Thursday, July 28, 2016

W.H. Auden: False Enchantments

I found this quote from W.H. Auden to be thought-provoking:

The state of enchantment is one of certainty. When enchanted, we neither believe nor doubt nor deny: we know, even if, as in the case of a false enchantment, our knowledge is self-deception.

All folk tales recognize that there are false enchantments as well as true ones. When we are truly enchanted we desire nothing for ourselves, only that the enchanting object or person shall continue to exist. When we are falsely enchanted, we desire either to possess the enchanting being or be possessed by it.

We are not free to choose by what we shall be enchanted, truly or falsely. In the case of a false enchantment, all we can do is take immediate flight before the spell really takes hold.

Recognizing idols for what they are does not break their enchantment.

All true enchantments fade in time. Sooner or later we must walk alone in faith. When this happens, we are tempted, either to deny our vision, to say that it must have been an illusion and, in consequence, grow hardhearted and cynical, or to make futile attempts to recover our vision by force, i.e., by alcohol or drugs.

A false enchantment can all too easily last a lifetime.

I feel like sociopaths deal in the currency of enchantments all the time. It's essentially what I mean by seducing someone -- to enchant someone, to put them under a spell. But, I also think (using Auden's tautology) that not all of my seductions involve a false enchantment. I know they don't, because many of them have led to life long friendships.

And as Auden's quote applies to this type of seduction, I think that whether or not something is a true or false enchantment often has more to do with the person being enchanted than the person doing the enchantment or the nature of the enchantment. I know myself that I have had hopeless crushes or obsessions on people that were not instigated at all by the person and reflect more a projection of my own ideals or idealizations on to the person. And actually, I think this comports with Auden's own experience -- that most of his early erotic encounters involved a gross inequality between the partners, either between age or intelligence, but were initiated because Auden had constructed in them a sort of idealized "Alter Ego", as he called it. It wasn't until his relationship with Chester Kallman until he found an equal, that he finally considered the relationship a marriage. So, yes, the sociopath is the one facilitating the enchantment (I don't think the sociopath can actually generate it out of thin air, consider the anti-seducer). But the sociopath has not control over whether there is a false or true enchantment.

That said, I get emails all of the time from someone who is under the throes of a false enchantment that has lasted much too long for their preference.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Ok to hate

This was an interesting interview with the author of " Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and a Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance, the Yale Law School graduate who grew up in the poverty and chaos of an Appalachian clan."

The interview is mainly about the appeal of Trump to the lower class white demographics.

Interviewer: I’m not a hillbilly, nor do I descend from hillbilly stock, strictly speaking. But I do come from poor rural white people in the South. I have spent most of my life and career living among professional class urbanite, most of them on the East Coast, and the barely-banked contempt they — the professional-class whites, I mean — have for poor white people is visceral, and obvious to me. Yet it is invisible to them. Why is that? And what does it have to do with our politics today? 

J.D. Vance: I know exactly what you mean.  My grandma (Mamaw) recognized this instinctively.  She said that most people were probably prejudiced, but they had to be secretive about it.  “We”–meaning hillbillies–“are the only group of people you don’t have to be ashamed to look down upon.”  During my final year at Yale Law, I took a small class with a professor I really admired (and still do).  I was the only veteran in the class, and when this came up somehow in conversation, a young woman looked at me and said, “I can’t believe you were in the Marines.  You just seem so nice.  I thought that people in the military had to act a certain way.”  It was incredibly insulting, and it was my first real introduction to the idea that this institution that was so important among my neighbors was looked down upon in such a personal way. To this lady, to be in the military meant that you had to be some sort of barbarian.  I bit my tongue, but it’s one of those comments I’ll never forget.  

The “why” is really difficult, but I have a few thoughts.  The first is that humans appear to have some need to look down on someone; there’s just a basic tribalistic impulse in all of us.  And if you’re an elite white professional, working class whites are an easy target: you don’t have to feel guilty for being a racist or a xenophobe.  By looking down on the hillbilly, you can get that high of self-righteousness and superiority without violating any of the moral norms of your own tribe.  So your own prejudice is never revealed for what it is.

I thought it was interesting, the observation that there is some tribalistic influence to look down on others. And it looks like hillbillies are to white liberals as sociopaths are to neurotypicals (and even non neurotypicals love to hate, I guess). But unlike hillbillies, there are plenty of sociopaths in the government and places of power and influence. So there's that I guess. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Quote: Destruction

"Construction and destruction alike satisfy the will to power, but construction is more difficult as a rule, and therefore gives more satisfaction to the person who can achieve it.”
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