Self-help Woes

I am going to come out: I absolutely, positively despise all self-help books and maybe even the authors to a degree. I also mega hate that my grandparents are SUPER into it. They have affirmations they do at night, little horrid books with quick quips on how to turn your day into a more productive one like: “Have a purpose.”

Self-help is so often bargain existentialism, mixed with a little ‘spirituality'(new age-y bullshit) mixed in with a little common sense. Common sense can be a mixed bag but wither way it doesn’t help self-help. If it’s good common sense: I have thought that already please don’t insult my intelligence. Basically, the advice is vacuous and obnoxious. If it’s bad common sense (meaning people have these common sensibilities but they shouldn’t whatsoever) it just reinforces the stupid ideas a person has on life, making it harder for one to change and listen to someone without immediately violating the taboo of disagreeing with their favourite guru. That’s another thing I despise, gurus. Fuck gurus.

So, the most common critique I have heard of self-help is that it makes it seem like you can solve all your problems and be SUCCESSFUL by just buying a single or couple hundred guides all whilst following a simple 81 step process. It ignores the wider social circumstances that limit people’s opportunities and abilities. That’s a decent critique no doubt but one thing that isn’t being critiqued is the advice. Self-help books can have incredibly harmful advice, like believing wishing or believe your eyes were fine actually solved your problem and you don’t need to go to the doctor. Or take pickup guides that use the same techniques cults use to create obedient puppets. It’s fucking toxic shit. Self-help books frequently introduce pseudo-scientific notions into the reader’s mind along with shit your mom’s been telling you since you were 4 and a half. Take 12 rules for life. Along with advice that encourages you to stand up straight, it also tries to sell you the idea that lobsters and humans work relatively similar socially because we both have a few of the same neuron structure in our limbic system.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE!

Advice is best given on a personal and intimate basis. The more you know about the person the better it will be because it actually relates to you! The type of person you are, the money you make, the ambition and education you have. Mother usually knows best only because Mother usually knows YOU best. Most shrinks have to play catch up to mom.

What is so aggravating about self-help is that it creates a generic human. A human atomized from all others, that the author attempts to shape into their notion of success with no knowledge of who is doing the reading. It’s an incredibly alien thing to have your close friends and family switch from the intimate and deep relationship they have with you to parrot the generic guide of some idiot laughing to the bank who has never met you. Self-help is not only self-harm it is harming our relationships with others. It’s making use ignore the incredible knowledge we have on hand with the people we love and it’s stopping us from listening to and responding insightfully to just parroting lines from a book.

So here’s my self-help advice, help yourself by not getting self-help crap.

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Working Class Liberation and Guinea Pigs

While reading “exiting the vampire castle” particularly the idea of the current left being a culture of that which ignores class struggle and instead tries only to point out flaws, make people guilty, and revel in moral superiority. While reading this I was struck in a completely different way in a way that seems completely unrelated to what I was reading here but yet some way connected. Class struggle.

I haven’t quite finished pedagogy of the oppressed but finished quite a decent but of it before the PDF I had on my computer got deleted along with hours worth of notes and audio logs. I needn’t really point here for the inception if this yet revealed idea, it is a common phrase of the far left.

Another point of inspiration for this idea must come from the online Vegan milieu of which I had been emerged for months. I had for a very long time been sympathetic to the Vegan moral outlook and incredibly interested in political arguments that sprung from it since doing a presentation on the animal Liberation front as a terrorist organization at my high school.

The last or rather true first inspiration is that of the oldest. That is the role I played as a participant in a debate about animal experimentation in my sophomore year at high school, so quite early on in my philosophical development.

I hope the suspense will keep my finding riveting to those not already aware of this insight. Classes, by that I mean distinctions between groups in society that are derided or privileged depending on perceived social value. Classes have been split up in plenty of ways. The most common being Sovereign and Subject, Prince and Pauper, Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. Most recently, Graeber describes that of the caring classes. I think a new class distinction is necessary. Experimented.

The experimented is not even a subject only that of an object for a goal benefitting the experimenter. This is no longer a class distinction but an ontological distinction. The experimented isn’t the same type of object. If it has subjectivity it is ethically irrelevant and gets in the way of experimenter at worst or it is aesthetically interesting and benefits the experimenter at best. The working class have suffered as the experimented throughout history and practically ignored it. Whether that be the milk child that was used to test the smallpox virus or the African Americans used as test subjects (a test subject isn’t like a human subject. It is more in line with a subject of study. A test topic rather than a perceiving subject). The experimenter is a God whose only purpose is relentless curiosity bar nothing else. Today, those healthy denizens of this class subject themselves to all sorts of tests on them to survive. I was just looking at a magazine and there are a ridiculous amount of offers to test on people for money. In a world where one’s labour is practically worthless the next thing to offer is the corpus.

Briefly on selling the corpus

Selling your body and selling your labour are different. Prostitution is more similar to selling labour than selling your body. It all has to do to the relation of the self. In selling your labour, you are selling an active thing. You are selling your ability to do something for someone. In selling your corpus. The materiality of your being is all that matters. You aren’t acting, rather you are only being paid to be a pure object and to report what happens to the object of the corpus. In prostitution, there is an art and skill. There is a ‘you’ involved. In testing, there isn’t a ‘you’ acting but reporting on the actions people have had on the corpus.

When people express a lament in doing certain labours over others or see some labours in a hierarchy, it is usually in terms of relation to the self. Which is why mind work, the closest to the self is considered as superior to most people who work. Now we see the true difference between selling labour and the selling of the body.

Are moving towards a society where the poor can do nothing but sell their corpus?

Basic income to sustain test subjects

I am usually in support of basic income projects and am familiar with many of its critiques. The fact that it may be a way for the capitalists to continue their hold on power. To maintain a continuous stream of the fruits of the proletariat’s success into their hands. However, I always believed that cutting basic income would be the eventual strategy of the bourgeois. I believed this because the labour of the proletariat would be replaced by machines. The proletariat would then be exterminated or used as show horses.

Now I don’t believe this. There is use for the proletariat even when their actions are largely automated and that is as Guinea Pigs. A basic income would be used to sustain the bare minimum of bodily health. And here again, the problem of a Marxist obsession with the material raises problems. In this future, many workers may be kept as reserve Guinea Pigs to both test sociological models and other effects. Most of the former proletariat turned experimented would be in perfect shape. This is done to reflect the experimenters. However, minds have a great deal of effect on the material realm. Envy and lower social status combined with the general condition of being bullied for those relations and being seen as lesser in the sexual and romantic ‘marketplace’ destroys confidence and families. This can also spell doom for making meaningful friendships. Even if the experimented live a life without absolute poverty they still love the life of social poverty and relative poverty.

Relativity matters

In the paper “what is the point of equality” the author describes the equality is desirable because it puts people on equal social position. A position that lacks parasitism and domination. It provides people with agency and freedom to choose how to deal with other people. That is the point of equality: A mutually beneficial relationship between equals. We know that many species are hard-wired for this type of thinking. If you’ve ever watched the famous celery/grape capuchin monkey experiment you will understand what I mean. In the experiment, two monkeys are placed side by side in separate cages. First, the experimenter gives the first monkey, let’s call this monkey A, a piece of celery and does the same for the second monkey, monkey B. Then A is given a grape and B a piece of celery. Upon B observing A, B responds by throwing the celery away. Thereby demanding a grape. This isn’t the only experiment like it. They have also tested people’s responses in various games of exchange.

Now it might seem like I am making a normative claim on natural grounds but that isn’t my intention. No matter what happened in these experiments, it wouldn’t dictate what we should do now. It does give us food for thought, however, on why these may even be pretty common responses from social animals.

First of all, it seems incredibly hard for people to be happy in unequal social relationships. If you value the happiness of other people, this should speak out to you. Second, relative wealth really matters for your quality of life. I think Robert H. Frank actually talks about this the best when he is talking about our current state of affairs. He gives the example of the dwelling he lived in Nepal. It looked like one of those straw huts on the TV. It had no plumbing and one bathroom. However, such a dwelling was actually a little better than what most had so people in the community were all but happy to ask people to come over for dinner or for communal events to be organized there and he felt perfectly fine living there. His house in Ithaca, however, was much larger. Two stories, quite a large house, with five bedrooms and four bathrooms. The people in Nepal, he says, would have wondered why in the world he needed so many bathrooms and a garden that produced no fruit to eat. If his house in Nepal was instead in Ithaca, his children would have been embarrassed to bring their friends over for dinner and no one would want to organize communal events where he lives. He also couldn’t even live in the same neighbourhood. Because he now lives in a different neighbourhood that means his children have to go to a different school. The only schools that would have properties like the straw hut in Nepal around aren’t the best. This is how one’s position can affect one’s quality of life.

Now you might say, “Hey, all that means is that good education should be available to everyone.” My response to that is, okay that is true and that is great. “And hey, maybe people should care less about what type of house you dwell in. What really matters is what is inside.”

Okay, you know what you might be completely right about that. We should definitely push for both those things. However, what consumption is when it comes to relative inequality is a signal. In love and in friendships, signals are the A-game. Today people have thousands of options as to who their lover will be, who their friends will be. We have more choice as to our in-groups than ever before. Because of this incredible amount of choice in absolute numbers, it might actually close us off from many people. I could write so much more but that warrants a whole essay on its own.

What do we do!

Okay, we are all going to be turned into guinea pigs by the bourgeoisie and eternally grovel under their feet. Or maybe not, what hope is there for revolution? What hope is there for getting out of this situation? Well, why don’t we look at actual Guinea pigs? The lab rats, let us see what they are up to and what they have accomplished in their liberation.

That sounded ridiculous, didn’t it? Lab rats are completely under the foot of those who study them, any progress in the treatment of lab rats has been caused by humanity. In other words, their oppressors. Wait! That is actually very important. There’s a very central tenet in most libertarian (socialist) works and that is only the oppressed class can lead their liberation. The bourgeoisie won’t just hand it over to the proles! They got to work for it! They have to fight for it! Pragmatically, I understand why this is a central tenet. I mean the alternative is to sit and wait for liberation like a goddamn Posadist (congratulations to those who didn’t have to google that). Newsflash, the aliens will never come. Acting like the only hand in liberation is kind of like the pull yourself up by your bootstraps even without bootstraps except for a group of people.

Now you might say, “Hey, proles contain the numbers to launch a revolution and they have done it before! They can do it again!” You know what you are right. Unlike rabbits, we the proles, do have more potential. My point is that even when you have oppression to the point where the seed has been turned to ash, there is still hope for better. Oppressors can and do change their minds slightly over a long period of time. We treat animals better than we did a decade ago.

Really though, what we need to do is act fast before that sed really has been turned to ash. I am not running a doom cult, I don’t think that the end times are coming. I am just worried. I think we could speed this whole thing along a lot faster if we picked up the slack. Started making bootstraps for ourselves instead of our masters and realized how easy it really would be to grasp the controls. That means starting as many co-ops as we can, building networks of trade between each other that don’t rely on the state. The new shall be built in the shell of the new. Otherwise, the spirit of revolution will be crushed. Why wait for liberation when I suffer now?

RADICAL FORGIVENESS AND ITS CRITICS

In a conversation with my aunt about abuse, the topic of forgiveness was of course raised. My aunt said something we have all probably heard before. I believe it often is rarely, brazenly, and verbally questioned or disagreed with but often sub-consciously disagreed with. My aunt said something like this: “You can’t focus on the past, we have to forgive to move forward. We have to let go”. I disagreed, I believed that she was conflating ‘letting go’ and ‘moving forward’ with forgiveness, and that we can indeed move past things and not forgive a person for what they have done in the past. The main argument on her side was that forgiveness is really a good thing for the person forgiving rather than the person being forgiven. That without forgiveness hate controls one’s life and we lose out on everything that is important. There is some hidden assumption I believe she had: that without forgiveness one seeks revenge and the path of the vengeful is truly folly. Vengeance, I agree, solves nothing.

I decided to test if she really believed this. So, I, of course, brought one of the worst examples of abuse that I could think of at the time: rape.

Now before I continue, I know that some of you right now have all sorts of problems comparing things to rape because you think that it hurts rape victims to compare anything to rape and rape victims themselves have said these such things before. I want to say that I would agree comparisons to rape sometimes may decrease the perception of how horrible it is just like calling everyone a fascist does the same. However, I don’t and won’t ever believe that it isn’t okay to use an extreme to make a necessary point if the situation of the extreme actually applies. In this scenario and mutatis muntandis, rape is a perfectly applicable thing. If someone were to treat the extreme differently here for no other reason than that it is extreme it not only hurts victims of lesser yet still horrible offences of abuse and harm but also devalues the reasoning as to the myriad of reasons why this situation may be different. That harms those in the extreme case. If that was too long, here is my point shortly: Sometimes not using the extreme as an example hurts those of the extreme, and this is one of those cases.

Continuing on, I tested the extreme and she didn’t hesitate to bite the bullet. She believed that rape victims must forgive their rapists in order to move on. This actually really surprised me. I am not sure if she was just trying to win the argument rather than if she actually believed this was the case but I doubted it at the time. She seemed perfectly serious and honest. Now I had a real argument on my hands because I would have to seriously argue that such a thing isn’t necessary. But before I could really do so, the conversation shifted.

It is only now, weeks after, that I seriously consider her point. Specifically, because a clip on the radio while I was in the car going home that I actually really considered her point. This was the story: ‘Hudson jogger hit by drunk driver asks him to team up with her on school visits’. (It turns out that she had heard the same story a few days ago as well)

This was a story of a woman who wasn’t raped but still had something horrible happen to her. The situation between rape and this are quite different but it is where they are similar that matters in this case. I admit that it is probably easier to forgive someone in this case because the perpetrator is a lot less in your face. The lesser degree of directness and deliberation of something like drunk driving compared to rape is stark no doubt. Therefore, far easier to actually forgive and lack the anger. Since recovery doesn’t involve dealing with the victim in forcefully and violent intimate interaction. Yet there are some(few in comparison to the majority) examples of women forgiving the people who raped them.

Take the example of Thordis Elva who was raped by her then boyfriend(for like a month) Tom Stranger. The two of them parade around the world talking about how Thordis had to forgive Tom to move on whether he accepted it or not. Here it from the horse mouth:

Along with an account of the violence that he subjected me to, the words, “I want to find forgiveness” stared back at me, surprising nobody more than myself. But deep down I realized that this was my way out of my suffering, because regardless of whether or not he deserved my forgiveness, I deserved peace. My era of shame was over.

There was something terribly wrong with this rhetoric that I couldn’t completely articulate. It aligns perfectly with that of my aunt’s rhetoric. I didn’t understand why this was the view of forgiveness being pushed on to me but the help of a self-investigation, as well as a few articles into the topic, helped clear that up.

I want to stress that my aunt’s belief was far more radical than just “people can forgive others for heinous actions”, it was “people need to forgive others for heinous actions for themselves”. I didn’t even realize that this view about what is necessary for a person to heal from a tragic and traumatic occurrence was even common. But to my curiosity and somewhat horror, it was common enough and had implications I had only the slightest intuitions about. I sensed that forgiveness had this hidden power of absolving someone else of what they had done. I didn’t understand how or why that is, it was just something I felt that if I forgave my father for what was done to me it wasn’t just words that I was throwing around. I felt I was throwing power to someone dangerous and I felt weak at what would be done with it.

I also realized wondered what were the arguments that would lead someone to this conclusion in the first place. The whole conversation had me thinking about what forgiveness even means. It leads me to think about what ‘letting go’ even means.

I think there was a deeper and darker part of forgiveness in my conception of it. There was an idea of some sort of acceptance. The (supposed) final stage of grief. The acceptance that what happened was acceptable. So, I had a hidden belief that not only was forgiveness not necessary for the recovery of a person suffering from abuse but that it was wrong. That you shouldn’t just forgive them for something like that. That you would lose some part of your dignity as a human being doing something like that. That you would demean the trauma and harm that occurred for you and so many others. What I realized was that I had a hidden view of the ‘unforgivable crime’. A horror so complete that no one could or should forgive and to do so is to lessen the horror. Why did I believe this? Why did she believe the opposite? I was left with even more questions.

Forgiveness is not a simple thing, the aftermath of all tragedies have forgiveness as something discussed. To forgive someone of something requires reparations. Payment. The person is required to restore things to what they currently were. For example, it is quite easier to forgive a thief if they return what was stolen before they were caught. Or a bully that then defends you from others, or similar reparative or restorative measures. Ever hear that an apology is the ‘least you can do’? It is because forgiveness is the acceptance that a relationship between the forgiver and the forgiven that a relationship is restored or repaired. That the debt incurred by a tragedy has been paid with interest. This is the real reason why saying the words, “I forgive you” is so hard and why “I am sorry” is just as hard or much hard when you think there is nothing you did that was wrong or what the other did was worse. What you are admitting to here, is payment as the apologiser and as the forgiver, you are admitting that something has been repaid. This is heavy. Even here debts and debtors, do make their appearance.

Circling back to the ‘unforgivable crime’, we now understand why it may seem so incredibly demeaning if we apply all that we have learned. If forgiveness is the acceptance or acknowledgement that the relationship between two people has indeed been repaired or restored to what it was previously then this belief of mine that some crimes shouldn’t be forgiven is hopefully more understandable. This does lead us to believe that one shouldn’t apologise unless the relationship has been repaired and the debt repaid. If we think of forgiveness as debt redemption than we are lead to further confusion in the ease that someone would apologise in an instance that the relationship has not been restored and repaired unless one looks at it as an act of charity. It seems even stranger if one believes this action isn’t for the sake of the other, in the case that the person doesn’t deserve charity, but on the basis, that forgiveness is solely about the person themselves. That forgiveness has some healing properties to it. This would require an entirely different theory of what forgiveness is as a concept (oh I can’t be helped but think of the theory theory of concepts!).

For forgiveness to have healing properties we should think of it perhaps not as a debt the other person has to repay to restore a relationship. This previous way of looking at forgiveness was a quid pro quo or eye for an eye view. When I say it that way it is much more vulgar and I do so on purpose. To illustrate why someone would want to reject the previous view. I think the previous view is the way we naturally look at forgiveness and this other way developed in response. This mostly because of David Graeber’s book, Debt, which I never believed I would actually reference here. I thought this was a totally distinct and none intersecting topic! Lo and behold, the spectre of Graeber haunts again. Anyway, this response to the debt view of forgive is the idea that forgiveness is an acceptance of one’s past that one is now restored. Forgiveness in this view isn’t something that you would actually have to say to anyone. It is a feeling that the past has been repaired. That it is fixed for you. That you are now back to normal. This isn’t so ridiculous a view. If we think back to the thief example I gave before, forgiveness in this view wouldn’t require the thief to return the money or for any debt on the thief’s part to be repaid. What is required, is that the person not need the money in the first place. For the person to be back to the position they had, had the money never been stolen. Understood in this way, when the person forgives the thief with this theory, they are in a way only stating that this money is no longer a problem. They have restored the situation. I don’t think this is a quite complete way of looking at it though.

A more complete way to look at this view requires that forgiveness really is said. My aunt doesn’t view forgiveness as wholly an individual thing. There is still the strange context of it being in a relationship. I think it also doesn’t quite show why I think it is a response. Let’s fix that. If you think about what is required for there to be a debt and debtor in the first place requires a harm to have occurred that had not been fixed. This view of forgiveness essentially puts forth the idea that waiting until the other person has paid the debt for the problem they caused is only harmful to yourself. The only way you can heal is once this harm is fixed, and that doesn’t require the other person. It can be done in all sorts of way.

I have some problems with this response though. I believe that what this view forgets as a response is that the forgiveness is focused on restoring a relationship. But also that perhaps there are things life, even taking this view into consideration, that truly never leave you the same, that you don’t ever quite come out the same. Thus the unforgivable is perhaps both an unrepayable debt owed but also an irreparable state of affairs. This means that a person could technically have both views. My disagreement with my aunt about forgiveness isn’t even about different uses of what forgiveness means but over something deeper than that: Whether or not a person is ever fully restored after some events or not. Does that mean she is right that I won’t ever move things in my past, while she with her radical forgiveness will? No.

I believe I can acknowledge a situation is irreparable and still move on. In fact, I believe that all situations are reparable is just delusional. Some things change us forever. A mother has a child, a spouse is murdered, we watch the first episode of ‘the good place’, a person gets bitten by a vampire. These are called transformative experiences and they can be just as negative as positive and just as positive as negative. Nevertheless, they transform us, they make us different people. There is a sense that life will never be the same after something like this occurs. To deny that some situations are irreparable, that sometimes a person isn’t ever fully restored to what they were before. Sometimes things are permanently lost and that is just the name of the game. If life is a battle, we will inevitably lose. It isn’t a battle though and we have to find better ways of dealing with loss than just imagining that, “lalala everything is fine”.

Ever watch the movie inside out? It’s basically about something like what happens when you are permanently positive. There are two sides to each experience and if we delude ourselves into thinking everything is great, things will get even worse. Basically, the negative has a positive side. Yin/yang, that shit.

Thanks for reading y’all. Oh, by the way, the title to this was originally “Radical Forgiveness: A short note about a disagreement with my aunt”, turns out it was not short at all (its more than two thousand words!).

More additions are coming if you have already read the article! A paragraph or three should appear in the next few days to discuss the articles I have read in addition!

WHAT IS ENLIGHTENMENT?

I’m not afraid of the journey,

We have to see it, we have to taste it,

The twists and turns deep inside,

Everything is ok there,

The wind will carry us.

Where is Kant?

Enlightenment is the human being’s emergence from his self-incurred minority. Minority is inability to make use of one’s own understanding without direction from another. This minority is self-incurred when its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! [dare to be wise] Have courage to make use of your own understanding! is thus the motto of enlightenment.

In 1784, Kant faced a problem. The freedoms and ideals loved by the current majesty of the Prussian state, Fredrich the Great, were about to be overturned. His Majesty’s health was quickly declining, and his son, Fredrich William II, was staunchly against enlightenment ideas, favouring mysticism and a strong Protestant faith instead. Seeing the coming deterioration of freedom in front of his eyes, the man in his sixtieth year composed a short essay on enlightenment seeking to walk the tightrope between deference and defiance, obedience and deviance, mutiny and mutuality. The grinder (a dangerous moniker for the times to come) as he was called at the time attempted to find his middle path to enlightenment in this essay. Continue reading WHAT IS ENLIGHTENMENT?

AGAINST MERITOCRACY

Who Deserves To Rule? No one.

vformerit.pngWhy does everyone seem to just looooove it?

People seem to do an awful lot of talking about whether or not our society is meritocratic! Usually, I would need to provide evidence that this is true, but anyone who has ever heard of the word in political discussion knows that it is almost always central. But why? It is simple. People believe that a meritocratic society is a just society. If those with merit rule we have the best possible system! Or so the claim goes. It is rarely ever stated and only assumed. Usually, a person immediately reacts viciously in a debate if you suggest that they are against meritocracy. If you ever speak against the system people believe you are being anti-intellectual or ridiculous in some way. And usually, people will always proclaim they are for this system undoubtedly. I always felt that going against strict taboos is extremely exciting, and part of being a free thinker. So, I always questioned why people thought that those with merit really deserve to rule. I mean people must have some sort of justification, right? Continue reading AGAINST MERITOCRACY

A Look At World Peace: A Critique

The moment you saw the title you most likely to either suddenly rush to dismiss this entire article as nonsense or as some delusional warmonger or you immediately agreed with me and still decided to disregard most of what I wrote below. I encourage both types of people to read and consider what I plan to write below because I believe I approach the subject at hand with a breath of some nuance.

Many people have been both for and against world peace. They have stood at both sides of this debate fiercely staring the other side down with either disdain or as intellectually inferior, as it is with most debates so ancient (community versus individual, isolation versus globalization, chocolate versus strawberry ice cream). Of course, there is always a third group that also likes to stand aside from both and likes to speak of ‘pragmatism’ (as I have my own problems with people who claim they are being pragmatic). I will gladly say I am not that third group. Instead, I am a person who wishes to frame the way that world peace has been spoken about in both the historical and recent political climate in contrast to its supposed ends. I try to understand why peace achieved through some of those means would not bring about those ends and a bit about how that end might just simply conflict with the fact that humans have diverse viewpoints. I am a person who hopes to convey that even the goal of manipulating the ‘human condition’ such that these viewpoints wouldn’t exist would not be preferable in virtue of preferability being identical to a thing that is ‘valued more than something else’. Continue reading A Look At World Peace: A Critique