Thursday, May 21, 2009

If you want to become better at joining the dots... read this

I've since come to understand the reason why school lasts thirteen years. It takes that long to sufficiently break a child's will. It is not easy to disconnect children's wills, to disconnect them from their own experiences of the world in preparation for the lives of painful employment they will have to endure...

I'm not saying by all this that Mrs. Calloway, my first grade teacher, was trying to murder the souls of her tiny charges, any more than I have been trying to say that individual scientists are necessarily hell-bent on destroying the planet or that individual Christians necessarily hate women and hate their bodies.
Derrick Jensen argues that the dominant culture's processes are psychopathic and destructive and that this destruction is often rendered invisible, or seen as "normal". The culture rapes and exploits because Darwin (and later Richard Dawkins' selfish genes) tells us this is what dominant cultures do. But Jensen reminds us that bears do not dam rivers and kill all the salmon, nor do they harvest all the berries until there are no more left. They understand that if their food supplies are healthy so are they. Thus they don't bred beyond the land's capacity. This model is what Herman Daly calls steady-state economics. The dominant culture's selfish genes destroys traditional communities in order for civilisation to expand. For those who survive, assimilation is absolutely necessary so as we no longer witness how these communities had got it so right for so long. And this is why it's so important not to use words like abuse, genocide or destruction when it comes to teaching our children about what we have done to traditional communities and ecologies. Instead destruction and violence must be rationalised to appear virtuous and reasonable – the characteristics of a psychopath.

"We're here to liberate the people of Iraq and spread democracy".

Jensen illustrates that the dominant culture's unwellness is due to its disembodied state, devoid of feeling, devoid of the visceral, creative and spiritual dimensions of life. At a systems level school traumatises us, the trauma is normalised over thirteen years, and we become competitive, destructive capitalists ready for work. Jensen argues we were not born this way. Modern schooling came with industrialisation, developed simply as a way to sever the body from the head, a necessary performance in the manufacturing of the modern wage-slave. 

We constrain children spatially, we give them highly processed, out-of season food and when they fly off the walls we label them with disorders such as ADHD. Our culture is pathological and cruel, however by investing in Descartian science or in a Descartian God we can avoid admitting we are truly unwell peoples. 

In A Language Older than Words, Jensen is mapping out a comprehensive third option.


kickknees said...

hi peej,

can i say, firstly, that it's very jonesian to attack your own leg with a chainsaw so you can read derek jensen tear shreds off descartes in a hospital bed. i admire the commitment to embodied existence, although am also happy that you didn't lop your whole leg off.

the jensen books sounds interesting. i have mixed feelings about descartes bashing, i have to say. on the one hand, his idiotic desire for absolute certainty which ends in a disconnected mind-in-a-vacuum scenario seems so clearly to lay the foundation for so much of the destruction that follows. but on the other hand i wonder if we aren't sometimes turning him into a straw man, an easy target, so we can pinpoint some easy-to-grasp evil within our culture.

like i say, my feelings are mixed. sometimes i want to make a descartes pinyata and bash all hell out of it, other times i think he's just an eccentric dude who spent his life working on maths and science and and then one day when he was sitting by a fire in the netherlands decided to meditate on discourse, that is, try his hand at philosophy.

our house has been going on a bruno latour and michel serres binge. i cannot recommend highly enough a couple of books: latour's we have never been modern and serres' the natural contract, the latter of which i'm pretty sure you would know.

love to m + z + the chooks,

The Garden of Self Defence said...

thanks nk,

this would have to be the model comment:

critique, humour, warmth, exchange.