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To love

... and after six hours of sleep and three mugs of morning coffee I feel like writing a line or two more.

Recently a Finnish politican suggested that we should have a national register of members of different ethnic groups. To have a cencus to classify each and every person living in Finland. One of his arguments was that people who belong to a same ethnic group also think and behave the same. I really don't know if he meant what he said, but I'm afraid that his statement clearly illustrates a non-loving attitude which seems to be a central part of a racist way of thinking.

As a young student I met Val Plumwood, who was visiting Finland. We spent several days wandering in the natural parks, spending summer evening by camp-fire telling stories and discussing philosophy (and occasionally she would play a tune with an irish tin whistle.) As an eco-feminist thinker she saw that sexism, racism, colonialism and domination of nature are all based on same kind of "logic of oppression". She wished that by examining, analyzing and writing about that logic of oppression it becomes more visible, more easy to recognize these patterns of thought - which would also make it easier to abandon this logic of oppression and to find new ways of thinkig. And, in her analysis she pointed out that one typical aspect of the logic of oppression is to think that members of a certain group are all the same, a faceless mass. This usually comes with a tendency to see ones own group as central, superior and more important, while seeing the other groups as a background, marginal and secondary. And it gets nastier when these different groups are attributed with opposite qualities, like "men are rational, women are emotional. White people are smart, black people are primitive. Christians are Good, Muslims are Evil. A man has a soul and free will, but nature is just a big machine composed of raw materials."

So, while writing my previous post I was thinking of this kind of "mental structures" as the network of irrigation pipeline. And that those mental structures are inside us - the structures of society, our legislation and workings of our economical system are all shaped by these mental structures. If there is a country dominated by a harsh dictator, it might be essential to have a real revolution toppling the tyrant. But getting rid of the external source of oppression is just a good start. From that on the work continues, as we tend to carry those very same oppressive mental structures inside us. Personally I spent about nine years of my life living in a countryside hippie collective. The place was collectively owned, there was not a strict hierarchy of power, everybody was equal and the decisions were made in open, democratic discussions. Or, so it was supposed to be, but I saw that getting rid of a formal hierarchy doesn't automatically mean that everybody is treated equal. No, without being conscious about it people are carrying so many ways of putting themselves above the others, seeing their own projects as superior to the others, and using different methods of ridiculing and mockery and non-communication to promote their own views over the others. Honestly, I'm not saying that I was the saint observing the stupidity in the other members of the collective. Not at all - I was painfully aware that I was no better, that I was falling back to those emotional and mental patterns I developed in my childhood; when I found out that it is often frustrating to have a discussion with the others I went on doing my own things without asking the opinion of others. Finally I bought this tiny house of my own and moved here to live alone - not because I wanted to abandon all the ideals of living together with the others, but because I felt that it is easier for me to heal my mental and emotional structures if I have more space and privacy around myself.

No doubt, all the members of the hippie collective loved the place and loved the other members of the collective family. We just had problems with listening to each other, difficulties with self-critical growing process of going through ones own ways of behaving, thinking and feeling. And, more generally speaking, to me it seems that in our western culture we have been putting a lot of energy to teach the kids how to read, write and to do the maths. We know how to build a space rocket, we can make smart phones and we have tehcnology to manipulate the DNA. But it seems that we understand very little about basic emotional and social skills, sometimes it seems that we are bit alien with the inner workings of human psyche. And we have a lot of collective traumas, and a considerable number of population is suffering from various mental problems. At the same time our global industry works hard to destroy the necessary conditions of survival of the entire mankind. And what do we do? The economical elite talks about making more profit, and the political elite talks about promoting economical growth so that we would get more tax money to be spent on something good and nice (like bombing our supposed enemies). Oh well, this doesn't seem very clever to me. Instead of economical growth we need more love and empathy, now. We need to grow and to learn more about skills of communication and co-operation, we need to develop our mental patterns so that we no more see other groups as inferior and non-personal mass. At the same time it is so very simple and a life-long journey of learning.

"... and please remember people, that no matter who you are, and what you do to live, thrive and survive, there are still some things that make us all the same. You, me, them, my brother Jake and everybody, everybody!"

ps. Since I'm going to publish this text in the internet I decided to attach a picture of a cat.

a cat
a cat
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Comments

Both this and Winter Solstice story are great. I'll just make one brief comment. I think that sometimes formal power structures are actually good, because they are also responsibility structures. As I see it, problem with completely informal hippie-style groups is, that responsibility can get lost somewhere. Spontaneity is nice, but we also need to know who takes care of what. These responsibility structures shouldn't be basis for new permanent hierarchies, though.

I guess that is one of the main ideas behind the metaphor of "irrigation pipeline". If we have such an irrigation system which is pouring too much water for plants which need only a little of water, and leaking in many spots and failing to deliver enough water to the remote parts of the garden, then the solution is not to get rid of the whole pipeline - the solution is to fix and adjust the pipeline so that it does what it is supposed to do.
So, on the level of society I see formal power structures and institutions and legislation as the irrigation system - they are devices to distribute the water of welfare, equality and justice. But at the moment it seems that the irrigation system is working only partially - it fails to deliver enough welfare to where it is needed the most, and leaks money and benefits to those who already got plenty...
And an informal hippie-style group (or an ordinary family, a school class or a workgroup) won't do any better if people still carry those same kind of oppressive power hierarchies in their minds. I think this is the power of Val Plumwood-style feminism; to show how inequality and oppression are based on our ways of thinking and evaluating the world - this is just another level of the irrigation pipeline. Formal hierarchies and structures are easier to criticize as they are external and visible. Mental structures are bit more tricky... Fundamentally, it is those informal, internal, cognitive and emotional mental structures which need to be renoved - not abolished, but improved. Or, this is how I see it. (and of course Val was not the only thinker suggesting something like this - I just tend to refer to her because I'm only familiar with her writings.)

Simply beautiful. But it makes me wonder -- do humans trick themselves into institutionalizing "goodness" and "empathy"? Or do humans need these things as a basic need of survival?

Like, if there was a good irrigation pipeline covering a big garden, but it would be connected to a limited water-supply then it would mean that not all the plants get the water they need?

In this sense, I guess that (re)connecting with empathy on instinctual level is like finding the ground water. Without that all the institutional forms are renderer somewhat useless. For institutions and the society to work properly we need more people who have inner motivation towards goodness, who feel empathy beating in their very hearts. But now it seems that especially those who have the most power also are more inclined to turning profit for themselves and their friends, leaving the rest of us just surviving on our own.

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