Alice Packer’s Shadow

 

 

Sharon Stone (1983) would be perfect for the double roles

 

ALICE PACKER’S SHADOW 

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS 

Location: 

S&M Art Studios, Ltd.

Cast: 

Alice Packer: Art Director
Walter Davidson: Senior Vice President
Harry Heckler: Computer Graphics Designer
Sheri Sands: Head Photographer
Susan Sockwith: Fashion Director
Angela Songerson: Human Resources Director

[It was time for lunch. Walter Davidson is about to adjourn the regular Monday staff meeting. Alice Packer had seemed distracted throughout the meeting. She suddenly proceeds to laugh hysterically]

ANGELA SONGERSON: Good heavens! Alice, get a grip. What’s so funny? What are you laughing about?

ALICE PACKER: I’m laughing because I saw my shadow this morning at Raven’s Nest. [She bursts into tears. Angela, stupefied, blinking characteristically, leans over and hugs Alice.

ANGELA SONGERSON: Holy Moses, Alice, I’m sorry. What are you talking about? [ She continues to bat her eyelashes.

ALICE PACKER: My shadow is dying to be me and she’s been shadowing me for weeks now. So I go into Raven’s Nest Cafe this morning for coffee and a bagel, and there she is, standing in line right in front of me, chit chatting with people, pretending to be me…”

ANGELA SONGERSON: Pretending to be you?” 

ALICE PACKER [angrily brushing away her tears]: Yes, trying to look like a professional art director without even giving me credit. Professional liar, that’s what that hussy really is. 

HARRY HECKLER [snickering]: Now, now, sweetheart, you’re just imagining… 

ANGELA SONGERSON: Lay off, Harry, and if you say sweetheart one more time I’ll file a harassment complaint. Go on, Alice.

WALTER DAVIDSON: This staff meeting is adjourned. [to Alice, jokingly.] When you said you saw your shadow, I thought you meant you needed a shave. I saw my beard this morning…[Nobody pays attention to him – everyone is gathered around Alice Packer]

ALICE PACKER: I was livid. I tapped her on the back and asked her for her name. “Moana,” she said. I looked the lying hussy up and down, and said, “I don’t know how long you’ve been lurking around the art business, Moana, but you should get a real life. The only person you’re fooling is yourself. You don’t even know what an art director is. Quit being such a wannabe.” Well, she doesn’t say a word, reaches into her fake leather briefcase, takes out and hands me a copy of her portfolio, picks up her coffee and struts out as if her tail doesn’t stink just because men stare at it. So I look at the trash she gave me – it’s a cheap knock-off of my own portfolio, she copied all my ideas!

ANGELA SONGERSON: Even your bio’s are alike?

ALICE PACKER:  Absolutely. And my logo too!

ANGELA SONGERSON [blinking furiously]: I feel for you, Angela, that’s really scary. There’s gotta be something you can do? That is outrageous. Oh, let me give you another hug… [Alice backs away.]

SUSAN SOCKWITH [nodding her head sagely]: I know her. She used to shadow me when I was shopping on Fifth Avenue. I’d see her reflected in the window, wearing the same dress as me. Moana is the worst nightmare a woman can have. She will copy your every gesture for years. Just keep in mind that everything this person says is a lie. Would you believe she started taking Qi Gong classes when I did? – there she was, trying to mirror my every move.  

SHERI SANDS: I’ve seen her too. She is a pretty but pathetic young woman.  

WALTER DAVIDSON:  I think I know your shadow too. Some forger was using my name and style at several studios. I filed suit and got an injunction.  

SHERI SANDS: Well done! That’ll teach them!

HARRY HECKLER: C’mon, Walter, we know what was up with that. You signed your name to blank sheets, gave them to your students and forgot about it, for crying out loud!

ANGELA SONGERSON:[grasping Alice’s hand.] She’s not worth thinking about any more, Alice. Frankly, she’s a human leech. The best thing one can do with her is ignore her and smack her down when she comes around. There’s nothing she can do, really. She’s just your shadow and can never be an true art director like you. Come now, let’s have a long lunch together – Walter won’t mind – it’s on me. [all file out of the meeting room except Walter, who stays behind to write up the Minutes.]

 

-Curtain-

 

 

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Repetition Compulsion of a Successful Loser

OM in person moi

THE REPETITION COMPULSION OF A SUCCESSFUL LOSER

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

When I am on the verge of material success I am compelled to ruin my chances. I learned to control this virtually suicidal urge somewhat over the years. I succeeded in not ruining my opportunity until it was enormous and certain. And then unbearable anxiety would set in, and I would blow my top, blow everybody off.

Realizing that I had just done what I had sworn to never do again as long as I lived, I lived regretfully for some time thereafter.

And then I did it again: I made the worst career mistake in my life. Three months later an even greater opportunity arose because of that mistake, and then I blew that one. I was in a state of shock that I can only describe as utter panic. I had chosen penury over being somebody for millions of dollars.

The only thing I could salvage was my greed for knowledge in hopes of being wise one day, a foolish endeavor according to the Oriental sages. I retreated into the stacks of the library to be what I always wanted to be, and that was not an enormously powerful and wealthy person.

In fact, my phobia was the fear of owning property, of being burdened down with things, so I gave my last few things away and spent my life savings on my abstract pursuits. Of course my one and only goal was rather grandiose: Saving the world with me in it. My version of World Salvation included saving stuff people need and also stuff they want if that makes them happy and does not harm others.

My behavior was not unique. I have heard of the “fear of success” and the psychology thereof. I have tried some of the therapies to relieve myself of the condition. Sigmund Freud referred to the syndrome as repetition compulsion. He associated the habit with a so-called death instinct, and surmised that habit itself is a sort of petrifaction or deadness. I must add that habit is the biggest help we have.

Maybe my repetition compulsion was not suicidal after all. Could it be that I somehow did not want the material success at hand because I wanted some other kind of success, a success that seemed like failure to others?

Perhaps my two major failures, the biggest mistakes in my life, the ones that apparently ruined my chances of fame and fortune or at least considerable financial security in my maturity, were actually the best mistakes I had ever made in terms of being the so-called Nobody of the classics, the freelancer who lances the eye of the single-minded Cyclops so that he and his comrades can get away with the sheep.

Perhaps so-called failure was my success. I had stranded myself in an ark of civilization, a great library in the middle of nowhere. I was a complete failure, but I believed I was the richest man on Earth. I had no personal hope for success except to be one of the greatest authors the world would ever or never know, and I cared not which.

Well, now, having been taught by the works of the greatest authors I found in the stacks, I know I am not that great, but I stay on track, and I am happy with my small progress.

Ludwig Gumplowicz made me mad along the way because he said by the time one finds out what is really going on it is too late.

This all might seem to be “sour grapes” to those in want of other things, but the fruit is sweet to me. It is an escape from the pathetic little man that I was, into intercourse with the greatest minds, and for brief moments, the Mind.

My career is writing. I ask nothing for my work and expect nothing useful from it. I do appreciate everything I get, which over the last sixteen years is a few compliments, 16 Likes, and $50 from a Catholic magazine.

That’s just how I am. I can’t help it because I don’t want to help it. I know people can understand how I feel, for we have some things in common.

Lately I have experienced some regret, almost enough to make a grumpy old man out of a happy-go-lucky fool. I need to get out and around, meet some people. Liz took me to Wal-Mart on the I-95. I got some badly needed shoes and two pairs of trousers. That adventure convinced me that I need to expand my horizons materially, find the means somehow to travel to those places in Europe I dreamed of visiting on a train. Maybe I can save the world with me in it after all.

XYX

.

President Trump Is Us Gone Mad

 

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PRESIDENT TRUMP IS US GONE MAD

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

29 April 2017

The failure of Hillary Clinton to win the presidency of the United States despite her great majority of popular votes overall may be attributed to the strategic error of her campaign in neglecting a few key states wherein she lost all the electoral votes simply because she lost the popular vote in those states by a very small margin, thereby giving Donald Trump a wide margin of electoral votes in the elector college, where electors do not vote their conscience, as was intended by the Framers of the Constitution, but almost all routinely cast all their votes for whosoever won the popular vote in their states.

That is, the Electoral College system has become a farce. The perversion of the electoral system in the United States was referred to by Walter Bagehot, in The English Constitution (1867), wherein he compared the virtues of the English Cabinet to the American Presidential system:

“The presidential system not only gives the executive power an antagonist in the legislative power, and so makes it weaker; it also enfeebles it by impairing its intrinsic quality. A cabinet is elected by a legislature; and when that legislature is composed of fit persons, that mode of electing the executive is the very best. It is a case of secondary election, under the only conditions in which secondary election is preferable to primary. Generally speaking, in an electioneering country (I mean in a country full of political life, and used to the manipulation of popular institutions), the election of candidates to elect candidates is a farce. The electoral college of America is so. It was intended that the deputies when assembled should exercise a real discretion, and by independent choice select the president. But the primary electors take too much interest. They only elect a deputy to vote for Mr. Lincoln or Mr. Breckenridge….” “The member of electoral college is but a messenger, a transmitter: the real decision is in those who chose him, who chose him because they knew what he would do.” (See Note)

President Trump, a consummate bamboozler, claimed that the election returns were skewed by fraud, that he actually won the popular vote, but of course there is absolutely no evidence of that or any of the other bizarre claims he has made before and after he was elected.

That is, after all, what a showman does. Nonetheless, many people thought the carnival would end the day he took office. It has gone on and on, and TV armchair psychiatrists have diagnosed him as psychotic instead of neurotic, the norm for most of us.

We apologize in advance for repeating the slanders in the interest of fair comment on the nature of psycho-political commentary: He is delusional because he supposedly believes that facts are fake; he is a malignant narcissist, a sort of devil who loves himself as god so much that he hates the humankind he would deceive and annihilate in a nuclear holocaust; he suffers from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, as evidenced by his pacing about the White House in the wee hours, tweeting like mad, and muttering “To do or not to do, yes I shall but no I shall not, to do or not to do, yes I shall, but no I shall not, yes, no, yes, no, tweet, tweet, tweet. ” And that is not all.

The latest poll I took from a representative sample of a dozen people at the South Beach Crunch gym has The Donald’s worst sin not as groping, something women seem ambivalent about given the man, but, all answered “Yes” to “Is the president an egomaniac?” Some added obscene words next to the box, but that is outside the scope of the poll.

That was admittedly a loaded poll question, for whom do we love but ourselves when we love others? That is made obvious by the people who love the president very much. The only thing maniacal about self-love is when it is all too obvious.

In any event, narcissism is inappropriately applied to Mr. Trump because he loves nymphs, and that was not the case with Narcissus at all. And nowadays we have huge mirrors, so there is no chance he will drown himself in a pool.

The question should also be asked of ambivalent humankind, whom do we love most of all when we hate others if not ourselves?

Why, the President has just finished his first hundred days in the White House including weekends in his Florida Mansion, and, according to Leaky Leaks, people are confessing to priests that they want him dead as soon as possible, but are tormented by the thought that Pious Pence would take over, because they believe he is an unctuous snake so do not want to pray with him, or, even worse, Wily Ryan, because they see a satanic glow in his eyes.

There is no chance of impeachment because, as President Jefferson truly observed after resorting to it behind the scenes to prevent the judiciary from being an independent branch of government, impeachment is a farce that should not be tried again. That he was correct was proved, at least as far as presidents are concerned, by the impeachment of Presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton. As long as Spin-The-President gives Republicans more wins than losses, and President Trump is their Bully-in-Chief, there will be no impeachment. There is no way the Senate would convict President Trump, anyway, at least not until after the next election.

The President’s cabinet could appeal to Congress to relieve President Trump from his duties if he were unfit, mentally incapacitated or certified insane by a bipartisan panel of psychiatrists. Forget about that. It is best for his councilors and department heads, if they wish to keep their jobs, to keep him in invisible chains, try to minimize his appearances so the public cannot see the drooling and slobbering attended to privately by his attractive daughter, probably the only person who loves him unconditionally as she does her best to distract him from tweeting and help him clip coins.

The best thing his advisors can do at the moment is familiarize him with one of the chief merits of President Calvin Coolidge (Silent Cal), who observed that politicians do little harm to themselves by keeping quiet. That is not always true, but President Trump should learn how convenient it would be for him to just shut up; that should in part defray concerns about his Mental Age.

The reality is this: President Trump is not really in charge of anything now, not even when he goes to the toilet.

That does not mean he is insane. We like to think one person can lead us into Zion, but our presidents are enchained by innumerable organizational influences from the day they take the Oath of Hypocrisy to serve the will of the people instead of their prejudices e.g. idiotologies and theologies, when they take office. The office changes the officer. President Ronald Reagan was once a bleeding heart liberal. President Franklin Roosevelt was once a fiscal conservative. And so on.

Alas, there is no such thing as the General Will of the People other than currents upon which leaders can bob as corks, swim downstream or sink trying to go against the flow, perhaps giving a little guidance along the way as pilots as circumstances force their hands.

It is a great deal of fun to poke fun at public figures, and even to despise them, but it is not politically correct to laugh at and despise mentally disturbed people. The cause of most mental disturbances in individuals will be found in society. That society is presently hysterical and obsessed, has nearly gone stark raving mad.

If this president be a Narcissus for his blatant self-worship, the reflection he is seeing in the mirror is the huge base of supporters who love him and would continue to do so if he shot a Democratic dead in broad daylight on Broadway. They love him for the reason that they love themselves, and they believe the circumstances they hate are unnecessary and can be changed for the better. We elect the leaders we deserve. What is definitely called for in all of us is therapeutic self-improvement. Then something constructive may be done.

XYX

NOTE

“It is true that the British House of Commons is subject to the same influences. Members are mostly, perhaps, elected because they will vote for a particular ministry, rather than for purely legislative reasons. But, and here is the capital distinction, the functions of the House of Commons are important and continuous. It does not, like the electoral college in the United States, separate when it has elected its ruler; it watches, legislates, seats and unseats ministries, from day to day. Accordingly it is a real electoral body. The parliament of 1857, which, more than any other parliament of late years, was a parliament elected to support a particular premier, which was chosen, as Americans might say, upon the ‘Palmerston ticket’, before it had been in existence two years, dethroned Lord Palmerston. Though selected in the interest of a particular ministry, it in fact destroyed that ministry. . . .

“The independence of the legislative and executive powers is the specific quality of the presidential government, just as their fusion and combination is the precise principle of cabinet government.” “The executive is crippled by not getting the laws it needs, and the legislature is spoiled by having to act without responsibility: the executive becomes unfit for its name since it cannot execute what it decides on; the legislature is demoralized by liberty, by taking decisions of which others (and not itself) will suffer the effects.” “(T)he cabinet can compel legislation by the threat of resignation, and the threat of dissolution; but neither of these can be used in a presidential state. There the legislature cannot be dissolved by the executive government; and it does not heed a resignation, for it has not to find the successor.” “(U)nder a presidential government a nation has, except at the electing moment, no influence; it has not the ballot-box before it; its virtue is gone, and it must wait till its instant of despotism again returns.”

“It has been said that England invented the phrase, ‘Her Majesty’s Opposition’; that it was the first government which made a criticism of administration as much a part of the polity as administration itself.” “There are doubtless debates in the legislature, but they are prologues without a play. There is nothing of a catastrophe about them; you cannot turn out the government. The prize of power is not in the gift of the legislature, and no one cares for the legislature. The executive, the great centre of power and place, sticks irremovable; you cannot change it in any event.” “(A) parliamentary or cabinet constitution possesses an additional and special advantage in very dangerous times….” “Under a cabinet constitution at a sudden emergency this people can choose a ruler for the occasion. It is quite possible and even likely that he would not be ruler before the occasion….” “By the structure of the world we often want, at the sudden occurrence of a grave tempest, to change the helmsman, to replace the pilot of the calm by the pilot of the storm…But under a presidential government you can do nothing of the kind.” “There is no elastic element, everything is rigid, specified, dated.”

“Even in quiet times, government by a president is, for the various reasons which have been stated, inferior to government by a cabinet; but the difficulty of quiet times is nothing as compared with the difficulty of unquiet times. The comparative deficiencies of the regular, common operation of a presidential government are far less than the comparative deficiencies in time of sudden trouble, the want of elasticity, the impossibility of a dictatorship, the total absence of a revolutionary reserve.”

“…a strong cabinet can obtain the concurrence of the legislature in all acts which facilitate its administration; it is itself, so to say, the legislature. But a president may be hampered by the parliament, and is likely to be hampered. The natural tendency of the members of every legislature is to make themselves conspicuous. They wish to gratify an ambition laudable or blamable; they wish to promote the measures they think best for the public welfare; they wish to make their will felt in great affairs. All these mixed motives urge them to oppose the executive. They are embodying the purposes of others if they aid; they are advancing their own opinions if they defeat: they are first if they vanquish; they are auxiliaries if they support. The weakness of the American executive used to be the great theme of all critics before the Confederate rebellion. Congress and committees of Congress of course impeded the executive when there was no coercive public sentiment to check and rule them.”

Pythiatism Defined by Sartre’s Family Idiot

PYTHIA

PYTHIATISM DEFINED

FROM

ON PYTHIATISM AND THE FAMILY IDIOT

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

A seemingly novel kind of hysteria is ‘Doctor’ Jean Paul Sartre’s diagnosis after his multivolume analysis of Gustave Flaubert in The Family Idiot. It is not the vulgar, convulsive or paralytic, demonstrative sort of hysteria, but rather a facile, evasive hysteria due solely to capitalistic cultural persuasion and auto-suggestion; something called ‘pithiatism.’

The pithiatism he alludes to in this case is a rather metaphorical hysteria. But is not the “illness” of “mental illness,” absent a physical disease, metaphorical as well? Sartre resorts to concealing his moral disapprobation by resort to a psychoanalytic myth, letting the great realist off the hook while castigating him to no end to raise his own prestige.

We consult psychiatrist Thomas Szasz on the nature of the psychiatric demoralizing strategy: The mental illness Jean-Paul Sartre attributed Flaubert would be utterly fictitious according to his perspective laid out in ‘The Myth of Mental Illness,’ a short paper and a book by the same name. He reasserted the theme that “mental illness” does not exist except as metaphor in a later article entitled ‘Mental illness is still a myth,’ stating that:

“My critique of psychiatry is two-pronged, partly conceptual, partly moral and political. At the core of my conceptual critique lies the distinction between the literal and metaphorical use of language—with mental illness as a metaphor. At the core of my moral-political critique lies the distinction between relating to grown persons as responsible adults and as irresponsible insane persons (quasi-infants or idiots)—the former possessing free will, the latter lacking this moral attribute because of being “possessed” by mental illness. Instead of addressing these issues, my critics have concentrated on analyzing my motives and defending psychiatric slavery as benefiting the “slaves” and society alike. The reason for this impasse is that psychiatrists regard their own claims as the truths of medical science, and the claims of mental patients as the manifestations of mental diseases; whereas I regard both sets of claims as unwarranted justifications for imposing the claimants’ beliefs and behavior on others.”

“Why do we make diagnoses?” he asks.

“There are several reasons: 1) Scientific—to identify the organs or tissues affected and perhaps the cause of the illness; 2) Professional—to enlarge the scope, and thus the power and prestige, of a state-protected medical monopoly and the income of its practitioners; 3) Legal—to justify state-sanctioned coercive interventions outside of the criminal justice system; 4) Political-economic—to justify enacting and enforcing measures aimed at promoting public health and providing funds for research and treatment on projects classified as medical; 5) Personal—to enlist the support of public opinion, the media, and the legal system for bestowing special privileges (and impose special hardships) on persons diagnosed as (mentally) ill.”

Everyone has noticed the growth in the number of purportedly abnormal behaviors to be treated by the mental health monopoly over recent years, and the fact that there are always newer or better psychotropic drugs to be prescribed for the classified mental illnesses. In fact the classifications are often designed to match the specifications of the funding sources; to suit the insurance industry and the government regulators. All in all, if we examine the developing nosology set forth in the diagnostic manuals, and take note of the proliferation of subjective diagnoses made with objective pretense, and the relationship of the classifications with a developing moral code—for example, the morbid tendency of slaves to flee; neurasthenia due to the stress of industrialization; purportedly immoral homosexuality and masturbation, included and then excluded from the manuals or dismembered and tucked away in other classifications—the diagnostic manuals appear to be indexes to a fiction novel encompassing all aspects of modern life.

To wit: civilization is an incurable disease, but its symptoms can be alleviated with a proper regimen of psychotropic drug treatment and methodic counseling by licensed doctors. Further, any intelligent and sane person patient enough to study the development and current plot of this living novel (everybody is sick and needs doctors to help them) cannot help but conclude that it is not being written by scientists.

Indeed, the very proliferation of diagnoses from a few to hundreds, right down to the malingerer, the wandering fuguist with jet lag and coffee nerves destined to forget everything that occurred during his fugue, and the shy boy diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a vague position on the autism spectrum, is evidence that the good doctors do not have a scientific theory nor a clear conception of sanity. Once all the kids and adults are sorted into their respective disorders, a normal person, other than a total madman, cannot be found, but the classifications will be milked for hundreds of millions of dollars every year.

That, however, is not to say that the well intentioned therapists are not as helpful as priests or lay practitioners or witch doctors, provided that the afflicted persons believe in the psychotherapy cults. If the patients themselves are faithless, then sane people, or people who cannot tolerate misbehavior, can put disorderly people out of the way in institutions for the mentally ill.

Szasz’ critique of his profession was certainly not appreciated by his peers for it was a direct attack, questioning the motives of everyone involved in the mental illness racket, excepting perhaps, the neurologists who were looking for a causative organic link to mental anomalies. But then the “disease” would not be “mental.” “Mental illness,” on the one hand, is an euphemism intended to relieve misbehaving people from blame for their condition; on the other hand, it may deemed an insult to the dignity of the human being, whose essential difference from other animals is the ability to think.

No doubt many psychiatrists have the best of intentions; they care for their patients and would like to see them behave normally, at least to make the adjustments necessary to lead a “productive” life; that is, one that adds to the gross national product at least to the extent that others do not have to support them. But mandatory “adjustment” to the status quo disturbs people who do not want to conform or who want the status quo to change. Yes, one of the main categories in the Diagnostic Standards Manual is “adjustment disorders.”

Everyone has encountered mentally disturbed or deranged individuals; “mental illness” may be a myth, but there is definitely something wrong with them, with their behavior. They do not fit into our culture, the “irresponsible insane persons (quasi-infants or idiots),” and especially adults “possessing free will” who therefore deliberately misbehave.

In any case, “behavior” is the key word. Is the misbehavior simply immoral, a moral issue rather than a question of neurological malfunction?

“As for psychiatry, it ought to be clear that, except for the diagnoses of neurological diseases (treated by neurologists), no psychiatric diagnosis is, or can be, pathology-driven. Instead, all such diagnoses are driven by non-medical, that is, economic, personal, legal, political, or social considerations and incentives. Hence, psychiatric diagnoses point neither to anatomical or physiological lesions, nor to disease-causative agents, but allude to human behaviors and human problems.”

A critical mind, kind enough to acquit psychiatry of bad intentions, might even say the psychotherapy profession is a symptom of the sick society it wants to cure, but lacks the means to alleviate the basic anxiety terribly aggravated when philosophy, the queen of the hard and soft sciences, was reduced to positivist psychology after the so-called Supreme Being was assassinated.

So it appears that our frustrated psychiatrist, ‘Doctor’ Sartre, steeped as he was in atheistic leftist propaganda, disapproved of Flaubert’s bourgeoisie misbehavior. Poor Gustave, as it were, had been possessed, as if in Delphi, by a hysterical, Cretan pythia, a dragoness against whose viselike grip the hapless romantic struggles in bad faith for a realistic rationale. His faith is bad because he knows he cannot know himself from within or without; his ‘I’ is nothing; the reality he pursues is a negation; lacking an objective, he is condemned to fiction, to art for the sake of art.

We envision him according to Sartre’s analysis as psychically conflicted and traumatized by his dispassionate father in his passionate childhood, sitting masochistically for hours on end, hunched virtually immobile over his desk, knuckles bloodless from gripping his pen ever so rigidly, agonizingly finding just the right and fit words which will leave no evidence of his own existence behind, thus he appears to be entirely unsympathetic towards his subjects, meaning the objects he painstakingly details; and, above all, he is truthful, that is to say, cynical. The result: Madame Bovary, one of the finest novels every written, the virtual incarnation of himself, an example mimicked by many masters thereafter—such is the persuasive power of masterful suggestion.

Flaubert deserves credit for his individual willpower, which is in fact the principle concern of French Existentialism in its obedience to the ancient command Know Thyself.

Socrates has turned from stargazing to introspection back in the day, but he observed that, whatever the Truth is, it matters not whether one proceeds with the investigation from subject or object, within or without. The wisdom Socrates found was that he alone knew he was ignorant. But that is saying much for knowledge, for ignorance is not the stupidity that Flaubert gave as a prerequisite of happiness providing health and selfishness concur with stupidity. No wonder Flaubert’s reality tasted, as he said, like shit.

No wonder Socrates thought philosophy is the preparation for death. Consciousness cannot know the knower. The knower is essentially nothing; Reality is indefinite; Being is nothingness; how depressing!

Flaubert, disenchanted with the imaginative monstrosities of his youth, turned from subject to object, from the romantic vagaries or python within to the objective clarities without. He was not the social-utopia activist Sartre would have liked him to be, but he was a realistic activist in the sense that thinking and writing is symbolic activity; and his cynical depiction of bourgeois society, cynical because his depiction happened to be true, was just as liberating as Sartre’s self-involved or romantic existentialism, which was essentially a furthering of French Spiritualism or Voluntarism; not to mention Sartre’s intentional fiction wherein he was hardly loath to exhibit moral degeneracy for sake of drawing attention to scandals that everyone is “born in sin,” i.e. as an individual necessarily varying from the Good of the Whole, naturally finds fascinating.

Again it appears to us that Sartre’s psychoanalysis of Flaubert’s preoccupation amounts to a thoroughly moral condemnation of his patient, who is all too patient of a patient because he is already dead.

Sartre knew a sinner when he saw one; are we not all sinners to an extent? Sartre’s sin is in his existential individualism, of being born an individual in the first place, and then flaunting his individualism in opposition to the summum bonum or Good that society and/or its god is, ad infinitum in writing.

Flaubert tried to disappear in a fugue, to render his own pathetic existence invisible while describing the falsifications or illusions of the others. Still, the sin here, and Sartre knew this very well from existentialism’s progenitor, Soren Kierkegaard, was in being, not in existence per se; it was in being false to existence. It is the sin of being an artist who places himself beyond good and evil rather than to make a choice and live with it.

The morbid, morose, moribund person, we recall from our etymology, is morally diseased, is immoral in his deadly contradiction to the force that urges him to live forever in his differentiation by paradoxically merging with the bustling crowd, instead of falling back into the womb, which represents his own death although others may emerge from his tomb if he is not reborn.

The writer’s despairing retreat can be a very lonely one if his ego is subject to Kierkegaard’s “fatal disease.” Kierkegaard referred to the sinful existence of the artist’s existence—we would rather call it the sin of his being or form of existence instead of his existence per se, which in its contradictory individuality happens to be the original “Christian” sin, the crux from whence the twin fears, of life and death, plague humankind with anxiety.

However that may be, Kierkegaard stated: “From a Christian point of view, any poet’s existence, with his whole aesthetic existence, is a sin; the sin of writing poetry instead of living, of connecting himself with the good and evil instead of being the good and evil, that is essentially aspiring to become all these.”

The Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis celebrated the Christian sin of pride with this description of a writer’s workshop: “The fourth day I jumped out of the bed, I took the pen and I started writing… I was writing and I was so proud; I was a God who was doing what he wanted, was changing the reality, shaping it the way he wanted, mixing the truth and the lie; but it was no longer the truth and the lie, it was a soft dough that I was shaping according to my own imagination, without asking for anyone’s permission.”

In the final analysis Sartre’s novel psychoanalysis is hardly objective inasmuch as it is deliberately prejudiced by a hackneyed Marxist criticism of so-called bourgeois society, a society that Flaubert also despised and was fain to bitterly criticize, although he simulated bourgeois life for the sake of convenience, using it as a foundation for freedom.

“Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work,” was Flaubert’s maxim.

Sartre had also been cultivated by the bourgeois culture. Indeed, he identified himself as a member of the bourgeoisie through his resistance to it.

Who would we be without those we oppose?

XYX

The Delusion of Militarism

 
 
THE DELUSION OF MILITARISM
BY
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS
 
A fascinating article entitled ‘The Delusion of Militarism’ appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in 1908. It was penned by Charles Edward Jefferson (1860-1937), a New York author and minister. The first paragraph grabs the eye:

“The future historian of the first decade of the twentieth century will be puzzled. He will find that the world at the opening of the century was in an extraordinarily belligerent mood, and that the mood was well-nigh universal, dominating the New World as well as the Old, the Orient no less than the Occident. He will find that preparations for war, especially among nations which confessed allegiance to the Prince of Peace, were carried forward with tremendous energy and enthusiasm, and that the air was filled with prophetic voices, picturing national calamities and predicting bloody and world-embracing conflicts.”

As we know only too well from two world wars, not to mention several other major wars besides, the prophesies were self-fulfilling. The imagined violence and repeated affirmations of coming horrors were realized in fact, as if some sort of post-hypnotic suggestion were in force. Yet, at the same time universal calamity was being envisioned and professed, peace was being championed by world leaders and national statesmen, international workers’ organizations and peace leagues, conventions and courts. Indeed, we recall from our popular histories about the Great War that, prior to its outbreak in 1914, many experts considered international peace to be the foregone conclusion of economic development; after all, with the world inextricably linked by trade, what mammonist in his right mind would want to destroy accumulated capital and sever trade relations by waging war? Nevertheless, contrary to the proposition that perpetual peace was at hand, rumor had it that world war was imminent. As a matter fact, we know that generals had been preparing for 14 August several years prior to the invasion.

Confronted as he was with the contradiction between professed peace and the profession of war, with the “unprecedented growth of peace sentiment, accompanied by a constant increase of jealousy and suspicion, of fear and panic, among the nations of the earth,” Jefferson conducted an investigation, and tracked down the source of the war rumors to their origin: “(The) fountains from which flowed these dark and swollen streams of war rumor were all located within the military and naval encampments.”

Jefferson followed the flow of war talk downstream to legislative bodies where representatives had been convinced by the violent images and affirmations of the military experts, that war was in fact imminent, therefore their countries were really in grave danger. Hence an insane armament race around the world was launched. For instance, we recall the infamous Dreadnought race, between Germany with its Naval League, and Britain with its two-for-one policy, requiring it to have twice the naval power of any other two nations in order to secure world peace. The United States, also making a proactive suggestion along naval channels, sent a fleet of battleships on a peace mission around the world. Of course armies were enlarged accordingly and weapons improved and proliferated so that the world would have peace. But how absurd. The militant vision was driving men mad:

“(The) mere presence of the shining apparatus of death may have kindled in men’s hearts feelings of jealousy and distrust, and created panics…. It was only men who lived their life with guns who were haunted by horrible visions and kept dreaming hideous dreams and that the larger the armament the more was a nation harassed by fears of invasion and possible annihilation…. Was it a form of national lunacy, this frenzied outpouring of national treasure for the engines of destruction? Was it an hallucination, this feverish conviction that only by guns can a nation’s dignity be symbolized, and her place in the world’s life and action be honorably maintained?”

In other words, knowing fully well that war is butchery, murder, hell on earth, men built more guns, launched more battleships, recruited colossal armies and justified all this as peace-making with a pagan maxim in mind: “If you wish for peace, prepare for war.” What was the result of this mass delusion? Chaos and war. Imagine that. It is as if anxious people in want of peace were to join a perverse group therapy program, where, in session after session, they are firmly commanded to relax, to breath deeply as the group-affirmation is repeated: “The world is out to get us, the world is to get us….” Full attention is then directed at clear images of invading armies committing all sorts of atrocities, followed by images of glorious victories over the enemies of peace. If the therapy is effective, the subjects will be possessed by an unshakeable conviction in the patently absurd creed that peace is made by murdering other peace-makers. But this creed will be something different than normal dogmatism and fanaticism: if the power of suggestion in professional hands is as powerful as it is said to be, the subjects will eventually be rendered unable to believe in any alternative concept of reality. They shall begin to hallucinate, to see an enemy approaching where there is none, and no argument shall suffice to convince them otherwise: “A man who has the impression he is being tracked,” writes Jefferson, “by a vindictive and relentless foe, is not going to sit down and quietly listen to an argument the aim of which is to prove that no such enemy exists.” The group will take on an overpowering significance to which all ideas of persecution will be referred for the suggested response – killing people to save the world. It will be difficult to wrest the delusion of the supreme importance of the all-absorbing state from members of the group, because the delusion gives them a feeling of security. Jefferson duly notes that the militarist “is exceedingly impatient under contradiction; and, here again, he is like all victims of hallucinations. To deny his assumptions or to question his conclusions, is to him both blasphemy and treason, a sort of profanity and imbecility worthy of contempt and scorn.”

Delusions are usually individual mistakes, not mistakes held in common, such as the optical illusion that the world is flat. Jefferson poses the question, “Is it possible, someone asks, for a world to become insane?” He answers in the affirmative and provides several examples: the witchcraft delusion in Salem; the insanity associated with the Gunpowder Plot in London; the “hallucination” a thousand years ago that the world was coming to an end. We can think of many more cases. Mind you, Jefferson wrote his essay in 1908 – he did not have available as examples the mass insanity of the Great War and its devastating sequel, World War II.

We should ask ourselves today, Have we been hoodwinked or hypnotized into sailing on calm seas towards yet another holocaust by small groups of influential, paranoid, right-wing, regressive authoritarians at the helms of warships camouflaged as merchant vessels? Today a small fraction of the population does not have to have a legitimately defined state with armies, warships, and air forces to wage war in order to save the world from itself. Instead, a hijacked passenger airliner will do nicely, followed up by the deployment of compact weapons of mass destruction.

Alas, the great powers know not what they have done, hence they will continue to do it. Once in power, they manufactured enemies in their own image all over the world. They established themselves in power by revolutionary treason; and, if they win and prosper, they think they stand on higher moral ground, forgetting that the application of their original principle of liberty was treasonous. The implications of following suit are stupendous today. Now that much more can be done with much less, splitting a few atoms here and there can devastate a large portion of the world. A few men and women can destroy a city with a trunk if not a suitcase. Even a relatively small act of terror in comparison to the murder of millions can terrorize a paranoid populace into running amok in the name of global peace. Whether the force is exercised by a legitimate state or a group without a country, in both revolution and war we find a militant fundamentalist minority egging the masses on to chaos, They would soon make cannon meat out of millions of people. These neo-fundamentalists in state departments and remote caves preach the old doctrine, that life is a war of all against all; that might makes right; that life on earth, according to the old model of god, is meant to be hell on earth so that the fittest who obey god’s orders may survive, at least in the nebulous Hereafter. All those who die in battle are said to rest in Eternal Peace, or to have gone Home.

Proposals have often been made to liquidate the war-mongering minority at home and abroad: kill the enemy terrorists and kill one’s own leaders. Of course he who kills his own kind is evil, but killing another kind is fitting in the international jungle of anarchic natural right, where the natural law of reasonable society is not recognized. Of course there are exceptions to that rule: one may murder hundreds, thousands, millions of one’s own kind, providing they are sent off to war against the enemy. In any case, the burden of proof is always on the enemy, who is guilty until proven innocent, of doing what every egoistic leviathan has done or is doing: secretly preparing for war in order to secure the domestic peace.

A leader of the free world may not openly murder someone at home, but he may covertly authorize the assassination of alien leaders. He may for instance foster the rape and murder of “leftist” nuns and priests and the murder of countless “communists” in Latin America, sometimes whole native villages including women and children. He may deal drugs and arms, consort with international mobsters, and support the tyrants and terrorists he will later want to kill. He may have suspects murdered abroad without a trial; he may hold others in concentration camps for indefinite periods without legal process. And all this while preaching democracy to the world – at home he will be a great hero. The great democratic leader might condemn a diabolical man and his satanic generals for their mass murders, then offer them asylum somewhere. And knowing fully well that sanctions have never worked; knowing that sanctions have served only to enrich tyrants and aggravate the harm to their tyrannized subjects, who are not inclined to rise up against the tyrants unless they are promised military assistance; – the hero of democracy may impose and continue sanctions until at least one million innocent people have been killed, then point at the prosperous tyrant and say, “Look what he has done! Why didn’t the people rise up against him? Now I must save them.” And when people, thinking he is their ally, do rise up at his instigation against the tyrant, the democratic hero stands down while thousands of them are killed and buried in mass graves.

What hypocrisy! Well, then, why don’t the peace-loving people of the world rise up together and exterminate the war-mongering minorities of every nation? For one thing, that remedy would be a continuation of war as usual. Secondly, other licensed mass murderers would fill their bloody boots. Furthermore, the history of the Great War teaches us that, once war is started, internationalist pacifists take sides and become militant nationalists rallying around their respective flags, no matter what form of government the war banners symbolize.

Besides, it seems that people both male and female love to kill each other for the thrill of it or for no apparent reason at all – prosperity is no guarantee of peace. Zoologists tell us that even animals make war; alas, scientific experiments have yet to find the cause – there was plenty of things and space to go around, but one day some animals of the same kind showed up and all hell broke loose. The traditional justifications and rationalizations for war before and after the fact make ‘reason’ appear to be a mangy albeit logical dog dragged behind the war machine. Perhaps war, the greatest evil of all – some say it the greatest good – is caused by a virus or a bacterium; that is, if humans are not originally evil. Charles Edward Jefferson speculated on the possibility as follows:

“There are multiplying developments which are leading thoughtful observers to suspect that this pre-Christian maxim (“If you wish peace, prepare for war.”) is a piece of antiquated wisdom, and that the desire to establish peace in our modern world by brandishing the instruments of war is a product of mental aberration. Certainly there are indications pointing in this direction. The world’s brain may possibly have become unbalanced by a bacillus carried in the folds of a heathen adage. The most virulent and devastating disease now raging on the earth is militarism.”

Jefferson obviously resorts to metaphor: there is no such thing as an evil germ, bacillus, or virus in the microscopic sense. We might just as well say that peace causes war. We would not be the first to make the converse pronouncement that, “If you want war, prepare for peace.” This is not a mere play on words. Not only can repeated suggestions of war lead to war: so may repeated suggestions of peace made in the name of brotherly or neighborly love, accompanied by a vision of a definite utopias, lead to war – especially when someone wants to impose a particular visions. Militarists naturally imagine the violent means, and as ends in themselves if they love war enough. A warrior’s duty is not to question but to do his duty but to make war on command, even if that means, teaches the Gita, that one’s own relative will be killed. Now that war is not the occupation of a caste, it is no wonder that people at large who must dutifully die in wars want civilian control over the military forces – of course many soldiers once engaged in battle have often begged to differ with the principle of civilian control during the war itself. However that may be, politicians may dream of a certain universal peace to be had. Maybe they want to make the world safe for social democracy, or republican democracy, or national socialism, if not for brotherly love. Therefore they must make war to impose their version of universal peace onto the world.

Irving Babbit in his 1920 lecture, ‘Democracy and Imperialism’, points out that the masses have been sacrificed to the humanitarian theory of universal brotherhood:

“(This) particular ideal of union among men actually promotes the reality of the strife that it is supposed to prevent. One might without being too fanciful establish a sort of synchronism between the prevalence of pacific schemes and the outbreak of war. The propaganda of the Abbe de Saint-Pierre was followed by the wars of Frederick the Great. The humanitarian movement of the end of the eighteenth century, which found expression in Kant’s treatise on Perpetual Peace, was followed and attended by twenty years of the bloodiest fighting the world has ever known. The pacifist agitation of the early twentieth century, that found outer expression in the Peace Palace at The Hague, was succeeded by battle lines hundreds of miles long. The late M. Boutroux, whom no one will accuse of being a cynic, said to a reporter of the Temps in 1912 that from the amount of peace talk abroad, he inferred that the future was likely to be ‘supremely warlike and bloody.'”

Babbitt compares the clashes between states and alliances of states to clashes between Frankenstein monsters, and reminds us that Dr. Frankenstein’s monster had a beautiful sentimental soul, but he became ruthless when the beauty of his soul and his yearnings were not appreciated by others. Babbitt concludes his lecture with, “Here again the last stage of sentimentalism is homicidal mania.”

Hard-core militarists despise “feel-good” brotherly love as weakness or cowardice or stupidity, or they deny the possibility of a universal humanitarian brotherhood, preferring the clean love of barracks and trenches. The brotherly love of their fighting unit is better than any other brotherly love, especially the brotherly love of (expletive deleted) liberals who want to destroy the natural peace-making order of war; therefore, like other heretics and atheists, pacifists of all persuasions should be sent to the hell they are going to anyway lest they contaminate others. Like Carlyle, some conservatives accuse lovers of veiled hate: “Beneath this rose-colored veil of universal benevolence is a dark, contentious, hell-on-earth,” sayeth St. Carlyle. Be forewarned, then, that all efforts besides war to pacify the human race are doomed to failure. War is good and inevitable because men do not know what is good without submitting the important questions to the ultimate test. A life not worth dying for is not worth living. Long periods of peace corrupt and demoralize men. Peace is the cause of war.

We very well should be mindful of the dangers of making a universal out of a particular idea, of imposing a particular concrete utopia on the human race. But we are also mindful of the dangers of preaching violent means to achieve any sort of peace. We are but children grown up. Jefferson, speaking of the pageants of battleships given in his day, reminds us that children are most impressionable to our worship of violence and displays of weapons:

“Children cannot look upon symbols of brute force, extolled and exalted by their elders, without getting the impression that a nation’s power is measured by the calibre if its guns, and that its influence is determined by the explosive force of its shells. A fleet of battleships gives the wrong impression of what America is, and conceals the secret which has made America great. Children do not know that we became a great world power without the assistance of either army or navy, building ourselves up on everlasting principles by means of our schools and churches.”

War historians will beg to differ with Jefferson’s analysis. For example, after Geoffrey Perret graduated from high school in Wheaton, Illinois, he joined the U.S. Army. He is armed with degrees from the University of Southern California and Harvard – he studied law at Berkeley. His first book was about World War II. But I highly recommend his A Country Made by War, From the Revolution to Vietnam – the Story of America’s Rise to Power (1989). To wit: War makes America great. On the other hand, it behooves us to remember that there was a revolution within the American Revolution. The principles of the Declaration of Independence have still not been fully outlined by the U.S. Constitution. “Our fathers had an intuition,” says Charles Edward Jefferson, “that the New World would be different from the Old, that it had a unique destiny, and that it must pursue an original course.”

What Original Course does our author and minister recommend instead of the violent images and affirmations? “The deliverance will come as soon as men begin to think, and examine the sophistries with which militarism has flooded the world.” In other words, rather than leaving us with constructive images, perhaps with some quotes from the New Testament, he seems to recommend the talking-cure, the analytical method, in hopes that it will bring people to their senses, that it will wake people up to the truth. Think again and again. As previously noted, once war breaks out, pacifists tend to become patriots and internationalists become nationalists – or go into prison, into death camps, into exile. What truth should we wake up to? We are all by nature born imitators. What vision should we imitate? What affirmation shall we daily repeat? Should we raise up the Cross of Jesus and repeat the maxim unto our dying breath: “It is better to be killed than to kill.”

Does anyone have New World vision of peace to offer, one that the whole of humanity can believe is a realizable ideal? In 1908 Charles Edward Jefferson said that the Old World policy of militarism was dead wrong. He was proven right by the Great War, World War II, and every war thereafter. But, tired of waiting then, our minister finally capitulates, and plays an old tune: “It is possible to buy peace at too high a price. Better fight and get done with it than keep nations incessantly thinking evil thoughts about their neighbors.”

In want of a better model, we leave off here to search for one, with the beginning of Jefferson’s concluding paragraph in mind:

“Will America become a leader? At present we are an imitator.”

Sources:

The Delusion of Militarism, The Atlantic Monthly, CIII, 1908

Democracy and Leadership, by Irving Babbitt, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1924

Selected Quotations:

“The key to German historical teaching is to be found in Count Moltke’s dictum: ‘Perpetual peace is a dream, and it is not even a beautiful dream. War is an element in the order of the world ordained by God.’ ‘Without war the world would stagnate and lose itself in materialism.’ And the anti-Christian German philosopher, Nietzsche, found himself quite at one with the pious field-marshal. ‘It is mere illusion and pretty sentiment,’ he observes, ‘to expect much (even anything at all) from mankind if it forgets how to make war. As yet no means are known which call so much into action as a great war that rough energy born of the camp, that deep impersonality born of hatred, that conscience born of murder and cold-bloodedness, that fervour born of effort in the annihilation of the enemy, that proud indifference to loss, to one’s own existence, to that of one’s fellows, that earthquake-like soul-shaking which a people needs when it is losing its vitality.'” – The Outline of HIstory by H.G. Wells, New York: Macmillan 1921

The Delphian Know Thyself

KNOW THYSELF

 

THE DELPHIAN KNOW THYSELF

BY

DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS

 

Wise men aver that man’s highest calling has not changed since the day it was inscribed as a maxim on the temple of Apollo at Delphi:

KNOW THYSELF

Socrates was duly informed by the oracle that he was the wisest man of all. He was skeptical about that, but having due regard for the prestigious oracle, he sought someone wiser than he. His search for a wiser man failed, for every argument he heard he defeated with another argument. That proved his consummate skill and his native intelligence, but it did not prove his wisdom. It was his discovery that he was the only one who knew he did not know himself that made him wise.

Indeed, it appears that Socrates’ primary mission was to rid men of their wisdom-conceit, for only the knowledge of one’s own ignorance is wisdom when the arguments of the professors of wisdom are proved defeasible when put to the question. As we know so well from the trial and execution of Socrates under the restored democracy, asking embarrassing questions was not appreciated by the traditionalists. We get a sense of his good humor and character when we hear how he accepted the death penalty, insisting on a fee for examining and arguing against the opinions of the Athenians prosecuting him, instead of proposing a legal alternative to the death penalty.

Having found no purpose or ultimate meaning of human life in external nature, Socrates had turned his gaze within. His aim was to know the self or soul of man. He believed man was the microcosm of the universe, hence to know all things one must first Know Thyself.  Whereas most sophists of the day espoused free expression of subjective passions and impulses, Socrates sought freedom from them, to be achieved by self-control based upon insight. To that end Socrates engaged his fellows in philosophical discourse, the “speaking between” of dialectics, the art of logical argument. The sophists of the day, like the Brahmins of a much earlier date, were greatly amused by riddles and logic-juggling games. Those games were undoubtedly of enormous service to man’s intellectual development. However, that such a game can be won by a clever juggler does not prove him wise, at least not as far as the greatest teacher of them all was concerned. Indeed, we do find the Socratic dialogues inconclusive on the most crucial and critical point. Know Thyself is a process, then, instead of a final conclusion.

We have learned the Socratic lesson well. Everybody knows he does not really know himself, or he at least he has the good manners to say so. Such a profession of self-ignorance would be platitudinous today. Not that there is anything wrong with platitudes; after all, we do live by them; what is unforgivable is a poorly dressed platitude, for which there is no excuse given the handiness of Roget’s Thesaurus, the Oxford Dictionary, and a lively imagination.

Notwithstanding our good education or good manners in the case of the imperative ‘Know Thyself’, all too often we profess humble ignorance while our proud actions belie our profession.  Instead of inquiring into the nature of our selves, we in fact and in faith and as a matter of habit take our individual selves for granted as if we knew them too well to inquire any further. That is, we say we do not know ourselves, but, in order to act confidently and virtuously, we must have faith and then belief in ourselves. Yet we have only blind faith, and not the perfection of belief that is truth.

Since in regards to self-knowledge there is a contradiction between our profession of humble ignorance and our proud acts, we might be called hypocrites by those arrogant fools who do not understand the crisis beneath the actor’s mask and the stage upon which the great drama is performed. Yes, the saying that the world is a stage is a hackneyed phrase called a “hackneyed phrase” by hacks who do not know “hackneyed phrase” is itself a hackneyed phrase, or that the sword they wield in their insecurity as an insult has two sharp edges. Nonetheless, despite the hackneyed phrases and editorial nit-witticisms, the world remains a stage, and as the ancients said of their theatre millennia before Shakespeare’s birth, theatre is a mirror by which one can Know Thyself.

Actors were called hypocrites by the ancient Greeks. Hypocrites wore personas or masks. And here we neoterics are on our darkened stage as hypocrites wearing masks, persons divided against ourselves within, hence divided without as well. Indeed, hypocrites are “divided underneath.” They suffer the diremption, the original wound: The Ideal One overflowed into the Moving Many; by indefinite dyadic operation subjects were divided from their objects; now Sophia longs for redemption. Indeed, any person who does not know that all persons including Yours Truly are hypocrites is an imbecile who, instead of hurling “You hypocrite!” as a Judeo-Christian curse, should trace the term to its Greek origin and paste the command Know Thyself on his mirror.

No doubt fear is at the root of the crisis upon which we place the personal mask. Thus it is said, To Know Thyself, look at the tombs. The human personality is a reaction to fear, not only to the fear of suffering but, since we know we are to die, the fear of non-existence or death. Conversely, it is a reaction to the fear of self-conscious existence, the fear of human life, for life implicates death: life is feared as much and at the same time as the absolute void of non-existence is feared.

When fear is present and the unknown or nothing specific is feared, the term “anxiety” is usually employed, but I prefer the general term. The fact of death is obvious; only non-existence is unimaginable. A personal response to Know Thyself may be to consider, first of all, the ultimate limit of life on this heavenly body named Earth; to wit, death.

When Know Thyself was first taken up as a maxim, identification with the tribe for survival’s sake naturally took precedence over individual liberty. Christians did not invent the so-called “sin of pride” for which the Fathers adopted the term “hypocrisy.” Know Thyself was originally construed to mean that one must know one’s natural and social limits in order not to overstep them and be destroyed by pride. In other words, a person was defined then more by his conditions than by his individual will.

But today, as a result of the reputed historical progress of individual liberty, thanks to Socrates and like-minded thinkers, many more people, despite their presently dwindling proportion to the whole population, do not identify with their limits, at least not in principle: they push the envelopes as far as they can go in all walks of life. Limits are challenges to them. Some like objective challenges, while others like the subjective challenges. Again, maybe some of us would prefer to come to immediate terms with the most general limit of all, death, in order to more fully understand the meaning of life in general. I am fonder of the subjects than I am of their objects.

Alas that objectivism is the order of the day: subjectivists are an endangered species. Knowing things like technological artifacts, for example, and knowing the self as just another thing to be technically manipulated after it is defined by objectivist scientists, is the fascist fashion today. Thus while objectivists fondle the same bundles of things over and over, subjectivists are charged with repeating themselves, especially when they defensively propound on the nugatory nescience of objectivism. As a consequence they are confronted with its perverse numbskulleries; for instance:

“How dare you criticize this company you when you can go to another company. Read our TOS or Agreement-With-Ourself, which states, in part, ‘Thou shalt not criticize this company. Violators will be terminated without pay.'”

But there are no viable alternatives, for all places even churches are strictly commercial, wholly devoted to all-consuming consumption, operating under the same Agreement-With-Ourself.”

As for me, if I (excuse me for referring to the I-Thing) were to believe the comments I receive about my labor of love, I have no right to live and work in this objectivist society. As if insight has no rightful objective in this world. Be that as it may, it is my destiny to continue with my meditation on Know Myself from time to time. Although I often vehemently protest the smothering of the subjective self in objective sand, I do not mean to destroy the world: I merely object to the ostrich hiding his head in it.

I do recognize both subject and object and their relation. I realize that I am a bird flying through the air over a worm. But I object to having my wings amputated after thousands of years of struggle to Know Thyself. I am willing to strike an uplifting balance; I am unwilling to participate in a degrading descent. I do not deny the right of objectivists to breath, provided they stop strangling me. For if each self is similar and is in that similarity essentially the same, and if that Subject of subjects can also be derived from the study of objects as well as insight into the self, perhaps I shall meet my objective counterparts in the Grand Synthesis.

 

XYX 

A Successful Loser’s Fear of Success

DOUBLE ME

 

A SUCCESSFUL LOSER’S FEAR OF SUCCESS
BY
DAVID ARTHUR WALTERS


I have been intimately acquainted with my doppelganger for many years, so I know quite a lot about him. Walter is a loser, suffering from a compulsion to repeatedly fail time and time again while not even knowing that he is suffering. 

Walter and I never became good friends, and the fault is mine. Although I converse with him at length when I inadvertently bump into him, I dislike him for some reason unbeknown to me. I go out of my way to avoid him, but there he is again. He is aware of my antipathy, but he does not mind. In fact, he is the one who maintains our relationship, and considers me as his best friend! 

“You are like the cheeseburgers at Tony’s,” he explained. “I was starving when I walked in there the first time, so I ordered a cheeseburger and ate it. I have been eating that cheeseburger for years now, and that’s all I order. You are like that cheeseburger. I met you and I liked you. I know you don’t like me that much but you are good enough for me, so you are stuck with my friendship.” 

Walter felt abandoned at an early age. His mother died before he was a year old. He was left with his grandmother for awhile. His memories of that period are fragmentary. He recalls battles with his older brother in the kitchen; his brother fell asleep on the couch and died a few years later. He remembers riding in the back of a Greyhound bus; watching people blow smoke rings; eating a pack of cigarettes, getting sick on the tobacco, jumping up and down and falling through the bottom of his crib. 

His father remarried and took him into his new home. He remembers nothing of this second, short-lived marriage. His stepmother was the mayor’s daughter. The mayor was a leading Mason. Walter’s dad hated Masons because he felt they were involved in sinister conspiracies. As the marriage fell apart, the mayor had Walter’s father arrested and sent from jail to jail for several weeks. In the interim, Walter’s stepmother filed motions for custody. But his father was released, and then he “kidnapped” Walter and left him at a foster home at age six. He remembers being dropped off. It was a shocking experience. He grew to love his foster home, however, although he looked forward to his father’s visits every few months. 

Walter’s foster parents were kind to him. He had several curious sexual experiences. His foster brother repeatedly tried to teach him to have intercourse with the girl next door when he was nine. He was a good boy, even when they innocently used her mother’s cosmetics to decorate the walls. 

He does not know why, but when people asked him what he was going to do when he grew up, he would answer, “I’m going to be a bum.” In fact his greatest fear is of becoming a homeless derelict. 

His father eventually remarried, picked him up and took him to a new home in another state—he cried all the way. When he arrived there, he heard his new stepmother screaming, “Get rid of him or I’ll leave you.” 

Walter’s life was relatively miserable thereafter. He was a bright boy, but he turned to juvenile delinquency, which amounted to little more than breaking a few garage windows, and using a cigarette to burn a hole in a curtain that caught afire when he left, almost burning down the church. He was only bad because he thought he would prove his stepmother right: “He is a bad boy!” she frequently said. His father told him he was “born of a bad seed,” from “insane” people, explaining that “mental illness is inherited from fathers. Little did Walter know at the time that his father, who enjoyed reading psychology books, would soon be diagnosed as a “paranoid schizophrenic.” 

He ran away from home at age thirteen and lived on the streets of several cities. He eventually managed to lie his way into good jobs and to hold them. He felt rage from time to time, expressing it by drinking heavily, breaking things around the house, but he would stop short of injuring anyone; he said he could not bring himself to murder or maim anyone, and that kept him out of the mob. 

He wanted to create the family he had not had, so he married. He was immature and inept, but he was learning. Just as he was really improving his relations with his wife because he genuinely loved her, she left him. He was crushed: he fell into a deep depression for two years thereafter during which he attempted suicide three times. After the last attempt, which almost succeeded, the doctor at the hospital told him his wife had called to wish him dead, at which point the depression lifted. 

He tried marriage again a few years later with the same result—divorce—except this time he left his wife, and was glad he did. His second marriage reminded him of his miserable life with his second stepmother, so he felt no remorse so when he left his second wife and went directly into the arms of another woman he had just met. Since that time he was quick to break off any relationship even if it was going well. 

He travelled around the country from one job to another. Just when he would be up for a promotion or raise, he said he felt compelled to quit and move on to realize a childhood dream of becoming a great American author. He might have done that without having to hold down jobs if only he had played his cards right when he knew he had a winning hand. He recounted to me six separate occasions where he had an opportunity to secure a small fortune for himself, but he passed up certain success, saying he was afraid to sign, for instance, the real estate contract, or engage in some other business deal. 

He returned to our hometown for a few years, but then he quit a good job, and ran away again, to Southern California, to a place he had previously loved, where he had of course previously failed when just on the verge of success. He was offered an offshore position that would have allowed him to avoid taxes and to become a multi-millionaire and retire to writing books, but he was frightened by the prospect of success, and made such an ass of himself that the job offer was withdrawn. 

All this because he felt compelled to take up writing immediately. Since then he confined his writing to material for which there is little or no demand, and has made no effort to market it. He was almost broke, and planned to jump to his death when he ran out of money. I advised him to get help, but he laughed me off; he seemed to be delighted with his life as it is. 

He was surprised when I looked in the mirror and said I was researching the phenomenon known as fear of success, and had a book in mind: 

“What a coincidence!” he exclaimed, “You ought to write about me, for crying out loud!” 

He permitted me to describe his predicament and to publish the following little confession:

“I invariably work my own ruin. I know exactly what I am doing, but I cannot stop myself from spiting the respectable self I built up, usually by writing useless, pessimistic tracts. I must throw away everything: my job, my residence, my savings, my favorite hobbies, and the savior or two who mystically shows up with an even better opportunity than the one I just had in hand and threw away. Then I devote myself to making notes and developing them into articles nobody wants to read. There goes all the hard work and everything I had to show for it. I have three things left besides worn-out clothes: a flute, a camera, and a pair of binoculars. People do not want me around without money and property, thank God! This time I have almost succeeded with my return to poverty, at which point I would normally ruin that successful decline by climbing heroically back out of it. But this time there is no time for that; hence my effort will soon result in my self-assisted death. But do not worry! I have it coming and I will enjoy the light at the end of the tunnel. You see, despite the mental anguish this destruction of my social or reputable self causes, despite the anxieties which I can avoid by thinking about irrelevant subjects, I am usually incredibly happy! 

“You may write me up as the excellent textbook case in order to help society get over itself. Please say I have never submitted to psychoanalysis, or psycho-therapeutic drugs except self-administered weed, horse tranquilizer, and alcohol. I simply love myself too much to commit myself to socialization therapy or get hopped up on coke, speed, heroin and such. 

“Now I am completely alone without a wife or girlfriend, without a job, a church, a club. a real home. I am a recluse. That leads me to wonder, How can anyone not be happy being all alone by himself to love himself all the more? 

“It’s not that I hate others. Not at all. I love everybody but can only love them in the abstract. My past has always been a mistake. That’s why I withdrew from it, to figure it out and save myself, and as the great author of my dreams and schemes, to save mankind from being drowned. 

“I became obsessed with the chances lost in the past in contrast to my great last chance of being a hero and saving the world. But to do be an artist I had to have my solitude. After awhile, I realized I was in a trap, that I had entombed myself. But then I began to really enjoy being alone with my reflections, and I began to think, with happiness like this, who needs other people?”

Walter, despite his repetition compulsion, does not really seem to be experiencing any anxiety; quite to the contrary. He evidently takes delight in the withdrawal of his love from things in order to love his favorite thing better; in fine, his beloved self, whatever that is, for he refuses to define it. He claims he is his own “best friend” in the sense that “friend” means “free.” I could not help but think he would be his own worst enemy in the absolute freedom he obviously desires, for that sort of freedom is a dud, a bomb which cannot explode because it has no resistance. Absolute freedom from objects is really nothing but nothing, or “death.” Objects kill the Subject, but it’s best to stay in between two hard rocks in my opinion. 

Yet there does seems to be a trace of falsity to Walter’s happy face in the mirror, as if it were a cover for pain, or even a product of pain. Is he some sort of a masochist? Does his love keep his death instinct at bay? I know I would be severely depressed if I were him. I imagine he wakes up sometimes and is terrified for a moment before he puts on his cosmetic. He said not when I asked. 

He was bubbling over with enthusiasm, like some sort of a god-possessed maniac, the last time I spoke with him. I mentioned God; he laughed, insisting an objective god is absurd. When I asked him if he believed he was a subjective god, he said, yes, he was, but I got the impression he was kidding. I suggested he seek professional help instead of leaping off his balcony with his manuscript, which he said he was doomed to do. He said anyone in their right mind would kill themselves right away, and hung up on me. I thought of calling Social Services, but decided not to; better to leave well enough alone. 

Walter’s disposition does not necessarily prove Freud true on the death instinct. He demonstrates a propensity to repeat behavior that causes them to fail, as well as tendencies which appear to be self-destructive. Appearances, however, are deceiving, and our nature hopelessly complex. He certainly takes pleasure in surviving, and he succeeds, in a way, by failing. In fact, he identifies himself as a “successful loser.” 

Swedenborg said, “Love is your life.” Walter’s instinctive love of life masks the death instinct Freud would abstract from it by boiling off the love. Freud recognized that people compulsively repeat both pleasurable and painful “material,” but he wanted to reduce the repetition down to only those “rare instances” where the death instinct is distinct. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud mentions cases where the “perpetual recurrence of the same thing” is obvious in active behavior associated with a person’s character trait: the man who is always betrayed by his friends; the benefactor whose protégés are always ungrateful; the lovers whose various affairs have the same conclusion. 

“We are much more impressed,” Freud wrote, “by cases where the subject appears to have a passive experience, over which he has no influence, but in which he meets with a repetition of the same fatality. There is the case, for instance, of the woman who married three successive husbands each of whom fell ill soon afterwards and had to be nursed by her on their death-bed.” 

Well, that certainly rings a bell today: we know of several cases over the past few years where mothers lost their children and wives lost their husbands; evidence was dug up sometime later, even years later, and they were charged with serial-murders. That, however, proves or disproves nothing in respect to the death instinct. Freud, after mentioning his examples, went on to say, “If we take into account observations such as these… we shall find courage to assume that there really does exist in the mind a compulsion to repeat which overrides the pleasure principle.” Furthermore, “Enough is left unexplained to justify the hypothesis of a compulsion to repeat – something that seems more primitive, more elementary, more instinctual than the pleasure principle which it overrides. But if a compulsion to repeat does operate in the mind, we should be glad to know something about it…” 

Indeed. Therefore, with Walter’s assistance lately, I persist with my research for what may be my seminal work on the fear of success, noting that many psychiatrists insist there is no such thing as a compulsive death drive. That issue is, in any event a nonevent, metaphysical and irrelevant to scientific practice even as a working hypothesis. It is best in this business to follow in Newton’s footsteps; they abhor “hypotheses” and prefer to “stick to the business at hand.” On the other hand, I believe that if the shoe fits and is worn well with good effect, what does it matter whether it exists or not? 

Doppelganger Related:

ALICE PACKER’S SHADOW