Wednesday, November 25, 2009

WOOLF, SUPERMEN & THE FINGERS OF DESTINY

Excerpt from Virginia Woolf's "A Room of One's Own" :

"...Life for both sexes... ...is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion as we are, it calls for confidence in oneself. Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradle. And how can we generate this imponderable quality, which is yet so invaluable, so quickly? By thinking that other people are inferior to oneself. By feeling that one has some innate superiority - it may be wealth, or rank, a straight nose, or the portrait of a grandfather by Romney - for there is no end to the pathetic devices of the human imagination - over other people. Hence the enormous importance to a patriarch who has to conquer, who has to rule, of feeling that a great number of people, half the human race indeed, are by nature inferior to himself. It must indeed be one of the chief sources of his power. But let me turn the light of this observation on to real life, I thought. Does it help explain some of those psychological puzzles that one notes in the margins of daily life? Does it explain my astonishment the other day when Z, most humane, most modest of men, taking up some book by Rebecca West and reading a passage in it, exclaimed, "The arrant feminist! She says that men are snobs!" The exclamation, to me so surprising - for why was Miss West and arrant feminist for making a possibly true if uncomplimentary statement about the other sex? - was not merely the cry of wounded vanity; it was a protest against some infringement of his power to believe in himself. Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size. Without that power probably the earth would still be swamp and jungle. The glories of all our wars would be unknown. We should still be scratching the outlines of deer on the remains of mutton bones and bartering flints for sheepskins or whatever simple ornament took our unsophisticated taste. Supermen and Fingers of Destiny would never have existed. The Czar and the Kaiser would never have worn their crowns or lost them. Whatever may be their use in societies, mirrors are essential to all violent and heroic actions. That is why Napoleon and Mussolini both insist so emphatically upon the inferiority of women, for if they were not inferior, they would cease to enlarge. That serves to explain in part the necessity that women so often are to men. And it serves to explain how restless they are under her criticism; how impossible it is for her to say to them this book is bad, this picture is feeble, or whatever it may be without giving far more pain and rousing far more anger than a man would do who gave the same criticism. For if she begins to tell the truth, the figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness for life is diminished. How is he to go on giving judgment, civilising natives, making laws, writing books, dressing up and speechifying at banquets, unless he can see himself at breakfast and at dinner at least twice the size he really is? ...The looking-glass vision is of supreme importance because it charges the vitality; it stimulates the nervous system. Take it away and man may die, like the drug fiend deprived of his cocaine..."

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

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"There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution."
Aldous Huxley, Tavistock Group, California Medical School, 1961 Audio - Transcript

"All matter is plastic in the face of Mind...The phenomenal world does not exist: it is a hypostasis of the information processed by the Mind...We hypostatize information into objects. Rearrangement of objects is change in the content of the information; the message has changed. This is a language which we have lost the ability to read. We ourselves are part of this language; changes in us are changes in the content of the information. We ourselves are information rich; information enters us, is processed and is then projected outward once more, now in an altered form. We are not aware that we are doing this, that in fact this is all we are doing...The changing information which we experience as World is an unfolding narrative. It tells about the death of a woman...The Mind does not wish to forget her...Thus the ratiocination of the Brain consists of a permanent record of her existence, and, if read, will be understood this way. All the information processed by the Brain- experienced by us as the arranging and rearranging of physical objects- is an attempt at this preservation of her; stones and rocks and sticks and amoebae are traces of her. The record of her existence and passing is ordered onto the meanest level of reality by the suffering Mind which is now alone..."PKD

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspeak

Anonymous said...

"By 2050—earlier, probably—all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron—they'll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like "freedom is slavery" when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”

The underlying theory of Newspeak is that if something can't be said, then it can't be thought. (See Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.) There is substantial argument in favor of this notion, in that most humans think by carrying on a dialogue in their heads. They tend to subvocalize their thoughts as they form them and manipulate them; most thought is actually a dialogue with oneself. When new and complex developments come along, new words are invented (or old words adapted) to hold the meme as a gestalt. This is why specialist vocabularies are particularly common – if instead one shrank the vocabulary, one would substantially reduce the memes available to manipulate during this thinking/vocalizing process.



Generically, Newspeak has come to mean any attempt to restrict disapproved language by a government or other powerful entity.

Anonymous said...

"There will be, in the next generation or so, a pharmacological method of making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing, or brainwashing enhanced by pharmacological methods. And this seems to be the final revolution."
Aldous Huxley, Tavistock Group, California Medical School, 1961 Audio - Transcript

The Old Guy with "Shades Of The Swarm" tee-shirt at Le Furia Fest said...

Is there any chance that i can find "Live V" at your merchandise table @ Le TRABENDO in Paris in two days in CD or (i'm not hoping too much) in vinyl ?

Night Goat said...

I don't think any of you "anonymous" posters understood the original post. Or if you did, your comments seem off topic... I think it was more about the balance of men and women, and how we coexist, not an Orwellian dystopia...

Anonymous said...

It is simply remarkable answer

aaron b turner said...

in response to the comment from nightgoat:

actually, i think what "anonymous" posted in response to the woolf quote does pertain to the larger subject. doesn't the following statement relate directly to the systematic subjugation of women by men?:

"making people love their servitude, and producing dictatorship without tears, so to speak, producing a kind of painless concentration camp for entire societies, so that people will in fact have their liberties taken away from them, but will rather enjoy it, because they will be distracted from any desire to rebel by propaganda or brainwashing..."

this doesn't speak of a dystopian future, but an all to real present day situation. and what of this?:

"The underlying theory of Newspeak is that if something can't be said, then it can't be thought. (See Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.) There is substantial argument in favor of this notion, in that most humans think by carrying on a dialogue in their heads. They tend to subvocalize their thoughts as they form them and manipulate them; most thought is actually a dialogue with oneself. When new and complex developments come along, new words are invented (or old words adapted) to hold the meme as a gestalt. This is why specialist vocabularies are particularly common – if instead one shrank the vocabulary, one would substantially reduce the memes available to manipulate during this thinking/vocalizing process."

doesn't this pertain to the marginalization and willful dissapearing of feminist (and all humanist) discourse and language from wider public platforms, and speak to the importance of sustaining the availability of these ideas and open dialog?