Human Stress and Response
by Hugh M. Lewis
What is the power of human imagination to create alternative worlds and different realities which it can then ring to realization, and what is the influence of our mythology that allows us to enact our myths and in the process, foretell our future.
There is something strangely fascinating about many sciences fiction films which were created during the Cold War Era. They depict in terms of realistic settings and scenarios possible futures of our scientific quest for power in the world. They have an uncanny power to illustrate for us our own preselective interests, intentions and objectives in the enactment of our alternative futures.
In the futuristic world of Scientific discovery, research and development, nothing that is imaginable is impossible. Thus we have before us in living animated color alternative visions of our own possible future—in cannibalistic, flesh eating zombies, in the invasion and taking over of the world by plant like body snatchers, in the rise of gigantic man eating insects from the irradiated dust of nuclear testing, in Dr. Strangelove’s and Fail Safes, or in cyborg Worlds in which biology and technology, metal and soul, flesh and plastic, become fused into new forms of automated life and living automatons.
The frightening, life like fascination of these Sci-fi visions are in their illustration of the possibilities of our own future development and becoming in the world. They stand as animated metaphors for our own scientific destiny and technological fate. The monsters which they bring to life before our very eyes—the Godzillas and King Kongs, are the monsters of our own possible becoming which we normally keep hidden and locked away from sight. They open the Pandora’s Box of human reality.
It is no accident that interest has shifted from represses dreams of Frankensteins, Mummies, Draculas, Creatures of the Black Lagoon and Hunchbacks of Notre Dame and Phantom’s of the Opera—from the repressed Victorian visions of an Edgar Allan Poe, toward more life like and normally appearing human monsters of Freddie Krugers, Night Stalkers, Serial Killers, Chain Saw murderers, Zodiacs and the Son of Sam. We have gone from Jack the Ripper and Dr. Jeckyl/Mr. Hyde, to Edward Scissorhands and Heavy Metal.
In many of these stories there is a recurrent meta theme of ‘death oriented’ science gone wrong, creating in the laboratory monstrous side effects which stalk and plague the city skyline. There is also a recurrent theme of a psychopathic killer and a social menace. In these themes we can recognize the return of the repressed and the retributive vengeance which becomes wrought upon the world in increasing destructiveness. There is in such symbolic enactment the expression of violence and animal aggression which is normally bottled up or kept hidden and secret, chained up in the dungeon of the deep unconscious. The unconscious is not just personal and psychological, but even more importantly, collective and mass oriented. The monsters are importantly mass murderers and serial killers who nonetheless constitute the worst possible nightmare for each of its tormented victims.
In all this human darkness lurks more than a few grains of truth about our possible future development. There is a very real sense in which those things which we cast out of or world with violence, which we repress into oblivion, may return in future generations to haunt and plague and victimize us. We can in these sci-fi visions, get a glimpse at the nature if some things which we have tried to cast out the gates of our paradise, or imprison away within its very depths. We can see the real unintended monstrosities of life created by a science gone wrong in its experiments, or the transformation of nature and of the natural human into a composite machine of living tissue, electronic circuitry and plastic organs.
In this regard, death itself as the ultimate state of nonbeing and of becoming, represents symbolically the ultimate source of fear, terror, retreat, evasion, hiding, and attempted escape that we sometimes unconsciously use our science and our social worlds for. Whether death comes by accident, as an unintentional consequence, an experimental error, by deliberate violence, by incarnate evil, it comes nevertheless. When we try and exercise and cast death from the garden of Eden, we create the inevitability of its visitation in some future time. All our science and progress will not cure the disease of death or solve its mysterious and dark dilemma of our own nonbeing and nothingness in the world. It always comes back to haunt our illusions and dreams, and even if we face it in all our weakness, fragility and even courage, it remains the source of fear, anxiety, uncertainty and irreconcilable paradox of understanding in our world. Not being able to live without death, we are confronted with the challenge of learning to live well with it.
There is another sense of intuitive understanding in which history is said to repeat itself. There is an inexorable circularity and cycling of historical patterning which states that if something happened before, especially recurrently, then it can possibly, even likely happen again, in ever greater presence than before. Thus if we have a First World War and then a Second, we are logically persuaded by the patterning of our history to expect yet a Third and a Fourth. And when we survey the military record of the human species as far back as we can discover, we find irrefutable evidence of the recurrence and increasing intensity of warfare.
Similarly, we get a repetitive patterning and cycling in the rising and falling of historical civilizations. Empires come and go, wax and wane, and in their wake seeds are sown for greater climaxes of culture historical development. If we have had an end to a Pax Egyptiana, Pax Romana, Pax Britannica, then we can also expect an eventual demise of a Pax Americana. In the future we may even expect a new Pax Nippona or a Pax Sinitica, but who can really tell where the next centers of major civilization will really take place. Perhaps even somewhere out in space.
Similarly, if archaeological evidence suggests that what happened on Easter Island may have happened in other contexts as well, and if paleontological evidence suggests that life on earth has gone through not one, but several episodes of biotic climax and mass extinction, then we must become suspicious that it could happen to us sometime in our future, and we must pay heed to possible warning signs of its occurrence.
In the whole of the human past, there may not have been one ‘Dark Age’ but several, or even many. The dawn of human civilization was an emergence from a primordial Dark Age of the human condition. So it should not be unexpected that the experience of a Dark Age is something unusual or strange to the range of human experience on earth. It may merely represent a transition to a new mode of living and doing things, the passing away of an older way of life, and a refertilization in its ashes of the earth from which it was derived in the first place.
There is a maxim which comes from the human experience of its own past. Those who do not learn from their mistakes, are bound to repeat them. There is a wide question now whether we have learned enough in our valuation of the modern and the present, from our own rather spotted and bloody record of the past. It always remain strong possibility that what we believe we are learning from the past is but the values of the present which we symbolically retroject upon a past that can no longer speak for itself. We may actually be rewriting our pasts in histories to suit our own future needs, and in the process of such historical revisionism for ideological intentions, we may actually be forgetting or necessarily have already forgotten, the real lessons of our past. The start of every fresh war we hear that this is the War to end all wars, and we celebrate its victorious completion with the assumption that there is now widespread, future peace in the world, which becomes our interest and duty to protect. But wars may not actually solve all the tensions on which they were founded, and may in their historical enactment, sow the seeds of even greater tensions and animosities down the road. War actually seems to solve very little in the world, except who gets to keep the sacred scepter of civilization.
World War II and Vietnam were two very different kinds of war for the American people. Though we won one and lost the other, the lessons we seemed to learn from both we seem to have either forgotten or be unable to forget. In the first, our worst enemy became our best ally, and in the other, we made our best possible allies our own worst enemy. It is evident that the lessons that are clearly there to be learned in the history of both wars, of their basic lack of necessity, tyranny, and inherent evil, as well as the escalation of their intrinsic destructiveness, and that we have consistently failed to learn, or systematically forgotten these lessons. In the most recent war in the Gulf, we had a model of World War II clearly in command, and we all claimed that this was not another Vietnam. But the war lacked the sense of necessity, involved the inevitably tyranny and evil, and evoked the frightening specter of the totalization of the lethality and destructiveness of modern warfare.
Given the expectation that the increasing tensions and straining forces within the development of the system will be felt in social relationships, it is fitting to look for symptoms and signs of such stress and strain in embodied terms of the way people come to incorporate within their own being and behavior, or learn to cope with or adjust to such increasing levels of social environmental tension. It can be expected that definite long term patterns of typical human responses will become evinced as these tensions gradually increase their pressure and slowly take their toll. Such stresses can be expected to have certain definite and permanent influences upon the human character. They will leave their imprint upon the personal and collective being of humankind, and this in turn will become transmitted to subsequent generations as certain enduring problems and the system as well will be expected to devise schemes and develop ways of further exploiting these patterns in ways which will further promote its own developmental interests.
The principle psychological and sociological problem which humankind will have to face and deal with effectively over the next few generations are the psychological and physiological responses and reactions to pandemic, widespread, and unrelieved stress and tension in social relations. Whereas in the past of the development of the human system the central problem has been increasingly a preoccupation with the problem of control and the realization of power, this can be expected to continue except that the problem of control will become differently defined and will become increasingly a problem of not getting out of control. The problem of the realization of power will be in terms of the usurpation of personal, independent forms of power, and in increasing methods and mechanisms of persuasion and conversion to the dictates, practices and ways of the system’s development. The individual psyche and life world will increasingly become the locus of central control and the focus of interest in power.
The grand paradox of this will be that human beings will become increasingly erratic and uncontrollable in their responses to stress and adaptation to alienating environments. Control and power will increasingly become a problem of human control and human power and of self control and self empowerment within the framework of the system. In human response to stress, the system will have reached its own human horizon to its own maddening pursuit of development. Upon the margins of this horizon, the development of this system will become increasingly less intensively orienting and increasingly more extensively oriented in its dealing with the randomizing forces which these human limitations will impose upon the development.
These patterns of human stress and response, through expressed in local ways, will be quite pandemic and generalized within the whole system. Everyone will suffer, though not equally and in the same way. For many it will be a living nightmare, for others it will merely be a life long neurosis and desperation. Even the few wealthy controllers of the system will not be spared the effects of this suffering.
The social environment will become increasingly threatening and chaotic for the individual. The threatening and chaotic nature of this predominant social environment will overshadow virtually every aspect of human existence. Patterns of avoidance, of fear reaction and projection, of over compensation, and uncontrolled frustration and aggression will become increasingly frequent facets of normal, everyday life.
In this regard, perhaps, it is necessary to separate out the consequence from the experience of short term, but perhaps traumatically intense forms of stress, from death and separation to the witnessing of violence, from the consequences of long term stress which may be less intense but more widespread, subtle in its expression and yet nonetheless lasting and profound in its human alterations.
Both forms of stress and response will increase, and there will be much overlap in the effects and symptoms between the two, but in their extreme they may produce distinctively different and perhaps opposite but equal kinds of human reactions.
But whatever form it takes, neither the stress nor its results will easily go away, nor will humans be able to ever escape from their clutches. They will carry it around with them wherever they go, like a yoke around their necks.
These patternings of stress and response create a degenerative cycle of cybernesis, both for the individual adaptation to his/her life world, and for the collective adaptation to changing world environments. This negative feed back cycle will be a vicious one from which no one shall escape, nor the system. It will work to minimize its losses rather than to maximize its own gains, and in the process of switching from an intensive or an extensive orientation, will inadvertently come back into alignment with basic human interests in survival and health.
The vicious cycle of stress and response is such that decreasing adaptation and increasing maladaptation fosters a proclivity towards greater experience of environmental stress, which in turn begets even less adaptive response.
The last consequence of this vicious cycle of dedevelopment of both the System and of human participant within it is either natural death, by one means or another, or else a kind of symbolic social death of the individual’s autonomous human identity. This has been referred to as desymbolization, and whether it leads to sycophancy or sociopathy, all it really eventuates in is the transformation of the person into a zombie—the living, unfeeling, dead.
Part of the grand paradox of this human horizon of the development of the system will be that though it further intensifies, domesticates and interiorizes human existence, this will not be found in the realization of greater internal privacy of the individual, but in the internalization of the collective into the internal, interior spaces of the individual psyche. Interiors will become increasingly collective interiors rather than private interiors, and such social interiors will become increasingly crowded and will in the process crowd out personal private space more and more.
People will seek escape, even at the risk of death, from such crowded interiors, for the fresh air of being outside, in an extensive environment, however polluted, corrupted, and barren such a waste land may become. The interiorizing of development can be seen in its circumscription of natural environments, such as national parks, nature preserves, zoos, gardens, ostensibly to protect such environments from the degradation and depredation of extensive developments, but in their artificial in bounding such natural environments inevitably become fictitious, false and corrupted by the subsequent crowding of human traffic.
For people, it will become an increasing existential dilemma and decision as to whether they wish to live an unnatural social death in an impersonal and alienating interior environment, or else to die a more natural life in the loneliness of an empty, barren desert.
It can be expected that increasingly the symptoms of stress will be experienced and expressed in psycho social terms in the incidence of group archosis—the transferring of the psychological conflicts of the individual upon the social relations and collective orientations of the group. Such archosis may provide a temporary environment of therapeutic relief for the suffering of its constituency, but itself must lead to boundary activity between such groups which will eventuate in conflict and the creation of more stress between people.
It can also be expected that alternative, counter groups or revitalization movements will arise as normal reactions to such stress, and that these movements will attempt to create alternative exterior spaces outside of the stressful influence of the system, and in adaptation to new extensive environments which offer little except relative normative freedom from the constraints of the system. The stress will remain, but will become refocused as an existential problem of environmental adaptation and survival.
It is part of the grand paradox of development and its consequential redevelopment that the system will, upon its extensive horizons of human stress and response, become redeveloped and reconditioned as an instrumentality of human control and personal empowerment. Instead of reforming the individual to serve the dictates of the developmental imperative of the system, the survival imperative of the system itself will become increasingly rehabilitated upon its margins in its increasing service to human development.
When this begins to occur with increasing frequency and rapidity, there will then become a shift and rebalancing of dialectical tension within the development of the system, and in the historical development of human civilization in general, between the people and regions of the core and the people and remaining resources of the margins that will eventuate in struggle, a state of world civil war for determination of the future of human and Systemic development in the world.
This will be a civil war of world wide proportions, and of lasting consequence, because it will not only split brother against brother, but will internally divide the individual between beingness and nonbeing of becoming, between the dying life and the living dead.
The battle will become increasingly one for control over basic resources, spaces, and for the mind of humankind. It will become waged between the sycophants and sociopaths of the core who seek in ever more reactionary and conservative, fascist fashion, to maintain order and control over the peripheries, and internal hierarchy, and the marginal escapees and existential excludes of the system who will work to disturb, hinder and reappropriate access to basic resources for their own survival interests.
Part of what may occur is the reinauguration of basic evolutionary selective pressures of humankind, such that there emerges upon the margins of civilization a new kind of Homo adaptor who is better adapted to deal with the stresses and tensions of existential survival in wastelands and perhaps a modified form of Homo civilatrix who becomes increasingly inbound and alienated from their own basic needs in survival. It can be expected that while the former variety will suffer many short term setbacks and losses, it will become in the long run a more adaptive survivor and generalized progenitor, while the latter civilized form will in its over specialization to absurd interior, intensive environments, go the way of the dinosaur and the dodo.
Perhaps Homo adaptor will hunt Homo civilatrix done in a last struggle of genocidal extermination. But it is more likely that Homo adaptor will not need to do so, and will also recognize the moral need not to do so, and will benignly allow Homo adaptor to commit its own racial suicide.
In the future contest for survival, the aggressors of today will become the inbound defenders of civilization tomorrow, and the barbarian hordes will be banging upon our gates. Cut off from access to their basic resources, these defenders will quickly deplete their stockpiles and reserves before they must perish or else surrender to the chaos that knocks upon their door. Some may open the doors to their paradise in the vain offer of reconciliation and renunciation of their power and control.
The future will bring a new dark ages for the entire earth, whether or not there is an actual dark ages from nuclear holocaust. This dark ages will be one during which nature will recuperate and recover much of its own regenerative powers in the beginning of a new evolutionary epoch of life on earth. Humankind too will slowly rehabilitate itself in a renewal sense of extensive beingness in the world in evolutionary harmony with natural forces of selection. Chaos will not become so much of a threat to an old way of existence but a renewed way of life.
The new dark ages of humankind will also witness the widespread birth of a new religious, pan human light which was born from the previous suffering. This new light will be formed on the basis of the near universal condition of suffering and stress of humankind in its previous state of degenerate existence, which will bring humankind to a collective understanding and empathy of the problem of human suffering by having it beneath their skin and thus will become normatively and morally immunized against the kinds of disease agents which caused this suffering in the first place. When everyone comes to suffer the same disease of stress and maladaptive response in interiorized environments, they will become similarly aware of the possibility of this suffering in others, and from this widespread awareness will be born a newly developed sense of human identity that is contingent upon the rehabilitation and removal of the causes of this suffering.
In a strange twist of fate, the development of the System, in its redevelopment, will create the very ground for its own rehabilitation and resolution of the systemic consequences for human development. But the carriers and embodiers of the old tradition of civilization will sadly come to a realization of this after it is too late for their own recuperation or rehabilitation. They will come to know and understand the difference, but they will no longer be able to incorporate the difference into their style of life and development.
It will become the new mission of Homo adaptor, primitive, marginal, unspecialized, like a mongrel or a mutt instead of a hybrid breed, to incorporate and embody this new, alternative civilizing mission of human civilization. Greening and Green Peace of the World System, will inevitably come, but more indirectly and at greater human sacrifice than anyone now would believe.
The future world of humankind and nature will not be a paradise. A new kind of civilization will arise from the ashes of this one with many of the old templates and problems of the previous civilization. It will represent a new syncretism of many old elements along new thematic lines. But it can be expected that Homo adaptor will not longer be capable or culpable of perpetrating certain kinds of evils that it has been our human condition to suffer from. They will perhaps have a new set of dilemmas and evils to contend with, and they may once again set the development of their civilization on a renewed collision course with the natural environment of the earth. But it will not be in the same way that we have done so today, or it may be a long time in coming.
Many of the old stresses and tensions may remain or become renewed in the redevelopment of human civilization. But what be of lasting importance is that the psycho social topography of this new civilization will be essentially different and altered in terms of its relative salience and depths of its textured fabric, in terms of the differential contrasts and tonal scales of being in the world.
There may still be cores and peripheries within a world system of structural integration, but who controls what will become rebalanced, and the old differentials and asymmetries of power and control will be realigned in a more manner of distribution between core and periphery.
In the realignment of old loyalties, what was once national identity that is becoming increasingly ethno national class caste identity, will in the future become increasingly pan human ego identity reaffirming the position and importance, and independent power of the individual in the social world. It will become increasingly an anthropographic human identity the landscape of which is focused upon and focused by the positionality of the interacting human being in a wide nexus of inter-human social networks.
In this we can revitalized some old, outcast stereotypes of the peasant family bound within a village cultural tradition, and of an alternative fringe or petite cottage industry which stresses economic self sufficiency, handicraft production and barter and reciprocity of exchange.
These stereotypes may have always been only stereotypes—the peasant inbound in his village world was never genuinely or completely independent of the larger political sphere in which his context situated him/her. Taxes still had to be paid, conscription still took place, larger cash markets still promised greater rewards and opportunities. But there remains something basic and genuine about such a way of life, something commons and unadorned which is of immense value in human adjustments and predicaments. Within such contexts, humans were more jack of all trades, master of few, rather than hyper-compartmentalized, over specialized organizational people. There is something to be said for the myth of five acres and independence, for grass roots self sufficiency, local control and familial responsibility.
With the approach of the human horizon at the margins if systemic development, with the individual becoming more and more the locus of control and the focus of power within the system, there can be expected to occur a process of rehumanization within the system and of the system’s basic orientation. This can be seen reflected in the historical movement of social structure from earlier periods of socio-religious identity and kingship, to national patriotism and geo-political interest groups, to ethnization of the world and the rise of ethno-cultural and ethno-racial consciousness, or identity, towards what can be seen as the rise of an individually, anthropographic focus and a pan- human identity within the system. The other social difference will remain in the world as a basis of difference and inequality, but these will become structurally subsumed within larger more embracing orientations in which human identity becomes increasingly realized within the structural definitions of the system.
In the personal and social atomization of humankind, people will discover in learning how to cope with the absoluteness of their own relative aloneness and existential loneliness in an over crowded world the ground for a renewed sense of human identity which learns how to transcend such alienating aloneness through inter-human relationship. When such conditions are pushed to the extreme, people will seek out an empty desert to fill with their aloneness than the suffocating and stifling pressures of the social masses in which their greatest fears and feelings of loneliness become most acute and expressed.
People will learn to revalue certain aspects of previous lives, and to reinvigorate their secular civilization with a sense of lived tradition which in its secular, modern era, is all but absent in the prioritization of the new and replacement of the old.
The globe may indeed become a new global village that is electronically intermediated. It may have some of the affinities of the old tradition bound village, but lack the localness and immediacy of its scale and presence in everyday life. It will be a human bound village, rather than a culture bound village. And if it becomes a global village, it is likely as well to become a global open air marketplace where the networks are long, the action is fast, the people are many and diverse. People may be expected to be seen once again haggling over the prices or relative worth of some item or service, without a fixed price tag or sticker and an unhelpful salesperson.
In such a future for development, two kinds of ritual religious orientations can be developed. Her first, extensive kind of orientation harkens back to a long and commonplace culture historical tradition—a long stream of little traditions—that dealt with the ritual celebration and symbolic expression of death as a rite of passage and as a rite of separation and reintegration. This kind of ritual elaboration of death, associated today exclusively with commercialized Halloween and funeral parlors, has become largely outmoded in the secular age of science. Its renewal and revitalization in human redevelopment will provide a culture and symbolic context by which to bring ‘death’ back out into the open, and provide a social means for dealing with the separation.
The second tradition, associated with great traditions, is the Dyonisian celebration of life and the Apollonian reinstatement of order and organization in life following episodes which threaten chaos and disorder. This kind of ritual can be found in the Roman forum or coliseum where gladiators, Christians and lions shed blood to the delight and pacification of the masses. It is found today in modern sporting events, the Olympics, football and soccer games, wrestling and boxing matches, in which there is usually a great deal of betting going on and not infrequent episodes of mass hysteria and riotous violence. It can be found in popular concerts and at peace ins. It existed in Medieval tournaments and during military parades. In Brazil, it is the basis of the annual carnival celebrations and dance competitions, which go on in spite of the perennial persistence of suffering, poverty and everyday death. This kind of ritual process reinforces the system through its anti-structure, and is based upon the heightening of the illusion of nonbeing and becoming.
The former kind of ritual process, which is becoming less frequent and less a part of normal, everyday life, is one which is rooted in an extensive orientation towards Beingness in the world, which entails a symbolic coming to terms with death as both natural, and supernatural process. The second kind of ritual process is intensively oriented towards the reinforcement of nonbeing and of becoming, involving the implicit denial of death or its projection upon the loser or displacement from the winner, during the competition.
The former, extensive ritual orientation focusing upon death and separation, can be said to be a mechanism for dealing with short term traumatic experiences of death or separation episodes, which may be brief in duration, but uncommonly salient or important in its radical disjunction with everyday life. Such ritual provides a means of ameliorating and therapeutically rehabilitating the effects of this radical disjunction, and its disorienting influence, in everyday life. It frames the exceptional and makes it usual.
The latter, intense ritual orientation focuses upon the celebration of the everyday experience of life, as a mechanism for reinforcing and coping with the long term endurance of many everyday, pervasive, and sometimes cumulatively overwhelming stresses and tensions of existence, deprivation, frustration, denial. These rituals provide a release of the built up tensions and a focus for aggressive and impulsive drives. The association with impulse control disorders, with gambling and physical violence, with sadomasochistic role reversals, is a way of highlighting and framing the everyday inequities and make them exceptional in their anti-structure and projection onto the abnormal.
The two kinds of ritual process can be seen as complementary in everyday life, and as revealing, depending upon their relative emphasis, of the relative extensive or intensive orientations of the historical patterning in which they occur. The style of elaboration of either kind if ritual process can also be revealing of the underlying values and symbolic topography in which they occur.
The patterns of human response to stress will be variable, but they can be expected to follow certain overall directions of development. First, there is an occurrence of ‘delayed stress’ reaction in which there is a predisposition to re-experience the emotionality of such trauma triggered by minor environmental stimuli. There is associated a kind of symbolic dissociation and passive cognitive withdrawal from normal, everyday involvement. There is a lower of thresholds of tolerance for suffering, frustration, stress which triggers inordinate and uncontrolled reactions. There is paradoxically an increased tolerance to the experience of pain, suffering and stress—a kind of desensitization of its experience as an everyday event. Avoidance personality patterns, adaptive response disorders, withdrawal from everyday, normal participation, disorientation and depression, and borderline character traits are the consequence of such stress. It could be that long term stress leads to the development of certain kinds of impulse control disorders, such as explosive aggression, repetition compulsion, gambling and substance abuse.
Somatization of disorders, hysteria and conversion reactions can be expected, as well as a shallowness of affective cathexis and transference with others. Other long term consequences which could be involved are forms of disorder of sexual expression, psychotic disintegration and withdrawal from reality and patterns of social codependency and interpersonal abuse. Such patterns are associated with downward social mobility and with low self esteem and low achievement motivation. Low self esteem creates its own self fulfilling prophecy in which failure, setting oneself up for failure and finding friends who reinforce one’s sense of failure, all tend to reinforce low self esteem and the actualization of failure in life.
There is in this the potential for a vicious, degenerative cycle of dedevelopment in which withdrawal from stressful situations, fascination and compulsion to stress, and patterns of maladaptation and failure beget ever greater stresses in life which lead to ever greater withdrawal and adaptive malfunctioning.
Attitudes, affective expressions, behavior and belief patterns associated with this kind of vicious cycle become transferred from one generation to the next in early childhood socialization, in lack of strong role models, in miseducation and socialization for failure, in the transfer of low self esteem from the parent to the child, in the acquisition as primary socialization in bad habits.
When such patterns become embodied and embedded at the level of primary socialization, they become much more deeply ingrained in character, much more natural seeming, and much more difficult to eradicate by subsequent reconversion or alternation. In such a way, the sins of our fathers can visit upon us and upon our own children in unseen ways.
A whole poverty of culture orientation and a cultural orientation of learned failure, can become cultivated and transmitted through time in an infectious manner, even though the initial causes for such an orientation may be long since absent. In such a way, major traumatic events can come to have cultural and symbolic repercussions which extend through many generations.
When we speak of the kind of extensive ritual, we must see it as dealing with the primary process of death and separation at a level of primary socialization—alternation and reconversion. When we are dealing with the more frequent, intensively oriented ritual process, we are dealing primarily with secondary socialization dealing with separation and death as secondary, symbolically derivative aspects of nonbeing and becoming. In the former process, death is dealt with more directly and basically as a primary process of beingness.
In a sense, incomplete primary socialization is a consequence of this vicious cycle of human redevelopment, and it leads as well to a failure of primary processes of ritual reinforcement. Secondary socialization and rituals associated with reinforcement of secondary process likewise become impaired in their performance. Discrepancies between primary and secondary process can occur, and such discrepancies can result can be due to or lead to impartial socialization or failure in the ineffectiveness of such ritual process. It is possible that the consistent failure to perform rituals related to death at the time of its occurrence, could lead to later impairment of socialization, or to impairment of the effectiveness of such rituals later on.
It is understandable that secondary socialization process and secondary ritual process that aims at persuasion rather than at conversion, and at symbolic identification which is relative abstract, impersonal, and distant, must be continuously reinforced or reenacted to be effective, while primary socialization, ritual and conversion, though occurring less frequently, tends to be a more longer lasting and permanent process. The former aims at reinforcement and enhancement of one’s status identity, the latter leads to change or modification of this identity.
There is a sense that only by coming to know and coming to terms with our own heart of darkness, with the full range of possibilities of evil and difference within ourselves, that we are able to extend our empathy of human possibility of being and becoming to encompass a wider range of human difference, and to embrace and tolerate a wider range of human weakness in the world. It is only by the recognition of such possibilities within ourselves, in our learning that we can become our own most hated enemy or feared monster, that we can learn live with such hate and fear in a way which renders them harmless, and even helpful, in our world, instead of allowing this same feelings, by their unconscious projection, to become enactments in the world of our own becoming and sense of nonbeing.
Such empathy does not excuse the perpetration and perpetuation of evil in the world, but it does, by its understanding, does ameliorate some of its more pernicious consequences in our lives, such that we can learn to live in spite of it, rather than because of it or as a result of it. Putting fear into its proper perspective, by facing those unknown things we fear and personalizing them in ourselves, and in coming to terms with the destructiveness of hate in our lives, allows us to escape the patterns of avoidance and dependency which leads to the vicious cycle of promotion of hate and fear in the world.
This cannot be accomplished in only or purely an intensive sense of secondary ritual performance or in interior contexts of relations. It must be carried out into the extensive world, and enacted upon the level of primary process of death and being in the world. It is effective as a conversion or alternation experience affecting our whole being, or else it is not effective at all. Seeking such experience at the primary level in an extensive sense, and learning to live with what one discovers about oneself and the possibilities of humanity in such a quest, is not an easy or straight forward thing. It is risky and sometimes dangerous, but it is a necessary trial by fire that if not undertaken, cannot yield the kind or quality of experience which is necessary for the growth of the individual.
The System promotes a great deal of illusion and hypocrisy at the secondary level as a substitution process in place of things which should be sought for at a primary level in an extensive way. It is much simpler and safer to substitute words for deeds, and in the process convince only the foolish or the blind of one’s own genuineness of being in the world. Thus a great deal of what passes for genuine experience in our world is actually derived experience in name only.
This is a basic difference between the global villager and the peasant villager of the past. One who never leaves the village to see the wider world or avails oneself of primary experiences in the world in existential relation with other people, must always suffer the fate of superficial existence and spurious experience—of nonbeingness, and vicariousness of being in the world. On the other had, an intensively bound tourist can travel the world over, and never ever leave his/her own culture bound way of life. Primary experience is waiting to be encountered in the world—but it must be actively sought out, and its acquisition is never smooth nor hazard free. Only by accumulating a ground of such extensive experience in the world, can an individual build up a fund of understanding on which to test and related subsequent experiences, whether there are intensive and derived or genuine and coming from the reality of another person. To promote professors who have never left the classroom environment or who only have traveled as first class tourists in the world, is to promote a derived intensive orientation in academia lacking any substantive ground in existential, experientially primary reality. It is to construct a paper thin version of reality that is lacking in its depth and in its breadth.
It is vital that in primary education we promote approaches which undue the effects of incomplete primary socialization, by providing healthy role models, environmental enrichment, providing a healthy sense of personal identity and of self esteem for the individual child. It is also vitally important that in higher levels of secondary education that we complete the process of socialization in an effective, multicultural, extensive and pan human way. Teaching values and perspectives rooted in multiculturalism and pan humanism are neither impossible nor necessarily difficult to do, but this does entail that we undo the effects of the kind of secondary ritual which tends to reinforce in the individual identities which are tied to nonbeing and becoming in the world, and which are rooted in social difference and inequality between people in the world.
Education remains the most effective tool available for the transmission, socialization and enculturation of people. It is to the best interests of humankind that the goals of education be separated from the values, interests and dictates of the system, and that education works to promote human development rather than systemic development in the world.
The future remains to be realized by humankind. Human responses to increasing stress in the world may lead to some interesting surprises. Humans tend to be much more adaptable and flexible than our histories usually give them credit for. They survive and continue in spite of what happens to them in their history. Not all alterations and developments in our future will be expected, and there will be some good with the bad, and some bad with the good.
Perfection is not only an inhuman state, it is an anti human state of affairs. The realistic aim of human development is not progress towards paradise, but it is the relative alleviation of human suffering in the world and the relative realization of human rights, equality and freedom for the world.
Blanket Copyright, Hugh M. Lewis, © 2005. Use of this text governed by fair use policy--permission to make copies of this text is granted for purposes of research and non-profit instruction only.
Last Updated: 03/14/05