Tyrannical phantoms –Robert M. Shelby, 12-1-10. [1124] txt wds]

In The Tyranny Of Words, Stuart Chase tells us, “People are not dumb because they lack mental equipment. They are dumb because they lack an adequate method for use of the equipment.” Again, “Without knowledge of the correct use of words most of us are defenseless against harmful stimuli. Those who deliberately teach people to fly from reality through cults, mythologies and dogmas are helping them to be unsane, to deal with phantoms, to create dream states.” There are cults of politics as well as of religion.

The subject of phantoms and fantasies needs exploration. There are mental states that qualify as hypnotic. For people in hypnotic trance, reality is a dreamlike fantasy ruled by some manner of suggestion from a mind-manager who seems charismatic to the person under influence. The manager may be a psychologist, a political leader or propagandist. There are multiple levels to the world and our experience. The world each person experiences is a phantom of neural modeling inside his or her skin. The part of the world each refers to as an outer environment or surround happens mainly inside that person’s head, though with bodily echoes or resonances. The whole body seems involved because the central nervous system-with-brain separates from the rest of a body only in thought or imagination. A surgeon can bare the brain but never separate it with its nerve extensions from the rest of the body and have it stay alive, much less keep it functioning without unimaginably complex laboratory arrangements that require more knowledge and technical capacity than science has yet attained.

Everything we see or sense in any way is, in effect, a model or map of something we will never contact or be affected by directly. Experience mediates between us and our external worlds. Our internal worlds are also mediated to and for us by experiences we call introspective, proprioceptive, kinesthetic, esthetic, etc. The “external world” and its objects (modeled inside us) is also mediated for us by “internal” experience. Now, here is a paradox: we who seem to experience our lives are also modeled-up from moment to moment by the structuring biological process that produces experience. Our mental or psychological worlds interact with a real world outside our skins which we cannot impact or be affected by save through experiential mediation of sensory input perceptually and interpretively modeled and remodeled. Plato’s Parable of the Cave brought us only halfway and let us go awry. Immanuel Kant brought us very near but not all the way here. He too quit. Uncounted philosophers and psychologists have brought us but little farther beyond the analyses of Plato and Kant.

So, then, putting it plainly, each of us is a phantom within the phantasmic world that is grounded in the actual world by a connective and productive ‘basis.’ What is that basis?

It is the structured and dynamic process of the living body which we must avoid naming and thinking of as “body” because that places it inside the model or map given us by experience instead of remembering that something X [the basis] has projected a model of each of us into an encompassing model of the world like a standing wave that seems to have mobility. This X remains forever unknown. It cannot be known or “solved for” without falsification of knower or the known. This was dimly understood by ancient mystics who claimed none could look upon God’s face and live, and that it was sacrilege to utter the “divine name” directly. These superstitious fictions indicated symbolic recognition of deep truth: No map is the territory it represents; no idea is the complex of facts it projects or is based upon. No symbol is any of its connoted meanings or denoted referents. Yet, there are thoughts (and statements of them) which are nothing but their mental contents and associations. These are fantasies and imaginary images. Experience, then, can be a false guide, showing us ghosts and other figments of involuntary imagining, along with group hallucinations and mob urges under intense excitement. Few things are more exciting than conflict.

Chase adds, from I. A. Richards: “A controversy is normally an exploitation of a set of misunderstandings for warlike purposes.” Increasingly in recent decades, we have seen controversies intensified and exploited in order to stop careful thinking and make large parts of our electorate more suggestible and vulnerable to simple-minded maxims and propagandistic pronouncements that evaporate under calm, whole-minded study. Specious arguments are faked up to create and operate “hot-button” issues designed only to distract from important matters and divide a confused public. People like Karl Rove who expose these buttons and people like Rush Limbaugh who press them are among the worst people in the world, worse in fact than mob hit-men because their “maliciously creative” acts of semantic disruption impact against our whole society.

Misguided bombasts maintain a meaningless jingoism while posing as patriots. They never grasp that Freedom of Speech must contain Freedom From Speech when that speech-content is directed destructively for lack of good comprehension. Like many  Tea Partiers and other con-servatives, they live in an hypnotic dream state, ideologically determined, a secular religion according to which any heretic is wrong, for they themselves are always Right. “Meaningless jingoism” is a self-blinded patriotism that will not distinguish what is valuable in our nation, its traditions and behavior from those things which are worthless and evil. Blindness to the evils of one’s nation or party perpetuate the evils. If only such people could waken from their own wake! But, their errors are set as in concrete. These people instantly react like reactionaries against any suggestion that might counter the Jacobin-like march of the Tea Party’s “Imaginary Revolution.” Its further advance may bring our country yet closer to ruin by entranced ideologues who dream they know how to fix its problems with discredited measures. Ghosts cannot touch the world but those who believe they see ghosts can be scared witless. Right-wingers don’t intimidate me, but they believe themselves. That’s scary.

It is shameful and dangerous that today’s self-styled conservatives have never read Walter Lippmann’s 1955 book, The Public Philosophy. It might have saved the world from this fresh dose of stale Jacobinism, which claims inevitable collision between a ruling group and people deprived of power who claim a redress of grievance and “a place in the sun.” It is not a philosophy but a strategic gospel for revolt. Remove the rulers (Obama and the Democrats) and the cause of evils vanishes. This is a formula for putting energy into motion, but history shows Jacobites have never known how to perfect a society and rule it nicely. Rightists should read much more than they do.

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