Monday, May 29, 2006

Everyone for himself, and Freud against us all (comments on the Moscow riots)

When I was younger, I thought that Sigmund Freud was too simplistic to be considered deep, but as I've gotten older I am realizing that he has a pretty deep understanding of what is turning out to be an extremely simple world. For example, the "pleasure principle" -- the idea that the brain is structured with a system of rewards that guide behavior -- seemed unscientific, tautological and worthless. A theory that explains everything and predicts nothing was useless for understanding human behavior. However, as I'm aging, my respect for the pleasure principle has been increasing, as there is a moral component that had completely escaped me. Whenever people mention "lack of character" to explain economic underperfomance, I invoke the pleasure principle, and gently suggest that the intolerant person is also "following their bliss", and this can sometimes clear the path to greater openness. A wise person sees the humanity in every human, and the pleasure principle is a tremendous equalizer, neutralizing reflexive moral superiority with a single application. This is, of course, a roundabout criticism of Hillary's commencement speech from a few weeks ago: her entire life has been dedicated to self-serving hedonism, so it rings false for her to censure others for it.

Which brings us to my second favorite tool in Freud's chest, namely, the concept of "projection" and the idea that people only really hate themselves. If you pay attention to your own angers, you will find that you may be baffled and saddened by things outside of yourself, but rage is always a defense mechanism whereby consciousness externalizes an aspect of itself that is too dissonant to integrate into itself. The quickest route to growth and happiness is to figure out what makes you angry and then stop being that way.

But why are people so public with their hatreds, more than a century after the publication of the Interpretation of Dreams? There is nothing comical about Bush's parapraxis about dismantling Democracy in America, or about his virulent "hatred" for the enemies of freedom. Could he possibly be less obvious? In a lighter note, why is it utterly unsurprising when a gay-bashing politician is photographed, wimpering, wearing a dog-suit and being violated by an obese man dressed as Sargeant Schultz? Or when a male prostitute is given press credentials by an excessively homophobic administration? But Freud tells us that every time you scratch a homophobe, you always find a cocksucker. Reading this article, it seems the "ex-gay" movement consists of homosexuals telling other homosexuals that homophobia can be a satisfying and legitimate expression of their sexuality. And who am I to take sides?

At the beach a few days ago, an obviously gay couple was preening and taking photographs of one another, and I thought to myself, "well, it's certainly nice to live in a city where people don't express their sexuality by knocking out one another's teeth" (see, for example, this). So the problem with homophobic politics is the standard Kantian problem -- it may be a legitimate expression of sexuality, but it does not generalize well, unless the people being beaten up can learn to take pleasure in the relationship. So maybe that's what happened in the last election, with the fight between the Homophilic left and the Homophobic right being an tortured though ultimately satisfying relationship that gave both participants pleasure, while the rest of the Republic suffered. Unless we live in a much queerer nation than is genetically probable, most people really don't care terribly much about gays, either way, so rather than shrilly criticizing Republicans for hypocrisy, and letting the gay wing of the Democratic party vehemently assert gay rights, maybe the people who don't particularly care about the issue should just gently, bemusedly and patiently coax the gay wing of the evangelical movement and Republican party out of the closet, so they could find a quieter way to express their sexuality.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home