October 31, 2008

Breaking Free of our False Selves

Phil Rockstroh, a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City, is in touch with his wolf-self. Contrast this with the vast majority of Americans who "let themselves be bred down to yapping Toy Poodles, in exchange for a few food scraps." Rockstroh expands on this for emotional effect:
One moment, you're loping through the woods, snout held high, smelling the scent of fresh game on the wind, then the next thing you know -- you're being led around on a leash and collar, encrusted with tacky rhinestones and you're salivating at the sound of an electric can-opener.

Rockstroh continues, at length, calling for self reflection:

One moment, you're a child, entranced in play, hardwired to eternity -- the next thing you know, you're sitting at work and your passions, hopes, and yearnings have been shrunk down to Toy Poodle-sized agendas ... You're truckling for your boss's approval; you're counting the minutes until break time, when you can devour some junk food.

We are reminded to ponder an honest view of sanity

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” - Jiddu Krishnamurti

And he offers an alternative conceptual path:

"True sanity entails ... the dissolution of the normal ego, that False Self competently adjusted to our alienated social reality ... and through this death a rebirth, the ego now being the servant of the divine, no longer its betrayer." —R. D. Laing

Knowing where we are, and how we got here, helps reveal the path to true sanity:

what engenders the formation of the False Self? When we were children [including in centuries past], authority, in the form of parents, educators, clergy, loomed before us. Alternatively menacing and comforting, these powerful figures could just as easily have crushed us as comforted us.

We loose our self identity, the wolf becomes poodle:

Hence, to accommodate the overwhelming demands of authority, we learned how to curry favor from these baffling, seemingly implacable forces by the creation of a cipher persona, a False Self, a tricky, tap-dancing, little apple polisher, who strives to garner approval and acceptance, thereby avoiding punishment, rejection and scorn, by means of the reflexive subjugation of his true nature.

And this lost identity takes on a societal dimension:

The victims of False Self adaptation are the quintessence of the corporate/consumer citizen... Consequently, this fear-ridden existence has rendered us a society of grotesques: In the present day United States, children have grown as fat as steroid-fed, corporate-farmed livestock; this has transpired because we overfeed them a diet consisting of steroid-fed, corporate-farmed livestock.

And this societal dimension bleeds into an international dimension:

And these proto-fascist, behavioral control tricks are not just for kids [or peasants of centuries past]. Corporate Capitalism has left us Americans psychologically arrested in a pathetic simulacrum of childhood where our inchoate fears of being preyed upon by our (so called) protectors (who we internally and accurately recognize as monsters) are displaced into compulsive consumerism (including overeating) and a reflexive fear of outsiders.... we learn it is acceptable (as well as politically useful to our power mad leaders) to displace our anger and fear upon outsiders. Ergo, the so-called Clash of Civilizations is unloosed and slouches, by way of the Washington Beltway, to Iraq, Iran and beyond to be born.

So, here we find our False Selves:

This is the manner that we as a society came to believe we can “compromise” on acts of torture committed in our name and not fear the loss of our souls as a result of our complicity. Although, the loss of our national soul would only prove redundant: Years ago, we decided our souls, both individual and national, were somewhat less than useful to us – and not nearly as compelling as a new widescreen, plasma TV and the like

It's hard to break out of this "prison," in part because it has no walls, only subtle threats of the consequences of not conforming:

we're given a "safe" place within the community -- not cast out into the wilderness and fed to the wolves. This fear is not an outrageous fantasy: It is, in fact, a primal memory... this knowledge still lingers within our psyches, where the memories of such terrors still howl just beyond the tree line of our waking awareness, instilling within us the terror of ridicule, of failure, of being ostracized.

As unorganized individuals we are controlled by common fears:

It’s the same trauma we experience daily due to our own powerlessness against the dictates of the corporate state and its threats, both implied and overt, to cast us into the howling wilderness of financial ruin, poverty, and homelessness.

But, there is a way toward true sanity:

Self-knowledge can provide us with a point of entry to the act of empathy. Yes, even extending it towards one as loathsome as George W. Bush.

Rockstroh confesses imperfection:

A caveat: The proffering [of] empathy to Dick Cheney would be pushing the parameters of empathy to the breaking point: Upon being subjected to Cheney's glowering, reptilian aura, even Mahatma Ghandi would be reaching for a pair of brass knuckles.

Are we defeated? Is there no hope?

To resist, we must cast off the fear of being an outcast.

Rockstroh offers a vision of hope and examples:

Even in this fear-ridden era, there are some among us -- types such as non-conformists, creative thinkers, and artists -- who welcome (rather than cower before) the metaphorical wolves (that are recognized, each to each, as fellow outcasts). Instead of being eaten by the wolves, they are suckled and raised by them... Nourished by their outsider status, the creative spirit thrives when freed from the constraints of a mindless adherence to groupthink.

He offers some final guidance:

One must always remember this: We human beings are of nature too. Accordingly, within us lies an indomitable self, encoded with the grace and fury of the natural world, and, if acknowledged and respected, it will awaken and arise. Then the real dogfight begins: The fur will fly, as we fight, fang and claw, to retake our own essential natures, and, by extension, begin the struggle to restore health, imagination and empathy to a nation of cage-accepting, torture-countenancing sick puppies.


Phil Rockstroh, A Soul Defying, Tacit Approval Of Torture: How Did We Come To This? 29 September, 2006

Thanks to Further Left Forum for bringing this essay to my attention


1 comment:

thepoetryman said...

Essentially we are poodles in wolf's clothing. Sick puppies, indeed.