means of production. Capital arranges to increase eternally while the acts of labour continuously deteriorate aging labourers. In that way the institutionalized injustices named by hooks are all manifestations of the same underlying culture of human-on-human parasites, and an intent to enjoy the rewards of parasites is the motive for particular groups and factions to exploit basic parental conditioning to establish themselves as authorities, dominant powers, controllers of wealth, and supervisors of communal behaviour. The only way that any of the injustices of those institutions can be ended and prevented is to discredit, discard, and go beyond the culture which glorifies human parasites through exploiting the universal and uncritical expectation of parental-type authority, namely the alpha-trophy-looting culture of masculinity derived historically from nomadic animal herding cultures.
Beyond the Imprinted Parent
It is encouraging to discover that a large-scale project of getting beyond projections of the universally imprinted parent actually began soon after 1600 with the period of Euro-American cultural history known as the Enlightenment. The fundamental impulse of the Enlightenment was to improve the general condition of humanity exactly by eliminating the power and authority of churches, aristocracy, and monarchical institutions, along with their representatives and agents, thus eliminating all the externalized Old Regime avatars of the Great Indefinable Super-Parent. In the Old Regime the sovereign courts of kings and princes were staffed chiefly by activist members of the military-landowning aristocracy, the large-scale capitalists of their era. Governments were really control mechanisms of that overtly parasitic ownership class, direct constructs of the alpha-trophy-looting culture of armed men on horses which originated with conquering nomadic herding confederacies which in their conquered territories evolved into a ruling confederacy of what modern people would call crime families. That parasitic ruling (herding) faction justified its oppressions by an appeal to cosmic intelligent design, claiming appointment and support by divine Providence, the Super-Parent. Of the three main engines of Old Regime social supervision, Church, monarchy, and aristocracy, the second and third rested their legitimacy on that of the Church. The rhetoric of class conflict would clearly apply to aristocracy and monarchy, but less clearly to Church hierarchies, even though the higher Church officials would all represent the aristocratic crime family class.
In the Euro-American cultural system after 1600 there was a significant rate of literacy and advanced education which was partly the result of the humanist movement of the fifteenth century Renaissance, and since the spread of the printing press after about 1450 there had been a growing culture of debate and exchange of ideas in writing (self-consciously calling itself the Republic of Letters) which functioned outside the immediate control of governments and religious foundations such as universities and church hierarchies. People engaging in that literary culture used philosophical ideas and rational arguments to identify and specify injustices of the prevailing forms of feudalism and to propose better alternatives. Fundamentally, it was discovered that if the non-rational claim of divine appointment or supernatural intervention was disregarded then the traditional structures of wealth and power in European society (ecclesiastical, aristocratic, and monarchical) were all exposed as arbitrary, unjustified, illegitimate, and plainly parasitic on the common majority of people. Credit can be given to Spinoza for articulating that insight in a broadly convincing way. It was mainly Spinoza, based on his materialist metaphysics, who argued for abandoning the non-rational claim of traditional powers to represent supernatural intervention, divine will, or a providential deity controlling human society and history.
Enlightenment in general, in the eighteenth century sense, meant recognition of the fundamental power of human rationality and universal principles derived by rational thinking and debate. The ultimate authority of reason is the crux of Enlightenment and the authority of reason both undermined claims of divine intervention in worldly affairs and conferred the crucial dignity and (potential) power of rational thinking, as basic to human nature, upon every individual. In one interpretation, it would mean being educated in the scientific approach to nature as distinct from superstitious and magical thinking typical of religion and other assumptions of disembodied spirits. Rationalists emphasized that appeals to divine will to sanctify inequality of wealth, power, freedom, and privilege are implausible, non-rational, and obscurantist. Rationalists also emphasized that, since appeals to revealed commands of a supernatural dictator are non-rational, it makes better sense to decide appropriate moral action and human interaction by calculating the resulting happiness of and benefit to humanity as a whole. What follows from that is the sovereignty of the collective of all people, the general will, and a requirement for individual empowerment through freedom of thought and expression on a base of rational education, all of which defines a serious kind of universal human equality from which tolerance of racial variety follows and which dislodges any particular culture or religion from a privileged position. Of course, the kind of thinking and expression that was legally forbidden by institutions of wealth and power in the Old Regime was precisely anything that questioned their legitimacy. They did their utmost to use the power of existing institutions to enforce conservatism, mobilizing the already active apparatus of state censorship and the Roman Catholic Inquisition to snuff out freedom of thought and expression, ideas of democracy, and legal recognition of universal human rights.
Legitimation Drift from Providence to Popular Sovereignty
In spite of the fact that we people of modernity consider our science-driven society to be well beyond the superstitions and brutalities of Medieval and Old Regime conditions, there are profound continuities as well, as highlighted by the work of bell hooks. Monarchical and aristocratic forms of violence-based sovereignty have not disappeared but only morphed into new configurations. Although the top-down faction of human parasites still clings to the conservatism of religion, it shifts the base of its legitimacy more to an identification or unification with sovereign governments as ambient cultures become more secular and governments appear more responsible to the majority of citizens. The ownership class justifies and exercises its parasitism through participation in and partnerships with the traditional top-down force of now apparently legitimate governments. The legitimacy of government is bestowed upon the means by which large-scale wealth accumulates ever more wealth: commercial corporations, businesses, and industries which are licensed and fostered by governments to encourage employment and something vaguely called national wealth. Government members must have a proven dedication to the corporate sector, and especially to banking and the investment/ financial industry. The whole ownership faction rides the coattails of the appearance and rhetoric of ‘sovereignty of the people’ created by elections every four or five years offering some choice of ruling political party.
Top-Down against Bottom-Up Political Forces
The problem with that foundation of capitalist legitimacy is that democracy is more myth than reality, and consequently the legitimacy of familiar governments is an illusion. The concentration of wealth in a small faction enables that faction to exercise decisive political influence, vastly overpowering the bottom-up political forces such as voting every four or five years. As discovered and documented by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page (2014) there is an overpowering influence of great wealth in all political processes. Behind the great wealth is the malign culture of alpha-trophy-looting cowboy masculinity which honours and glorifies the accomplishments of human parasitism. In any country claiming to be democratic, inequality is eventually fatal to the legitimacy of power because it removes even the appearance of democracy.
It is now common to acknowledge that, even in the most modern democratic countries, the top-down political force of organized wealth (class-conscious strategic action within the corporate owning and controlling faction of society) is far more influential, effective, and agenda-driven (funding political parties, political candidates, and lobbyists, for example, in addition to owning and controlling mass media, academic research, and large scale employment opportunities) than any bottom-up forces such as citizens voting for party controlled representatives in government every four or five years. That vast inequality of political influence is not new, and has been the political reality in some form since long before the emergence of national governments with democratic fig-leafs such as elections, but the current state represents the dramatic reversal of a trend in the direction of greater bottom-up inclusion. Since the Enlightenment era of Euro-American history, since the French Revolution of 1789, but especially since The Great War of 1914-18 and the Russian Revolution of 1917 there was a trend toward greater bottom-up democratic influence. That trend was rapidly reversed around the time of the truncated presidency (1969-74) of Richard Nixon, apparently in reaction to the American anti-war and counter-culture youth movements of the 1960’s and 70’s. Nixon was soon followed by a sustained wave of political, economic, and ideological support for top-down dominance. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of The United Kingdom through 1979-90. In the USA Ronald Reagan held the presidency through 1980-88. The trend reversal against greater bottom-up political influence has been so thorough and effective that it is now reasonable to identify it as a coup d’état by the ownership class against the beginnings and promise of a more authentic democracy. It is an ongoing anti-democratic creeper-coup managed strategically over roughly half a century, maybe from around the assassination of JFK in 1963.
The Politics of Metaphysics
In the historical context of Medieval European Christendom and the Old Regime, there was a much abused identification of transcendent discretionary creativity with an externalized and centralized cosmic super-parent who commanded universal obedience: the Christian God. Spinoza’s version of materialist monism, amplified and broadcast culturally in the writings of radical rationalists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, eventually had its intended effect, largely discrediting the legitimacy of all institutions of wealth and power (Church, aristocracy, and monarchies) which founded their legitimacy on the omnipotence of the cosmic super-parent. That’s the big deal about Spinoza. However, a strict materialism eliminates all philosophical idealism, which in this context is the same as transcendent discretionary creativity intrinsic to some entity or entities. Materialism eliminates all forms of discretionary creativity because with materialism everything is pre-determined for all eternity by omnipotent and unalterable laws of nature. So, as a political ideology, materialism soon encountered the limits of its liberating effects, because when interpreted strictly it eliminates the freedom of all individual people as well as the authority of gods, disembodied spirits, and anyone claiming to be their appointed agents. To get beyond those limits of materialism it is necessary to re-admit transcendent creativity back into the philosophical foundation of human relations generally and politics in particular. This time, however, the recognition of transcendent creativity has to avoid the mythological elaboration of residing in an externalized, centralized, or universalized super-parent and instead accept restriction to the individual interiors (non-spacial interiors) of de-centralized animate biological entities, that is to say, all individual animals including humans. There is no super-parental entity here, although on this view discretionary creativity comes with the vulnerability and predicament of being in a particular life in time. This de-centralizing of discretionary creativity is a partial recapitulation of the Enlightenment act conferring profound dignity and (potential) power on every individual at the same time as removing claims to sovereign privilege other than from a grounding in a far stronger and more authentic democracy than has ever yet existed.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the crucial philosophical project was to dispute the claim of parasitic power to be based on omnipotent Providence. There are no parental presences in a philosophical consciousness. It was right for Enlightenment rationalists to marshal philosophy against parasitic pretenders to parental authority over whole communities, and they were right to articulate a philosophical vision, scientific materialism, that had the effect of undermining such claims. As it turned out, scientific materialism was not effective over the long run. Now, again, a philosophical consciousness is required to dispute the claim of parasitic power to be justified by materialist science.
Time As the Condition of Discretionary Creativity
Nothing in nature, neither at the cosmic level nor at any local level, is moved by teleology, by intentions, goals, or aspirations, and in that sense there is no future or futurity in nature (and so no time in nature). A definition of nature could be: the set of non-teleological events and objects, what might be called the set of inertial events and objects. However, there are also a plurality of individual intelligences (ordinary embodied people) and those intelligences (as intelligences) are close to being entirely teleological, and teleology is temporality, futurity, a bearing toward a future. As teleology we are outside nature but certainly operating into or upon nature, and each intelligence is also interior to itself, which is to say, there isn’t just one great teleological striving, drive, or desire manifesting itself through all the individual intelligences. There are indeed vast numbers of separate individual teleological intelligences. Plurality isn’t tidy, so it will lack aesthetic appeal to some, but it is not helpful to ignore this untidiness of reality.
Non-Superstitious Transcendence: the Question in the Gaze
Not all conceptions of transcendence are vulnerable to the charge of superstition in the way that ideas of disembodied spirits or of cosmic super-parental intelligences are. There is a non-superstitious transcendence: time as a condition of every individual’s personal intelligence. All three of vacant space, time, and intelligences (spirits) have been suggested as ethereal or immaterial. In the case of spirits, the plausible grounding of the very idea of spiritual non-materiality is the inseparability of intelligence and time. Every intelligence is a voice, and voice exists only in time. It is a trail of breadcrumbs which has to be recognized, from a range of increasingly remote memory, as a voice. Since space could be described as a condition of strict material actuality, and the experience of space has to be a temporal construct, the one and only true and familiar non-materiality is time, and time is exactly definitive of the interiority of the question or teleological bearing in any human gaze. Knowledge has its existence in that bearing. Time so experienced as a fabric of possibilities does not exist in the strict actuality of nature, but is a creation of individual intelligences in their living a degree of freedom from the determinism of nature. Time is uniquely not physical, far more than a condition of material actuality, and, to that extent people have an aspect which is not material or physical because as intelligence each exists and self-creates through time and only through time, which doesn’t even exist as physical matter or substance.
Leaders perpetuate the belief that fulfillment in life is achieved from devoted service to the supervisory and educational hierarchies of knowledge, wealth, and power, from the sophistication and rewards that long service accumulates. However, the very idea of hierarchy is yet another version of the imprinted parent. Only within an uncritical acceptance of the child-parent pattern of subordination does merit somehow transfigure into meritocracy. The ideology of meritocracy is part of the poisoning of culture to justify parasitic top-down control of populations, and the glorification of parasitism discredits culture generally as a guide to reality, value, self-identification, and human relations. Philosophical consciousness of innocent intelligence enables empathy to the individual transcendence of everyone, each individual with its own elaborate interiority of time and teleology out of which emerges from each its empathic recognition of other intelligences. Philosophic empathy is recognizing all individual intelligences as both physical and creatively teleological entities, as individual eruptions into nature of discretionary creativity, as individual spinners of freedom in transcendent time.
My impressions of the Enlightenment are largely interpretations of:
Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights 1750-1790, written by Jonathan I. Israel, published by Oxford University Press (2011), ISBN 978-0-19-954820-0.
Radical Enlightenment : Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750, written by Jonathan I. Israel, Published by Oxford University Press (July 2002), ISBN: 0-19-925456-7.
Copyright © 2014 Sandy MacDonald.